Inside Out deals with more contemporary issues than any other Pixar film- Here's how.
If you haven't already seen or heard, Pixars' latest hit is about dealing with emotions and things going on inside your head.. as well as these things dealing with you. Not only is it one of Pixars' most original and imaginative ideas in the last decade (or longer) but they have dared to explore this deeply and on a serious level, helping audiences to consider their own emotional processes and goings on.
The plot centers around an eleven year old girl, Riley: she and her parents are moving to San Fransisco, through which process we meet sadness, fear, anger, disgust and joy. I won't delve into simply explaining the plot and what happens (spoilers, by the way) but both joy and sadness accidentally get removed from Riley's head. During the film we see a whole bunch of emotional things going on.
In everyone's heads are these personality islands. The things that make us who we are.. We are only shown Riley's. What's heartbreaking about this is how she begins to lose these traits or islands such as her love of hockey, friendship, family and being a goofball due to her struggling with that move I mentioned. As an audience I think we can relate to that on an extremely deep and personal level because everybody loses parts of themselves as we grow and develop. When I first saw goofball island shut down I immediately began to cry. Not even going to mention Bing Bong, which works on a similar level.
Joy and Sadness
So we are told from the beginning that Joy is Riley's most primary emotion, often playing the role of leader to the others inside her brain. Aside from the film exploring how Riley deals with things, Inside Out explores the relationship between the two emotions. At fist Joy doesn't want sadness to even really exist, because she sees everything touched by sadness as being awful for Riley. However, as we progress we see Joy begin to realize that sadness is actually essential, and that there's no point trying to get rid of sadness as an emotional response to things, because sometimes it is the one really needed (as we really see when things are left to the other emotions and things get a whole lot worse).
In the end of the film, Joy lets sadness take the helm and allow Riley to cry-- I mean really just ball her eyes out to her parents, who then give her a group hug with the film basically saying 'being sad is OK because people you love can then support you'. Her memories then become a mixture of a couple of emotions per single one, because emotions are complex for both kids, teenagers and adults.
In terms of mental illnesses and educating young audiences about them, this is so important. Sadness is OK. Having mixed emotions is OK. What's not OK is trying to stifle your emotional responses. This is what they need to be shown.
Everything Going Dark
Going off what I just mentioned, emotions without a voice or lost emotions lead to horrible results. Riley begins to grow apathetic and almost broken as the film reaches it's climax and she attempts to run away, and suddenly the remaining emotions begin to lose control of anything, completely. This portrayal of emotional struggle is something many people experience. Pixar giving these audience members this beautiful resolution and message must inspire a lot of hope.
At the dinner table scene, we see inside the mom's head as well as in the dad's: in both the set of emotion characters have gained the characteristics of each person they live within, usually through gender, hair style/ colour and costume. Riley's emotions do not have her characteristics. Two are even male and all of them resemble blank copies of the base emotions. Could this be due to mental illness? Or is it just because she is so young..?
Also, do you notice how the mom's primary emotion is sadness, and the dad's is anger? I wonder if that's a point to take note of.