ByMichelle Wu, writer at
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Michelle Wu

Pixar's Inside Out definitely had Joy and Sadness pressing the same buttons simultaneously in my head as I recalled nostalgically about my childhood; I also shed tears for the years that gone by without paying much attention to my parents.


The film introduces the audience to Riley, who is governed by the Emotions since her first day outside her mother’s womb. Riley’s actions and thoughts are constantly decided by these Emotions which gradually affects her personality and memories. Among the 5 emotions, Joy majorly dominates the team and takes effort to keep Riley happy. While it may be true that Riley is destined to run away from home or probably go on her first date (link below!) due to the Emotions’ press of a button, the film does reveal that the Emotions don’t really possess much free will. In fact, the Emotions are destined to surmount challenges as tough as Riley’s, consequently it results the very first core memory that is a mixture of both joy and sadness. We could say that this particular core memory is a ‘destined’ core memory due to the Emotions’ inability to keep things in their control.

My proof lies in Sadness’ inexplicable act of turning the memory orbs blue; she is the key to form the ‘destined’ core memory. Her inclination to touch the happy orbs is first noticed when Riley is forced to move to San Francisco. Her rather spontaneous actions turn the orbs blue and she ends up feeling guilty when she could not explain the reasons of her actions. Her tendency is actually a role that she is not aware of due to Joy’s constant domination. Her true role to help Riley in attracting social support is shown through the scene where she empathises Bing Bong after Preschool World is abruptly brought down. Bing Bong cries briefly but is cheered up once he feels better. Through this particular scene, Sadness’ involuntary act to touch the orbs is the manifestation of empathy; she uses empathy in order to help Riley in relieving or adapting to unwanted circumstances. However, Sadness herself does not realize her role from the start. Could it be that this is something beyond their control? Thus, this inexplicable incident creates a series of cause-and-effect that ultimately leads to Riley’s destined core memory.

One could say that Sadness never realizes her power and free will to do such good due to Joy’s misleading concept of happiness, but Sadness’ role is inevitable because it is originally Riley’s external environment that changes the situation. Even if Riley does not move to San Francisco, something else would eventually form the destined core memories; it may not be Sadness, but it may be one of the Emotions other than Happiness. One cannot be happy constantly for too long, or else it creates a delusion of your life and greatly prevents your improvement. Clearly, the change of external environment is something Joy could never alter and beyond the Emotions’ free will to dictate.

Watch Riley's first date!

What are your opinions?

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