ByMike Mack, writer at
Big fan of superheroes, movies, superhero movies... and writing about all of the above
Mike Mack

Inside Out was one of the best movies of 2015, and another film in a long line of great films made by Pixar. A great movie doesn’t always just make you smile though. A great movie can make you feel a full range of emotions, and Inside Out, fittingly, does just that.

If you’re like most of the movie-goers that saw the film, you most likely at least teared up a little at some point. And that’s fine! After all, one of the morals of the story is that it’s ok to be sad. But what if I told you there was an even sadder, darker, underlying theme to this story?

Let me give you a little bit of foundation here. Our main character (outside of the emotions) is Riley, a happy child that is having a tough time dealing with her emotions.

We know that most of her memories are happy ones and that Joy is more or less in charge of her emotions. If that is the case, then we know Riley is a happy person. The story eventually leads her to feel sadness and tells us that no one can be happy all of the time, but more often than not she’s happy.

But look what happens when we see the emotions in the heads of her parents:

Sadness is in charge of Riley’s mom’s emotions, while Anger is in charge of her dad’s. In the movie, both of them seem happy enough but what if they’re just masking their true emotions? Maybe Riley’s parents aren’t quite as happy as they seem to be.

We can speculate forever as to why that may be the case. It’s possible that something happened, or is currently happening, to make her parents feel the way they are feeling. I do have a theory though. How is it possible that Riley is so happy while her parents are sad and angry? My answer is simple: she’s a child.

Riley is happy because she sees the world through the eyes of a child. Her parents were probably happy before, and their respective emotions were probably at one time run by their Joy. Over time though, they became less and less happy and other emotions took over. As if this movie wasn’t enough of a tear-jerker already, now you can factor in the imminent depression that is adulthood in today’s world.

Could that be an underlying theme that Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen were subtly trying to get out there? We know they’ve worked on some very smart films in the past, and this is no exception.

It’s not all bad though. Just before the movie ends, it provides some hope:

Riley’s teacher’s emotions are run by her Joy. Granted, they all seem a bit run down by their job, but at least Joy boosts their morale by showing them what they have to look forward to. A nice note to end the movie on.

This emotional roller coaster was one of Pixar’s best and one of 2015’s best, and even six months after its release, it’s still making us feel.


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