When my mother suggested she wanted to see Inside Out, I was thrilled. It is rare that I enjoy going and watching a movie alone, and this particular one had been on my list for quite some time. It was probably the best $8.50 that’s been spent in a while. Pixar really outdid itself this time, from the flawless animation to the heartfelt and important lesson, they went above and beyond and created a movie I expect to see take home some serious awards in the upcoming season. Inside Out explored the human mind, emotions, memories, and taught the audience that balance is key.
First things first, Inside Out tackled the idea of sadness in a way that makes my little social worker heart happy. For anyone whose seen the movie, and hopefully you have since you’re reading this, you’ll know that the major conflict occurs between Joy and Sadness. For a very long time, Joy ruled the day. She fought her hardest to make sure that Riley, the young girl they are a part of, experienced the happiest moments of life at the cost of excluding the sad. However, right off the bat, Sadness began to interfere as she had uncontrollable urges to change memories from happy to sad simply by touching them.
This alone tackled the extremely prevalent idea in society that sadness is, inherently, bad. It also highlighted the fact that in the place of sadness, we as a society value happiness above all else. Michael Sragow summed it up best in his review for FilmComment.com by saying, “This breakthrough cartoon attacks enforced happiness and optimism-the white bread and butter of American family movies.”
See, that really is the heart of the movie. In the midst of a big change, a move nearly across the country, and a whole lot of upsetting situations, Riley was expected to be happy. Her mother even said as much toward the beginning of the movie. They had to stay happy and positive for their father, leaving Riley feeling pressured to pretend everything would be alright when everything was most definitely not alright. I imagine the majority of the audience has had a similar experience in their lives, where they had to put on the false face of happiness even in the midst of chaos.
It is an unhealthy standard, one that is applied to both men and women. Women being told to be happy and stop being bossy and to not be a “negative Nancy” while men are told to keep it together, never show weakness, and always put their best foot forward. It is ingrained into the very heart of American society, and Western society as a whole, that putting on a false front is the only way to survive the absolute misery we sometimes go through in life.
Joy believed that message, but Sadness had other ideas, and the movie progressed in a way that demonstrated a healthy balance of the two. What was perhaps most interesting was the simple fact the writers chose “joy” as the positive emotion instead of calling her “happiness.” This certainly was not a mistake or a simple use of a synonym. It was a deliberate attempt to demonstrate that our perception of joy is often misconstrued. When we equate joy to happiness in our everyday lives, we miss the actual point of joy.
As the movie eventually showed, Joy was incomplete without Sadness. A constant barrage of happiness was not really http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/yasmin/ what the doctor ordered, especially not for a young girl facing a whole heck of a lot of change. No, what was needed was a happy balance of both because Sadness is, unfortunately, a part of Joy. When we as people bury our sadness so deeply that it never sees the light of day, we are not only lying to ourselves about our state of being, but we’re not providing the opportunity to allow others to step into our lives to comfort us. To help us through it.
Like Sadness demonstrated with Bing Bong, sometimes what someone who is sad needs is not to be told to buck up and feel happy. What they need is someone to sit beside them and say “it is okay, that is pretty sad.” In the world of counseling, we call this simple act “validation.” It not only immediately provokes a sense of empathy in whoever is approaching the person who is sad, but it also removes the negative connotation that is constantly associated with sadness. Once the sadness was acknowledged and Sadness was able to express empathy, Bing Bong felt better. He felt joy.
And in one fell swoop a Pixar movie demonstrated healthy coping using a part elephant, part cat, part dolphin imaginary friend and a little blue blob in a turtle neck sweater. To think, that was only one of the countless amazing scenes that pushed the audience’s understanding of their own emotions. This isn’t even touching on the flawless way they managed to demonstrate brain functions in a visually appealing way through the use of memory orbs. Or the importance of sleep in converting working memory, and short term memory, back into the long term. Not only was Inside Out solid in its exploration of emotions, but also in its portrayal of the brain.
Can anyone tell I loved this movie?
In the end, perhaps the greatest moment came when Joy sat among the fading memories and realized the impact Sadness could have on a memory. If the audience hadn’t already seen the writing on the wall, this climactic scene sealed the message. It was time for Joy to lay down her unending optimism, and her constant striving to keep happiness front and center, and accept that happiness was worthless without the other emotions to accent it. Happiness, which has always been an emotional reaction to external stimuli, was put aside as she recognized that joy was far more valuable. An internal perseverance even in the face of sadness, or anger, or fear, was worth far more time and effort than constantly seeking the next happy “high.”
So embrace your emotions. Take your children to see this movie and help them embrace their emotions. If Inside Out taught us anything, it is that understanding the role of all emotions in our lives is a mark of emotional intelligence. Accepting happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust as they come and dealing with them as they happen, is probably the healthiest way to cope with the myriad of things we face on any given day. Instead of calling happiness “good” and sadness “bad,” accepting the simple fact that emotions cannot, by their nature, be inherently good or bad will carry us much further. When it is all said and done, at the end of the day, what we should strive for as human beings is balance. It is only in the acceptance of balance that we will be able to find true joy.