‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

Proceed immediately to the theater and go see “Inside Out” even if you have no children. Pixar’s latest may be my favorite animated movie EVER. Powerful female protagonist CHECK. Complex female characters in supporting roles CHECK meaning “Inside Out” does NOT feature Minority Feisty!!!! Spectacular animation and compelling story telling CHECK and CHECK.

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

I am not alone in loving “Inside Out.” I don’t think I’ve read a negative review. My daughters and I had fascinating conversations after the movie: My six year old said she was Joy and my eight year old picked Disgust to describe herself. They talked about which emotions their friends are and different members of their family. But then they also had a talk about how they are– and all people are– all of the emotions. Other emotions personified in the movie are Sadness, Anger, and Fear. My kids talked about what emotions they didn’t see in the story– Embarrassment and Meditation which I interpreted as Serenity or Calm. We talked about which emotions branch off of others, and that all emotions need to be valued and felt which happens to be the point of the movie. That conversation began in the  backseat of the car going home and is still going on today.

Riley, the star and the setting for the movie (most of it takes place in her head) is an 11 year ice hockey star from Minnesota who moves to San Francisco. I appreciated the depiction of the city, where I happen to live, as foggy-gloomy and infested with broccoli covered pizza. While I have grown to love my home, I understood Riley’s experience of it as gray and depressing. I totally had those moments as a kid and still do. Riley longs for seasons that included snow. Depicting Riley as an ice hockey fan not only highlighted her aggression, joy, and skill but cleverly showed how alienated she feels in California. There is another (another!) cool female character in the movie, Riley’s BFF from home.


The two emotions with the biggest parts in the film– Joy and Sadness– are also female. Disgust is female too. Riley’s mom is also an ice hockey fan and player, though they do make the move for the busy dad’s job.

Amy Poehler who plays Joy said she was proud to be in this movie and that it makes the world a better place. I agree.

Reel Girl rates “Inside Out” ***HHH***

2 thoughts on “‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

  1. How did you feel about the three male characters? I loved this movie and I appreciated every character. The females were wonderful and the story made me cry. Bing Bong’s story was heartbreaking and reminded me of my childhood. Anger had me rolling. Fear was alright. Joy was phenomenal. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts about this movie.

  2. I have seen Inside Out, too, and I was wondering what your response would be. I absolutely loved it, and felt it was a great introduction to the psychology of the young for adults who forget how hard life is for youth, and also because it introduced the idea to my daughters that their range of emotions are natural, and all of them are important. Plus, it was fun and humorous, and wonderfully played with our emotions as an audience as well.

    However, I had one issue with it, and it was that it reinforces gender roles. The only character in the movie that had gender representation in her head was the main character. All male characters were populated within by male characters. All other female characters were populated within by female characters. The characters chosen in the heads of females made them seem complex but incapable of controlling their feelings, while the characters in the heads of males made them seem emotionally dull and angry. The fight-or-flight characters Fear and Anger in our main character’s head were both male, and the feelings sadness and joy (often seen as fragile) were female. I’m not sure disgust is really a component to the emotional self, but it works well for the film.

    In the external world, helping characters were also enslaved to the prescribed gender roles. The father was a breadwinner, poor at listening and only capable of handling problems with force. The mother was nurturing, but dependent. No mention was made of her success as an individual outside caring for family (although I respect homemaking as a career, society, in general, does not).

    Do you think they could have done a better job challenging those roles?

Leave a Reply