Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Inside Out

The latest in Pixar's endless emotion-tugging animated films "for kids" (but with lots of material for grown-ups) is Inside Out, which tells the tale of a young girl whose family moves to San Francisco. The star of the film is "Joy", a personified emotion who lives in the girl's head, drives her via a space-shuttle-like control panel, and rallies the other emotions (Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear) to create what somehow, inexplicably, emerges as a coherent personality.

The movie swaps between inside and outside shots, and if you'd like to see what the movie looks like without all the interior explanation, someone made that edit already. It's as jagged and uneven as you expect in a movie where most of the motivation and explanation is interior.

Inside Out seems to be doing parents a service. It provides a convenient metaphor for talking with children about emotions, and managing them. It makes emotions a personification separate from the child, and of course --- because it's a standard Pixar heartstring-puller --- the moral of the story is: it's okay to be sad sometimes. A useful message.

It's unfortunate that only five emotions got to be incarnate: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. What about love, pity, hope, wonder, patience, envy, courage? Why is joy the only positive emotion that made the cut? This is understandable from a plot-simplification direction, but unfortunate as a service-metaphor, since it mushes humor and delight and affection and every other positive feeling into one lump. (On the other hand, Amy Poehler is the personification of joy in real life, so the casting is perfect.)

Another quibble: the movie posits that one emotion is the captain, making executive decisions, and that this emotion is fixed and unchanging. This is fine for our main character, driven by joy, but is rather depressing when we skip into the mother's head and see that she is driven by sadness, or the father's head, driven by anger, and realize that this will always be the case. On the other hand, they present as normal-to-happy, functioning adults, so maybe the takeaway message is that, however your emotions are inside your head, you are still okay?

This post's theme word is cack-handed, "clumsy." The child's attempt to comfort came off as cack-handedly sweet.

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