My Take on Pixar's Inside Out

When the trailer for Pixar's Inside Out, I became very excited. It was my hope that this movie could help me teach some of my students to understand feelings, particularly with understanding others' perspective. What I did not expect is how accurate this movie would represent depression and trouble with mental health. Don't get me wrong, the movie isn't perfect and many of the things are up for interpretation.

Inside Out is a story of an 11-year old girl name Riley who moves from Minnesota to California because of her dad's job. This move causes an uproar in Riley's emotions. Her emotions are represented by 5 characters - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Not only are these emotions in Riley's brain, but also in the brains of her parents, teacher, and other characters within the movie. 

One unique element that my husband noticed was that in Riley's brain, each emotion is unique. In her parents' emotions and other adult's emotions, they mirror the person they represent. For example, Riley's mom's emotions all have glasses and similar hair-dos and one is primarily the leader. In the mom's brain, it appears that sadness is the "head emotion" and in the dad's brain, it appears that anger is in charge.

While the "anatomy" within the brain is highly inaccurate :-) , Pixar has created a way to talk about the brain and emotions in a very kid friendly format. The main five emotions are all located within Headquarters and control a mechanical panel of buttons and levers that impact how Riley acts and reacts to situations around her. Also located in headquarters are Core Memories, which are snapshots in Riley's life that formed her personality. Riley has several "personality islands" including family, hockey, honesty, and goofball.

After Riley's move, she goes to her first day of school. When asked to share something about herself, Riley begins to talk about hockey, one of her core memories. She starts off happy and full of Joy, but when sadness touches the core memory, she begins to cry, forming a new core memory. Up until this point, Joy has been the emotion in charge; after this new core memory is formed, Joy and Sadness get lost and sucked up a tube to a different part of the brain.

After Joy and Sadness are lost and out of headquarters, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are in control. Through a series of events, Riley's personality islands begin to crumble. As things continue to complicate, Riley's emotions begin to lose control of her actions. While not a perfect example of mental illness and depression, this part of the plot really spoke to me. Having some experience with mental illness and depression, the loss of personality islands was a pretty accurate representation for me of what happens to feelings and personality when depressed. When dealing with depression, you don't just lose all the happiness and Joy in your life, you also lose the other end of the emotional spectrum, Sadness. Most of us have seen the old Zoloft commercial talking about how you're not yourself when depressed, and I feel the personality islands crumbling help to show this in an understandable way.

Without spoiling the ENTIRE movie, the emotions learn that Sadness is just as important as Joy because it causes others to want to help Riley. I found this to be an incredibly touching lesson because often times we tell ourselves or others not to feel sad, but Sadness is a very important part of our lives. Fear, Anger, and disgust are also necessary.

To sum up, I loved Inside Out! I am excited to use the trailers, clips, and plushies to help my very literal students to visualize their emotions and others' emotions.

Another favorite part of the movie for me was the teacher's emotions. Maybe you can relate.

I hope you enjoyed my review of Inside Out!


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