Joy’s journey to sadness.
“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”
Inside Out. Oh my god. I loved this movie so much. I saw it twice, and openly cried through most of it. I cry through most movies though, so that’s not entirely surprising.
Inside Out is a gorgeous story that we think is about Joy and her journey to rescue Riley. But really, it’s a story about Sadness and all the other emotions realizing how valuable she is to Riley.
In the beginning, Sadness is totally marginalized. Joy confesses she’s not entirely sure what Sadness does. Joy even tries to make Sadness feel joy, and when that doesn’t work she sticks her in a ‘Sadness Circle.’ I’ve definitely tried to do that to myself. Sadness bad, joy good. Simple as that! Except it’s not.
Joy wants Riley’s life to be as happy as possible, and all the emotions are on board. Even Sadness! Riley’s core, joyful memories are radically important. But when things go wrong it becomes clear that without all five emotions working together, Riley will be driven by a lack of emotion, rather then aided by a harmonious team of emotions.
“Come on, group hug! You too, Anger.”
When Joy and Sadness are gone, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to recreate Joy’s emotion. But they can’t. Their job is to help Riley feel anger, disgust, or fear. Without Sadness and Joy, Riley eventually “greys over” and can’t feel anything at all.
My favorite character is Bing Bong. It is this adorable dolphin-type elephant that teaches Joy what Sadness does. When Bing Bong cries candy tears over how much he misses Riley, it is Sadness that steps in and helps him feel better.
Sadness bring compassion and empathy. Riley’s parents jerk reaction is to discipline their daughter when she is only able to exhibit anger, or disgust. But when Sadness and Joy get back, Joy understands why Sadness needs to be in Riley. In fact, through the re-framing of memories, Joy realizes that joyful memories can be tainted with Sadness. And that’s not bad, or wrong. It’s normal, and very important when being part of a family.
At the end of the movie, it is only Sadness who can abort Riley’s plan to run away. Riley’s family is then able to empathize with her. In the expression of their collective sadness and joy, a fused core memory is created. That core memory creates a larger “island” that brings all of the different parts of Riley’s personality back together.
Sadness and Joy are not opposites, or rivals. They are members of the same team, working to help Riley live a healthy life.
Pixar did a beautiful job of telling a brand new story in an accessible way. Children are given the tools to communicate with their parents, and vise versa. Even more so, Pixar reminded me of the profound importance of Sadness, and the danger of what happens when we minimize her. There isn’t anything wrong with being sad, joyful, angry, fearful, or disgusted. A person has to feel all of those things! And while it is important to be joyful, it is equally important to be sad. That’s incredibly hard lesson for me to learn.
“Take her to the moon for me, Joy.”
Havilah Joy Steinman graduated from Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She is currently a fellow at the John Jay Institute and is fulfilling the internship component of the program at The Heritage Foundation writing for The Foundry, their online blog. Havilah spent the last four months completing her academic residency in Philadelphia studying our Nation’s founding. She grew up in San Diego and plans on returning to Southern California to start law school this fall.