Recently, I made a rare trip to the movie theatre with my sisters to treat myself to Pixar's Inside Out. I don't know if I have begun to weep more often and more easily, simply because I’m older, but if so, then that proves the storyline of the movie as something deeply true. For it seems that as we're older, the things that bring us such pure joy become intertwined with sorrow. And it seems that the simple, vibrant happiness of childhood, that exists with such high frequency and pitch is no longer sustainable as we develop into increasingly more complex beings.
Inside Out opens with the birth of a child, and the one singular emotion that dwells within a newborn child: Joy. The birth of Joy and the birth of our young protagonist are simultaneous, which struck me as a deeply significant statement that joy is somehow native to a human soul. Human life is, from its very first, something that is full of joy, and, existence, simply for existence’s sake, is a cause for rejoicing. Quickly, however, with the onset of the first hunger pangs, thirst or inability to express oneself to the large world surrounding her, the baby lets out her first cry of sadness. Joy, the emotion, is bewildered: what is this?
From the corners of the child's mind emerges Sadness, an unlikely heroine in a turtleneck sweater. Sadness takes over the console of the brain for a few moments, bumbling and hapless, feeling out of place and incompetent, before Joy swoops in to clean up the mess and restore happy equanimity.
Thus begins a thoroughly compelling coming-of-age saga, told from an unlikely perspective: from the view of the interior.
With Joy as our primary protagonist, we see the collection of memories—here pictured as glowing orbs of color and light that churn through the factory of the brain each day—that accrue from a generally happy and well-adjusted childhood in suburban Minnesota.
As someone who also had a generally happy and well-adjusted childhood in Minnesota, this was a particularly poignant plot point for me.
In the film, Rylee (the young woman in whose head the story takes place), has core memories--foundational moments of joy that fuel her Islands of Personality--that define who she is. As we grow up, our core memories, these iconic experiences of who we are and have been, become touched with sadness when we grow up into something else. As we mature into this new creature, we have been transformed, from the inside out (as it were). By the end of the film, Rylee is fitted with new Islands of Personality, and a more comprehensive, nuanced emotional commode (equipped with a large red alarm light, titled "Puberty", which the emotions blissfully shrug off as unimportant).
Although the protagonist of the movie is an eleven-year-old girl, it resonated deeply with the emotional journeys that many of my peers and I have experienced over the past year as young adults moving from the safety of homelike liberal arts colleges into the adult world of big cities and new jobs. Moving from the warmth and comfort, and effortless Joy of home: whether that home is Minnesota, a University dorm, or a constantly encircling community of friends, the Freshman Year of Real Life takes its emotional toll.
Read the full article here.