What’s Missing From Pixar’s Inside Out

After a successful opening weekend, Pixar’s new film Inside Out is getting rave reviews. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% and has already passed $100M at the box offices. Most people are applauding how Pixar conveyed the complex idea of animating the emotions inside a person’s brain in a dynamic and simple way, while adding classic humor and a tear-jerking story. *No spoilers, I promise.

Inside Out does deliver a powerful message about the role our emotions play in our daily decisions. We often understand emotions as the result of an action or event, so they are usually the effect of something. For example, it is common for us to say “I did poorly at work today, which made me sad” or “I lost my keys, which made me angry.”

But this ignores the fact that actions and events can actually be the effect of our emotions, meaning they are the root cause. That completely changes the mindset when you understand “I was sad, which made me do poorly at work today” or “I was angry, which made me lose my keys.” Inside Out demonstrates this well, because it is the emotions that power the actions of 11 year-old Riley, not the other way around.

Amy Poehler, who voices the emotion Joy in the movie, notes this neglect of our emotional intelligence when discussing her character on her website. She says, “we are really focused on the external as a society, so we are really into what happens to you, rather than how you feel about what happens to you.”

By making emotions the focus, Inside Out redefines the negative connotation emotions carry. In most Western cultures, we associate emotions with negative metaphors (perhaps a beast or a tornado) and view them as problematic annoyances. But Inside Out shows how vital our emotions are to the ability to adapt and navigate life. More specifically, the narrative suggests that even “negative” emotions, like sadness, are vital to our well being. We need to embrace every emotion in a balanced way in order to accurately understand our experiences and the resulting actions.

Photo courtesy of http://www.insideout-games.com
Photo courtesy of http://www.insideout-games.com

Even still, there is a remarkably significant part of Inside Out that people have yet to recognize–there is no villain. It isn’t obvious because the plot is engaging and follows a natural path of conflict and resolution, but the absence of a villain teaches us a very important lesson.

Our minds, and our emotions, are not the enemy.

No single emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, disgust, or fear, is bad. The fact that they are not the villains of Inside Out represents the truth that we need all of those emotions.

As an American, I frequently get frustrated by my feelings and I’m irritated that they prevent me from the ideal mode of happiness that our culture is taught to strive for. But constant happiness is a myth, and ignoring our other emotions has left this country with a lot of deep scars.

As a Christian, I have often felt like some of my emotions are wrong, or that I’m not strong enough in my faith because I feel sad and afraid at times. This is another lie we need to dispel, because our faith and our relationship with God are not determined by our feelings.

Colossians 1:21-23 says:
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (ESV).

The good news of the gospel is that even our minds and our emotions are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus himself experienced anger and sadness and fear, all of which were godly. Our emotions can be bad if they come from a place of hostility or evil, but by centering ourselves on Christ our emotions are restored to a healthy and necessary part of our lives. 

Pixar’s new movie is worth seeing for many reasons, but it is worth remembering because of what it can teach us. Emotions are not a bad thing, your mind is not the enemy, and Amy Poehler will always be a perfect casting choice.

Have you seen the movie yet?
What did you think?

3 thoughts on “What’s Missing From Pixar’s Inside Out

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