Going Inside Inside Out: The Importance of Sadness

Image Credit: Disney Reviews

Image Credit: Disney Reviews


Last month, Disney Pixar released its latest film Inside Out. While geared towards its main audience and has their typical whimsical and warm feel, I argue that this film is not a typical Pixar film. The story revolves around change of life as Riley, an 11-year old girl, moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. However, if one were to be technical, Riley is not the protagonist. Inside Out‘s main characters are actually Riley’s emotions: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear—primarily the former two. Director Pete Docter does an excellent job in personifying these abstract emotions to where the viewer can be emotional about emotions—it’s a trip.

As mentioned earlier, Riley had just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, leaving all her friends, the culture, and the comfort of familiar. In the beginning, Joy—Riley’s main emotion who takes lead on most things—tries to keep her human’s chin up during the process. After all, Riley needs to be happy and look at the bright side of life. To accomplish her goal, Joy then begins stifling Sadness’s actions, placing her into a small corner, since Sadness has been contagious lately, turning all the memories she touches into sad ones.

As the story progresses, both Joy and Sadness get lost in Riley’s inner psyche, leading Riley into a state of quiet depression. Disgust, Anger, and Fear try to act like their missing leader Joy, but simply cannot replicate her touch. As Riley’s inner world falls apart, Joy realizes that the only thing that can help Riley is the very thing she was keeping from her: Sadness. Riley is only able to move forward from her state of despair when she feels grief—honest sadness.

As said earlier, I’m not sure if this is a typical Pixar film. After all, it deals with really big topics that only come to full understanding when you’re an adult. The 6-year-old children who sat behind me last night in theatres lost interest quickly—perhaps because they were too young to relate with depression. However, I do hope the seeds of this film sink into the younger-folk because the message is utterly profound—especially for our generation and recent generations passed.

Think about how often we give ourselves time to grieve. How often do we truly allow ourselves to mourn? In a fast-paced society where we stick to Franklin’s deceiving creed that “time is money,” we often push our sadness aside. So we pop the pill. We distract ourselves with work, relationships, or things we think we need. After all, life moves on. And surely it does, but if we do not give time for us to accept the sadness in our life, how can we receive joy?

Granted, facing sadness is not a light ordeal. Joy does not come as instantly as the film portrays. It is a story, after all—a mere snapshot into reality. But the sentiment is true: we need allow ourselves to grieve to be able to healthily move on. Sadness is an emotion and emotions are meant to be felt. That said, mourning is a process that takes days for some and years for others. For some situations, grief is a constant process that one never fully “overcomes”—but that’s alright. As long as we’re honest with our feelings—and all our feelings—we can be grounded in the assurance that we’re on the path of healthy living.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon’s Posts

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