I Think I Know How I Feel

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The Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, characterizes the Emotions of Riley Andersen as Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. These Emotions inhabit Riley’s mind, or “Headquarters,” where they control feelings to help her respond to occurrences in her life. 

Riley’s an exuberant eleven-year-old girl experiencing a change in her life— her family moving to San Francisco. The Emotions struggle to help Riley adjust to her surroundings as she finds herself in a new location and tries to make friends.

The Emotions help Riley distinguish notable moments in her life through colors that represent how she feels about a memory and take form in glowing spheres: the positively golden orb kindles Joy, the melancholic blue orb cries Sadness, the timid purple orb creates Fear, the repugnant green orb reveals Disgust, and the bold red orb induces Anger.

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As the Emotions find it increasingly difficult to handle the change, Joy tries her best to remind Riley of her happy memories. While Joy is working to keep Riley optimistic, Sadness touches a golden memory turning it into gloomy blue. As much as Joy taps the orb to alter its melancholic demeanor, there’s no changing it back. Joy couldn’t “fix” the memory because Riley didn’t feel ecstatic in the first place; she feels mournful. The memory shows Riley’s parents hugging her after a hockey game, but once Sadness holds the memory, it reveals Riley’s parents comforting her because Riley actually felt awful for not making the winning shot. Inside Out portrays how people bottle their emotions, convincing themselves that they feel happy, but in reality, people need to deal with more complex feelings. 

Sadness typically has a negative connotation. People don’t want to be sad; people want to be happy. The portrayal of Sadness in Inside Out trumps this stigma— its tone is hopeful. Sadness is shown to comfort those in need of a shoulder to cry on. Sadness helps Riley come to terms with her true emotions and consoles her with the reality of how she honestly feels about moving to San Francisco. When Joy learns that Sadness has a pivotal role in Riley’s feelings, Riley expresses her concerns to her parents and lets go of the fantasy of always needing to be their happy little girl. Riley lets out a sigh of contentment, knowing that she has a loving family who will comfort and support her in this time of need.

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Inside Out reminds people that there’s no need to put on a facade and conceal our sorrow, fear, aversion, or frustration. During the temporary absence of Joy from Headquarters, Fear, Disgust, and Anger try their best to fill her role and have Riley appear happy. Towards the end of the movie, Riley’s emotional growth is inspiring. Joy learns the value of quality over quantity— how many happy memories don’t matter, but how Riley truly feels and the lessons she learns from embracing her true self are more important than keeping score on controlling Riley’s feelings. While Joy produces fun, exciting memories, Sadness creates beautiful moments that connect people on a deep, sentimental level.