Alright! So it’s officially been one year since I started this blog! Cake and schnapps for everybody!
Looking back on this year, I’ve noticed that I have a bit too much of a tendency to harp on the negative. Most of the time, I do it in the interest of a fair critique, but there are plenty of times when it comes from good old vitriol or frustration. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you watch something that is utterly terrible and insulting.
What I want to talk about today is not such a film, but it does deal with a very real and polarizing topic.
Depression. How does it work? How does it relate to apathy? How do we relate to it, those of us on the inside of those of us on the outside?
See what I did there?
Pixar’s latest film Inside Out is definitely one of their better works. I wouldn’t call it the best, but especially considering that its only other contenders within the studio are the Cars and Planes series (I cringe just acknowledging that), it is a shining beacon of hope in an otherwise dark time.
And I’ll save that rant for another day.
Warning: Spoilers below
The movie’s main characters are physical embodiments of a young girl’s emotions. Over the course of the story, they attempt to steer her in the right direction. All of them are well-intentioned, even Anger and Sadness, but occasionally misguided. Interestingly, none is more misguided than Joy, who functions as the head emotion and tried to always have fun and look on the bright side of things.
The emotions all treat Sadness with as polite a disdain that they can manage, believing that she essentially ruins everything she touches. This seems to prove true at first; when Sadness touches a memory that is colored by another emotion, it is overtaken by her color, becomes sad, and won’t change back. For some reason, she seems compelled to try and touch the emotions, which leads to an accident that deposits herself and Joy outside of “headquarters”. From there, the two of them have to make their way back, all while the other emotions try and fail to keep Riley, the eleven year-old girl who has just moved to a new state, her usual, relatively upbeat self.
Memories are portrayed as orbs, and personality traits are islands that are connected to headquarters essentially by a thread and the “train of thought” that circles the whole head/brain area. It’s all very creative, and as Riley begins to mess up and withdraw from friends and family, her islands begin to crumble, and eventually, she can’t feel anything.
Of course the day is saved (it’s a family movie), but the emotions all learn the importance of Sadness, and that memories can be composed of multiple emotions. As Riley matures, so do they.
The humor is so on-the-mark. I know that humor is pretty subjective, even if you can boil comedy down to basic, tried-and-true formulas, but the humor in Inside Out is hilarious. You will love it.
Kids will find it pretty funny too, but like many Pixar films, Inside Out is clearly reaching out to adults with its humor and message. That’s the beauty of mature animation.
The music is pretty nice. Not the most memorable, but fitting.
Overall, the package is clever and, as I said, creative. I applaud Pixar for tackling a subject that a lot of perfectly intelligent adults can’t grasp, let alone kids. To me, it almost perfectly explained how people see sadness in general: a nuisance at best, and a disease at worst. The film seeks to appreciate sadness as another part of life, an important one that we all need and take for granted on some level. Because how can you know true joy until you’ve experienced sadness, or anger?
But as someone who faces depression and anxiety, I found that the film also raised a lot of questions, some of which I don’t think were intentional.
I’ll let you be the judge:
Is depression part of sadness? Riley seemed depressed, and yet the movie itself claims that she “can’t feel anything” anymore. And she can’t feel sadness if Sadness is not at headquarters (unless Sadness touching all of those memory orbs in storage counts)
Personally, I have felt hollow before, but it was always tinted with sadness, at best because I wish I didn’t have to feel that way anymore.
And I don’t think I’m stretching there. I’ve heard numerous people, online and in person, raving about how this film has helped them to understand depression better. Has it really? (And I don’t ask that sarcastically here. I’m genuinely curious) Can we ever narrow down exactly what depression is, or does it vary greatly in how it affects people?
Is depression a sign of growing up, or an essential factor? What does that mean for people who have never experienced depression before, or not to that extent?
Was depression ultimately a good thing? Because Riley and the emotions powered through, finally realized that Sadness was just as important as the rest of them, and new personality islands emerged where her old ones had crumbled away.
Why isn’t Anger treated the same as, or similarly to, Sadness, at least inside headquarters? Fear and Disgust are shown to have pretty good purposes (if a bit silly and sometimes superficial), but I don’t remember a good reason being given for Anger. Sure, he’s funny, but some of his contributions to the team are among the worst overall (like the running away idea).
Don’t get me wrong; I am not taking points off for these things. Inside Out was a great start, and it’s definitely joining my DVD collection after it hits stores. And if it gets people to rethink depression, sadness, and the general social faux pas that come with publicly expressing your emotions, then it was more than worth the price of admission alone.
I do wish the movie could have explained more, delved deeper into the subject, or at least felt like it was raising some of these questions on purpose, rather than as a “how does that work?” afterthought. But hey, what’s my favorite motto?
Nothing is perfect.
That is especially true of metaphors, because the very process of crafting a metaphor is simplifying one thing so you can relate it to something else. You cannot compare, say, hibernation and death without hitting some snags where the two complex concepts don’t meet.
I am practically indebted to Pixar, though, for telling people pretty clearly a) you can’t just make yourself feel happy all of the time (which, by the way, if you tell someone that, it’s essentially like asking an alcoholic, “Well, why don’t you just quit drinking?”), and b) even too much happiness in control can be a negative thing.
Adults and kids who are going through hard times are not trying to be selfish, get attention or sympathy, or to “bring you down”, and being sad in front of people once in a while is not something to be ashamed of. There are relative simplicities involved, but overall, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders are complex.
Hopefully soon, thanks to movies and media like this, we as a society can have more open, honest discussions about mental health. Because it’s not made up, it’s not someone being overly dramatic, and it’s not always “just a phase”.
But life would be so much cooler if we had little people in our heads telling us what to do…
…Does this mean everyone is insane?
*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners, particularly Pixar and Disney. None of the images or sounds belong to me.