Katie Spillane on the Complexities of “Inside Out”

Towards the end of this Summer, Scouting Ireland ran a competition to be in with a chance to see the premier of Disney Pixar’s latest animation, “Inside Out”. If you haven’t seen it yet, well, do. Not only is the animation glorious, but the story line is sweet and poignant. After watching the movie, I couldn’t help but notice how important a film it is for younger people, and also the significance of Scouting Ireland happening to run a competition for it.

Inside Out is a film about the life of Riley, and the emotions in her head; Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. The film follows Riley as her world is turned upside down when she moves house and we see how her emotions change in accordance with this upheaval. But it is not a simple story line personifying emotions for the sake of humour or twee sweetness; Inside Out addresses many mental health issues in a simple, nuanced way.

For example, depression. When Sadness becomes active, every time she touches a memory of Riley’s it turns blue. Not just the memories, but the headquarters, the train of thought and the consoles (the remotes that control Riley’s actions) all turn blue. Each part of Riley’s personality become tainted with blue, then grey and then they begin to fall apart. Her personality islands (Riley’s unique traits) crumble, machines stop working properly and the train of thought becomes really slow.

Like an anxiety disorder, whenever Fear is in charge of the console he is continually making lists of what can go wrong, over-thinking the hundreds of possibilities. Fear is repeatedly imagining the worst case scenario and acts jittery at the console. Sometimes he is forced to shut everything down because he gets so worked up over it – as a result, everything stops working and he keeps hitting the Panic button, over and over.

Joy and Sadness fighting over the console that’s in charge of Riley’s emotions is akin to bipolar disorder; When Sadness is in charge, everything begins to crumble and turn blue. Then, when Joy takes over, she gets really excited and tries to make up for what Sadness has done so she works overtime, resulting in everything working twice as fast and does silly things that she shouldn’t.

And lastly, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). When there is a problem with the machines and computers in headquarters,everything works twice as fast as it should, or sometimes not at all. The train of thought does not come in once a day as it should, it comes every few minutes on different tracks. The mind workers don’t do their job properly and send random memories and thoughts back to headquarters, replaying them over and over, making it far more difficult to concentrate on what is going on.

Portraying mental illness is very difficult task, one that requires a great amount of empathy and understanding, yet Inside Out manages to convey what it’s like to a, primarily, children’s audience. For the mature audience, we see how memories are forgotten, how our emotions can interchange with one another and how we can even lose our imagination (spoiler, sorry). Overall, the movie portrays emotional and psychological complexities in a funny and entertaining way that is accessible to children and has paved the way for lots of important discussions that need to be had with kids about emotions. In a way, it has broken down taboos.

Hat’s off to Scouting Ireland for, perhaps unbeknownst to them, educating the winners of that competition about mental health.

Katie Spillane

One thought on “Katie Spillane on the Complexities of “Inside Out”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *