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Emotions, Gender, and That Inside Out Feeling

Emotions, Gender, and That Inside Out Feeling


Remember when Inside Out came out a year ago and you all saw it? I didn't. So, today was my day.

Inside Out (2015)

I'm too sad to walk. Just give me a few hours.

I knew I wanted to see Inside Out this month because of its female protagonist. I'm focusing on #chickflicks, but namely chick flicks that appeal to women for a variety of reasons. I can't think of a better one than seeing Pixar's first feature film with a regular girl at the forefront (not including Brave, which I qualify as a Disney Princess film).

What I maybe didn't anticipate was its wealth of emotional scope, and how this anxious-depressed-nervous wreck of a creative would react to it.

I bet you can already guess what I thought.

Emotions are who we are

Boy, girl, kid, grown-up, cat (watch through the credits - like you always do, right?) - we all have them. More than anything else, our emotions control us. Mentally, physically, our choices, goals, and dreams are all effected and driven by how we feel.

Too often, we code women and girls as overly emotional. A "feminine" trait, having emotions constitutes fragility, weakness, and an overall inability to cope. When in fact,

Emotions are precisely how we cope

Inside Out does what films for children and adults alike have failed to do for... ever. It suggests everyone has a cast of emotions running around in their brains, controlling their every move. It's not only refreshing, it's downright therapeutic. I immediately connected with Riley's cast of emotions - That's totally how my Fear acts. Sadness, boy, she must driving my whole boat lately. And oh, Joy, you try so damn hard with your pixie cut and your figure skating...

Her experience is universal, and that's what the best Pixar films have been able to capture. That universality of human experience that we strive for - it's here. And in something so biological as our emotions, Inside Out is the first Pixar film that really, truly hits that universal experience on the nose. Whether we have all the emotions, too many of them, or just a few, we all have that team in our heads, working away, trying to keep us moving. And it's present regardless of class, skin color, age, or gender.

But perhaps the best reason to play Inside Out for your children - or better yet, for yourself, is because it so beautifully explains a why I've been asking my whole life.

Sadness in Pixar's "Inside Out." | See the full review and join in on #ChickFlickFebruary at

Why are we sad?

Sadness as a character is a real dud. She's blue, sorta lumpy, depression-ready in her cozy turtleneck, and she doesn't always feel up to arduous tasks like walking. She's all of us on a bad day. She's so many of us who suffer from depression. "Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life's problems." That's it, isn't it? But the best part is not just how identifiable sadness is to many of us (especially, perhaps, the adults in the room), but how necessary she is. Yes, she is slow, she is a pain, and she just can't stop when she should. But that slow down is what makes us look at what's important - without her, Joy would skip manically past the most crucial moments. And she'd never realize how it's possible to let someone else drive once in a while.

Best Shot/Scene:

Most people are going to go for that signature cathartic Pixar moment with Bing-Bong and Joy (you know the one). But I'm a little different, so I'm going to sing the praises of Sadness first touching a core memory. Her apology (her near constant apologies), and acknowledgment that she just can't help herself - she must touch them - is for me, exactly how it feels when that emotion takes over. Everything looks a little sadder. Every core memory turns just a little bit blue.

Other Things to Notice: 

Does Richard Kind (Bing-Bong) just have to most darling imaginary friend voice of all time? When I hear him in a movie or a tv show I'm immediately calmed and content.

There's a really thinly veiled joke about "Bears in San Francisco," and I whole-heartedly commend you, writers.

How lovely that the emotions in Riley's head are coded both female and male (and abstract enough to be genderless, entirely). The theoretical implication that gender is fluid and varied within each of us.

You can find Inside Out on Netflix DVD.

If You Like it, Watch:

A Bug's Life (1998): 

The original Pixar feature, and still one of the best. I remember receiving this on DVD as bonus with the latest iBook (!!) and rejoicing that I could watch a movie on my computer. But more so, it's memorable for a main character that is neurotic, and a colony of ants run quite confidently by two women (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Phyllis Diller, to be clear).

Wreck-It Ralph (2012): 

Not Pixar but Disney Animation, but also highly astute when it comes to a depiction of emotions - even in its fictional video game characters. Sarah Silverman's Vanellope is the most memorable "princess" to date, embodying a girl that's neither standard or forgettable. She's the real star of the show.

Return to Oz (1985):

I've recommended this before and I'll recommend it again. If you want to see Disney do female main characters right, this is it. If you want to see what the inside of girl's imagination might look like, be forewarned - it's not playing around with the disturbing shit. *This suddenly has a 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray and I suggest YOU ALL buy it - and send one to me while you're at it.

Pixar's Inside Out is a romance for all the emotions | See the full review and join in on #ChickFlickFebruary at

Want in on the February Challenge?

Start with the first post – All That Jazz is a Chick Flick.

Check out previous picks, like last week's review of Goodnight Mommy.

Then tweet me and tag me in your instagrams with your chick flick favorites using the hashtag #thischickpicks.

*This post contains affiliate links – I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Of course, I stand by every film, dvd, or book I link you to, and hope you’re cool with this – if not, don’t click!*

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