Our parents pulled a surprise on us Friday evening and announced that the next morning we’d all go and see Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out! Needless to say, the house erupted in a chorus of cheers at the news, and it didn’t matter if you were 5 or 23 or–well, I won’t say how old my dad is, but you get the picture. Pixar rarely disappoints, no matter how old you are–and who doesn’t like a trip to the theater?
IMDB Synopsis: “Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.”
This is only the second time I’ve seen a Pixar movie in the theater (the first time was Toy Story 3)–and it was WONDERFUL! The storytellers of Pixar have the uncanny gift of communicating truth in colorful, hilarious, and yet heartstrings-tugging ways. Inside Out is no exception–and it’s unbelievably clever! In some ways it reminds me of Inception, in that I saw those adorable little emotions running around in Riley’s head and thought, “Oh my gosh, that is so creepy–my brain works exactly like that!” But it never gets so bogged-down in the intricacies of the mind and heart that my smaller siblings couldn’t keep up.
(Well, except for the part about abstract thinking…that may have gone over a little person’s head, but we adults were cracking up.)
There’s something else the people at Pixar are really good at: telling stories that everyone can relate to. I’ve never made a traumatic geographical move like little Riley–but I have felt responsible for keeping a brave face on a difficult situation and hiding my real emotions, no matter what. When Riley tells her parents, “I know you want me to be happy, but I’m not…please don’t be mad at me”–that was when I started crying. Because I’ve definitely been there.
Both my parents, on the other hand, made emotionally-devastating moves when they were children. Dad moved from Connecticut to Louisiana when he was a kid, while Mom moved from a Mayberry-esque town in north Louisiana to New Orleans. Talk about major culture shocks, in both situations. They could both relate to Riley’s utter confusion, grief, and then anger as she tried to cope with the trauma.
But–and bless you a thousand times for this, Pixar–Inside Out never says those negative emotions are bad and should be avoided at all costs, or that you should put on a Pollyanna face instead of having a good cry. That’s what Riley tries to do, and guess what? It flops.
HOWEVER. Neither does Inside Out say you should simply let all your feelings go wild and unrestrained because (*dramatic gasp*) SELF-EXPRESSION–FREEDOM–I WAS BORRRRRRRN THIS WAY–(*flails*). Nuh-uh. If anything, it communicates a very biblical message about emotions: that they’re part of who we are as human beings, that you should acknowledge your feelings, even the unpleasant ones, and then take care to keep them balanced. Because the so-called negative emotion itself isn’t a sin. It’s what you do with it that will either edify or destroy you.
I won’t tell you how it ends, because that would be classified as SPOILERS and I’m trying to avoid posting them on my blog these days! But I will tell you that Inside Out left all of us with a very keen awareness of not just our own “emotional headquarters,” but those of the the people around us. Who knows what’s going on in the heart and head of that obnoxious sibling, or that shy, withdrawn girl at church, or the abrasive blogger, or the parent who comes home from work looking grim and depressed? As difficult as those people may be, they might be hiding deep wounds and fears–and I need to make sure that I respond appropriately and with compassion. Not like Joy, when she tries to push her happiness on the grief-stricken Bing Bong…but like Sadness, who knows when to “weep with those who weep.”
And as someone who’s really, reeeeaaaaally struggled in the past with acknowledging her emotions (especially the more unpleasant, uncomfortable ones), I’m definitely learning that I need to be honest with myself and simply admit whenever I’m scared, angry, disgusted, heartbroken, or just plain giddy with joy. And then I need to surrender all of those emotions–even the joy!–to the Lord. While they are definitely affected by total depravity, He never intended for me to smother or ignore them. Besides, even He has emotions! His are perfect and mine aren’t, that’s true–but the fact that I can feel so strongly is part of being created in His image.
We should value our emotions. We shouldn’t be ruled by them…but we shouldn’t take them lightly or trample them underfoot, either. They’re God-given indicators of the conditions of our souls and we should treat them as such. And that, I think is the message of Inside Out.