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Peter T Chattaway
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Now it's occurring to me that Joy can be seen at least partly as a parental surrogate throughout.

 

Fwiw, this is part of what made me describe the film as being engineered to make parents cry. The scene down in the pit with all of the fading memories is such a lovely rendering of a thought I've had every day since my first child was born -- that moment when you see an expression on your kid's face and think, "I want to remember that look forever," knowing, of course, that you won't. I can't remember the line exactly, but as Joy begins to understand the importance of Sadness, she's holding a memory of toddler Riley coloring and says, "Oh, I used to love to just sit and watch her for hours." But, of course, that's something a parent or grandparent would say, right? Not an emotion?

 

This is why I hate allegories. ;)

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What is why? 
 
Seriously, I'm not following the train of thought (so to speak) from "such a lovely rendering of a thought I've had every day since my first child was born" to "hate."

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I don't enjoy parsing allegories. The moment I start looking for logical fallacies -- when I start asking questions like, "Why would Joy cry and behave like a parent?" -- the pleasure of the film experience becomes deadened to me in some way.

I understand this. I can stick with an allegory only until I start nit-picking the places where it breaks down. That's why I don't have strong feelings of affection for Narnia the way so many readers do. I find it easier to go with allegorical comedies (like Inside Out) because their frequent humor reminds me that if I start demanding that everything fit together perfectly, subjecting it to the kind of tests that spoil spontaneous play, then the life of it will collapse. Allegories like Inside Out are soufflé-like that way.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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FWIW, I think it's important to distinguish between Allegory as a genre, as an overarching organizational principle in a work like Pilgrim's Progress, and the allegorical as a function or dynamic within literature that does not belong generically to the world of Allegory.

 

J. R. R. Tolkien hated famously Allegory, and certainly The Lord of the Rings is not Allegory in the way that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is, but this point has been so overemphasized that it has obscured the extent to which elements in The Lord of the Rings do function allegorically, as Tolkien himself acknowledged. 

 

Inside Out is fundamentally a work of metaphor and anthropomorphic imagination, not allegory. Joy is primarily a personification of Riley's dominant emotional state, not a parental allegory, just as Woody and Buzz are primarily Andy's toys, not allegorical parents. At times the emotional journeys of the characters verge into territory that resonates powerfully with parental experiences, but I don't think they demand to be seen primarily through that lens. When they do work on that level, I think it's very powerful, and I'm not bothered by these layers of significance. 

 

It's worth noting that even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is only partially Allegory mixed with other genres and forms, including myth, fairy tale and talking beast fable. If we set out to create a table or legend of allegorical elements in the book (Aslan = Christ; White Witch = Satan; winter = curse of the fall; Stone Table = cross; liberation of the Witch's house = harrowing of hell), we would soon run into all sorts of story elements with no obvious allegorical significance: the lamp post, Mr. Tumnus, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Father Christmas, etc.

 

In later books the level of allegorical significance varies considerably: The dragoning and undragoning of Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is as straightfowardly allegorical as anything in the Chronicles, but most of the rest of that book is more mythic than allegorical. Goldwater (or Deathwater) Island; the Island of the Dufflepuds; the Dark Island; Ramandu's Island; the Last Seas: very little here is most usefully or informatively seen through the lens of Allegory. 

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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For the record, the strengths of Inside Out, on a second viewing, so relentlessly and consistently overwhelmed my gripes that I couldn't even manage irritation this time around. (I took note this time that Joy does say that if she can get the core memories back to their place, Riley will be "back to normal." As it turns out, getting them back doesn't mean Riley's unchanged, but it did feel like a bit of a promise that all was not lost when the islands began to crumble.)

 

As with Pixar's best, the good stuff seems stronger. I'm beginning to appreciate the finer points of the animation, like the fantastic scene of Bing Bong's struggle to be free of the balloon cage, when Joy's face is reflected and distorted in the balloons.

 

There are moments that take my breath away. The scene when Joy starts skating in front of the "screen" of Riley skating is among the loveliest of the studio's achievements. 

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The scene when Joy starts skating in front of the "screen" of Riley skating is among the loveliest of the studio's achievements. 

 

This may have been my favorite moment from my first (so far only) viewing.

 

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
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I also like how Riley's shirt is colorfully striped to suggest a reflection of her emotions. Although, this weekend, I couldn't help but think that the rainbow of stripes might also have something to do with her multi-gendered emotions. This is Pixar after all, and I've begun to notice the prominence of rainbows. (Up, anyone?)

 

Anybody else laugh at the first glimpse of the dead mouse? Did the have to go with a rodent who looks so much like Remy?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Peter T Chattaway said:  Right. Sadness is in charge in the mom, Anger is in charge in the dad. And all of the mom's emotions are female and all of the dad's emotions are male -- whereas Riley has three female emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust) and two male emotions (Anger, Fear).

 
 
Yep.  I suspect that the film is trying to say that the mom at one time had joy at the helm just like her daughter.  As time went on and she went through the sadnesses of life, sadness eventually took over.  But notice how much joy the mother still showed throughout the film.  This is what I was trying to get at in connection with SDG's post.  Different characters (people) can go through their development in different ways and I think the film is showing us that the mother has gone through her own tragedies, whatever they may be.  But, arguably, the sadness at the helm has given her an empathy, goodness, and depth of soul.
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Eve Tushnet:

 

Pixar’s “Inside Out” is a charming, vividly-imagined film with terrific comic timing. Its insights are sharp and its message accurate. So why was I the only person in the theater who didn’t sniffle? . . .

 

“Inside Out” is acute (and very, very blunt) in its portrayal of happiness as something parents expect from their kids: American kids almost have a duty to be happy. This movie gives voice to the fear and unhappiness these expectations can bring kids. It has some terrific lines (introducing Anger: “He cares very deeply about things being fair”). It’s replete with poignant images, like the golden happy memory globes turning blue as Sadness touches them.

 

The thing is, this is a movie that exists to teach kids how to feel their feelings. I couldn’t help being reminded of the picture books my parents would give me to help me with my own “defects of character”: Leo the Lion Takes a Bath, and all that. (“You got soap in my eyes! I HATE it when you get soap in my eyes!!”—actual dialogue, I think.) The use of characters named Sadness and Joy just took this movie too far into the realm of moral lesson, for me. There’s a workbook feeling to this movie, a whiff of the school counselor’s office.

 

That slightly utilitarian feel was intensified for me by the specific imagery “Inside Out” uses to depict the mind. Joy and her colleagues are in the control room, pressing buttons and reading manuals—even joy is work. Every culture has its own vocabulary for representing experience. I wonder how different “Inside Out” would feel if Riley’s mind were a palace, or an obstreperous parliament; or a cathedral. Instead the imagery we get is control panels, construction crews, security guards, and shift work. . . .

 

Many of Riley’s happiest memories cluster around honesty; I do not believe that has ever been true of any 11-year-old human or other mammal.

 

In general I found it hard to believe that a child had reached that age with so few awful memories, persistent shames, or sins. We visit her subconscious and the great lurking fears there are broccoli and the vacuum cleaner. She’s eleven. I led a charmed life as a child, and I had accumulated more Dostoyevskyan angst by age six than this kid seems to harbor at twice that. . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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About the only thing I agree with in Tushnet's critique is that the depiction of Riley's subconscious is too tame; I would say too rational. Everything down there makes sense: it's all broccoli and Grandma's vacuum and Jangles the clown. What if Docter had dared to go off map and show us visions of weirdness without explanation? Things like the stilt walkers in Mad Max: Fury Road, or like certain visions of weirdness in some of Miyazaki's films? 
 
This is similar to a feeling I have with respect to certain images in Up — a movie I have come to love almost without reservation — when I think of Docter finding inspiration for Up in directing Disney's English language version of Howl's Moving Castle. This reminds me of certain images that we saw in early promotional materials, like this one: 
 
336_9.jpg
 
That image of a man opening his front door and seeing something inexplicable — blue sky with no horizon, no trees, no buildings, but a dirigible and biplanes — feels to me like something out of Howl's Moving Castle, or some other Miyazaki: a door that opens onto something that makes no sense, something that can't be there. There was such a door (perhaps more than one?) in Howl's, a door with a dial that could open onto at least four different vistas. 
 
When we actually get to this scene in Up, though, it makes much more sense than that, and whenever I see this still I remember my early response to it, and my wish for a story in which that image was a little more dreamlike. (I haven't forgotten that Docter's first film did give us doors that open into other realities, and that in the climax of that film he took that idea to mind-bending levels, but there's nothing dreamlike or irrational about that either.) 
 
Moving on to Tushnet's other comments: The "control room" type metaphor for the inside of someone's head is an obvious, readily applicable metaphor, similar to the "driver's seat" metaphor used in the Disney cartoon "Reason and Emotion," a clear precedent for Inside Out
 
Reason_em.jpg

Another instance of a similar metaphor: 
 
6e0ef27179b2098a199a249a6561c19f.jpg
 
Note also obvious similarities here.  
 
Calvin_dreams_72dpi.jpg
 
It's not obvious how Tushnet's proposed alternate metaphors (a palace, a parliament, a cathedral) would work from a storytelling perspective. Saint Teresa of Avila developed an extensive metaphor of an interior castle, but this was to describe an inward, mystical journey of prayer; it was not about the governing of one's exterior actions or circumstances. The parliament metaphor is an interesting one, but there are storytelling advantages to having a visual metaphor for how decisions or interior movements are implemented in reality, and for that a control panel is handy. 
 
Tushnet follows Brody in suggesting that Inside Out resembles "Reason and Emotion" (but obviously not the "Calvin & Hobbes" strips!) not just formally or conceptually, but generically and intentionally, in following an educational strategy; that it "exists to teach kids how to feel their feelings." 
 
Frankly, this reading strikes me as not even remotely plausible. Tushnet's own question, "Why was I the only person in the theater who didn't sniffle?" points beyond the premise that Inside Out is a cartoon version of one of those instruction manuals Joy has Sadness reading. (People really need to be open to the possibility that their own personal response to a film or a work may not exhaust what the work has to say.) I'm pretty sure no one was tearing up in theaters in 1943 watching "Reason and Emotion." 
 
Even Darren's critically phrased description of the film as "designed so efficiently to tug at a parent's heartstrings" is a pretty clear indication that the movie "exists" to do a lot more than "teach kids how to feel their feelings"; there is a great deal in this film that is really aimed at parents, not kids. (Incidentally, while one need not be, like Darren, a parent to recognize this, I suspect it helps. This is far from an absolute rule, but I suspect that in general parents make more responsive viewers to Inside Out than non-parents. (Jeff is a counter-example of a highly appreciative non-parent, while Peter might be at least a partial counter-example of a less than deeply charmed parent. Darren's complex reaction (simultaneously deeply moved and apathetic) is a particularly instructive example.) 
 
Inside Out is not a neat manual, but a work of exploration and discovery, of self-examination and empathy and anxiety. It feels unmistakably like someone working through emotional experiences and trying to make sense of them, not someone who has a neat lesson he wishes to impart to students. (Docter has said that the film grew out of his relationship with his daughter Elie as she began to go through a process like Riley's: "She started getting more quiet and reserved, and that, frankly, triggered a lot of my own insecurities and fears…And it also made me wonder what was going on. What happens in our heads during these moments?") 
 
There is a confessional dimension to Inside Out. As Tushnet points out, the film depicts happiness as "something parents expect from their kids: American kids almost have a duty to be happy." The fact that Docter is a parent, i.e., a member of the class that places this burden on children, with its attendant anxieties, seems to me highly relevant here; this is not a spinster schoolmarm explaining to children where their parents are coming from, but a father working out for himself what his daughter is going through, partly perhaps because of his own hopes and expectations for her. 
 
By the same token, I can't be offended by the rather stereotypical Mom-and-Dad tension of that unfortunate family dinner (Mom emotionally attuned and exasperated, Dad distracted, comically worried about having left up the toilet seat, and bungling the interaction with Riley) both because it's ruefully true to life, and because I suspect Docter's own parenting mistakes aren't irrelevant here. I suspect there's probably also a fair bit of Docter himself in Riley, and perhaps of Docter's own parents in Riley's parents.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Eve Tushnet:

 

In general I found it hard to believe that a child had reached that age with so few awful memories, persistent shames, or sins. We visit her subconscious and the great lurking fears there are broccoli and the vacuum cleaner. She’s eleven. I led a charmed life as a child, and I had accumulated more Dostoyevskyan angst by age six than this kid seems to harbor at twice that. . . .

 

I think this is a good point, and my main source of dissatisfaction after seeing the film a second time. Riley's fears are one-dimensional, shallow, in fact stereotyped. This (it seems to me) keeps certain parts of the film from having the impact they should have.

 

I don't know, though. That sounds like a harsher criticism than I mean it to be. This is still a brilliant movie that stands with the best of Pixar's work. If its venture into the subconscious doesn't cut as deep as it could, Riley's reunion with her parents (the only part that made me cry) is still incredibly moving.

I love how what allows Joy to get out of the memory dump is a part of Riley's childhood which in the process is

completely forgotten. I also think it's a marvelous touch to make Sadness the only emotion who's read the manuals, knows how the mind is laid out, and understands (enough to fear) abstract thought. As Riley grows, I think she'll continue to be the one who understands the mind best.

 

Details like this reveal acute sensitivity and genuine psychological insight, and make it easy to forgive the lack of "Dostoyevskyan angst."

 

By the way, I only picked up on the movie's funniest line the second time through: "Forget it, Jake. It's Cloudtown."

Edited by Rushmore
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Rushmore wrote:

: . . . Riley's reunion with her parents (the only part that made me cry) is still incredibly moving.

 

Yes, that is the only part that made me cry on second viewing, too. And to answer SDG's point, I honestly can't tell how much of my response to that scene was due to my identification with the parents and how much was due to my identification with Riley. God knows I've needed parents like that at various transitional stages in my life, even well into adulthood.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I would've replaced Yosemeti Sam with the Tazmanian Devil.

 

Interesting thought. Is the Tasmanian Devil driven by anger? He always seemed to me to be just manic and compulsive. Yosemite Sam has a hair-trigger temper.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I would've replaced Yosemeti Sam with the Tazmanian Devil.

 

Interesting thought. Is the Tasmanian Devil driven by anger? He always seemed to me to be just manic and compulsive. Yosemite Sam has a hair-trigger temper.

 

 

Good point!  I just think the Tazmanian Devil's rage trumps all others.

 

But then, I never saw Porky Pig represent anything but happy-go-lucky attitudes.  Perhaps sadness could be Marvin the Martian. 

 

And, no diss on Bugs, but Joy could be that frog....

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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By the way, I only picked up on the movie's funniest line the second time through: "Forget it, Jake. It's Cloudtown."

 

 

And I was the only one in the theater who laughed out loud at this line. My other favorite sequence: abstract thought.

I liked Inside Out, but it's not my favorite movie ever. Consider this a personal failing, if you wish.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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By the way, I only picked up on the movie's funniest line the second time through: "Forget it, Jake. It's Cloudtown."

 

And I was the only one in the theater who laughed out loud at this line. My other favorite sequence: abstract thought.

I liked Inside Out, but it's not my favorite movie ever. Consider this a personal failing, if you wish.

 

I haven't even seen Chinatown,* and I laughed. 

 

* I KNOW. Don't judge me.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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By the way, I only picked up on the movie's funniest line the second time through: "Forget it, Jake. It's Cloudtown."

 

And I was the only one in the theater who laughed out loud at this line. My other favorite sequence: abstract thought.

I liked Inside Out, but it's not my favorite movie ever. Consider this a personal failing, if you wish.

 

I haven't even seen Chinatown,* and I laughed. 

 

* I KNOW. Don't judge me.

 

 

The bigger question... had 11-year-old Riley ever seen Chinatown? 

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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I haven't even seen Chinatown,* and I laughed.

* I KNOW. Don't judge me.

Oh, you're not getting out of this *that* easy.

Consider yourself judged.

I'm with SDG on Inside Out, but I am so with Ryan on this.

 

Consider yourself double judged.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Yeah?  Well I saw Chinatown. 

 

Meh.

 

I forgot it quite easily, as the characters instructed.

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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