Inside Out: Our Internal Struggle and the Value of Parents

Went to the movies yesterday with the whole family as we celebrated Marci's birthday. (Tonight we have our real date - a babysitter, a steakhouse, oh yea). The selection was Inside Out, something Zoe has been very eager to see. First, it's a fantastic movie. If you are a parent, or a human being, you will cry, maybe a lot, as I did; in fact, I recommend going to an early showing so there are not people in your immediate vicinity who will worry about your emotional health because you are audibly sobbing in the manner of a wounded penguin. This was me, and I was relieved when I had to take Norah out on a walk break, because I too, needed a crying break. 

Second, this is a movie about the internal emotional tensions that all people experience. It follows 11 year-old Riley on her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, and her conflicting emotions battle for control of Riley's current attitudes. I heard a bit from the director on NPR, and it sounds as if their research was exhaustive - they really wanted to get things right as to how emotions work, including memory storage, memory recall, and particularly, emotional numbing as a mode of preservation. 

But this movie is about something else too that can get lost: it's about family. The hero of the story certainly seems like Joy, the main character amidst the pantheon of emotions, or perhaps Sadness, the surprisingly useful emotion that brings Riley back home. However, what we see through Riley's eyes and through Riley's memories are thoughtful parents who never let her drift too far, who listen well, who hold her when she feels down, and give her life without conditions. Friends are helpful, a dream world that is vibrant can be an outlet, but nothing can replace the permanence of caretakers who truly love. 

It would be fascinating but far less redemptive to see this movie from a different view: do everything the same and remove one, if not both of the parents as an emotional rock for Riley to lean on. Her numbness and emotional distress would destroy her, and she would continue down a dangerous path of medicating herself to retain equilibrium. Sadly, this story plays itself out in the real world frequently. 

If anything, this movie shows the complexity and fragility of children, and the need for strong parents at the center of their lives. Go see this movie, and give a big two thumbs up for parents!