Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inside Out: Movie Tropes for Children, From Sadness Springs Joy

One of the most profound lessons drawn from Pixar’s 2015 Inside Out is a truth about the human experience for children and adults: none of us escapes sorrow.

The central character is Riley, a character named in keeping with the culture’s evolving consciousness about gender. Reluctant to define and confine art to one gender or another, watch for writers, especially screenwriters, to use gender neutral names, a trend embraced by celebrities and stars. The Kardashians chose a map direction as a name for their first child; Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. But I digress...

Riley is a happy girl. She has friends, a family who loves her, and a sport she enjoys. Her father, however, has a goal: to begin his own business hundreds of miles from the home Riley has known. He moves the family to San Francisco where the food is strange, the new home humble, and friends must be acquired.

Riley is understandably challenged. All the change happened to her--without her consent--and she wants the comfort and happiness of her old home. She can’t know that her new home--in time--will bring the same comfort and happiness. All she experiences is loss, and as a child, she cannot know that we are the architects of happiness. We can find it and make it.

A child needs help finding and making happiness. Her psyche tries to restore her to a state of joy, but with distracted parents who do not comprehend the depth of her sadness or the source of her anger, that psyche flounders. Only when Joy embraces Sorrow and both appeal to Riley’s parents can Riley heal.

From Sorrow Rises Joy
Photo Courtesy of Al Griffin Photography
She does, of course. She proves the resilience of the human spirit, the power of family, the urgency of love given daily and freely, and the need to acknowledge the sorrows that come. Riley’s lesson is the lesson we must learn over and over throughout our sorrows: from sorrow springs joy, a trope common in children's literature as well as adult literature.

Reading Challenge:

“Read” Inside Out with your favorite three-year-old.


Writing Challenge:


Tell the story of a sorrow that drew you down and onward to joy.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.
She also writes for Our Eyes Upon Missouri.