Last week we talked here about movies. Then my husband and I actually went to see one. The earth stayed on its axis.
In all seriousness, the multiplex at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon is pretty lovely. This one sits in the middle of downtown Redwood City, one of several towns on the San Francisco Bay Peninsula with a full commercial district. We got our tickets, ate lunch, walked around, and wandered back to the theater.
We saw Inside Out.
The seats were auditorium style, each row on a rise. A smattering of other people saw the same showing, and I’d say 3/4 of them were children. So no one blocked our view, and aside from a bout of seat-back kicking, it was pleasant to sit in company.
As for the movie itself, I imagine most of you know it’s animated, and concerns a young girl named Riley and her emotions. The movie spans a week or two in her life, as her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Lots of flashbacks to her childhood. Most of the actions actually takes place in an imaginary space inside the little girl.
Each of Riley’s emotions is personified in an animated character; Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. They become the movie’s stars. I infer, although I haven’t looked it up, that science believes these to be the primary emotions, i.e. anchored in discrete physical responses,
I enjoyed that scientific background, and all the animations of the machinery of a personality. I know we see, every day, our children and grandchildren are growing up in a new world. This is not the 20th century. Cellphones, social networks, and Photoshopped images have wrought enormous changes.
But Inside Out reminded me that we are also bringing up our children in what has become a post-Freud world.
How will it feel to develop as a person, to grow up, knowing more and more about our workings? Understanding long-term vs. short-term memory? Personality structures? To perhaps see our own brains at work via imaging technology?
Does self-awareness necessarily lead to better beings?
I don’t know. Luckily for all the small ones in the audience, the movie asks other, simpler questions. Will Joy and Sadness escape the Big Scary Clown? Yes they will. Will those emotions make sure Riley doesn’t run away from home? Yes, they will. When Joy and Riley’s imaginary friend fell into the land of lost memories I heard children throughout the theater fretting to their parents. “They are stuck!” said a little girl. But, they escape.
Mostly the movie wants to say that if you want to feel Joy, you’re going to have to accept all your other feelings too. I believe that’s true, although I have no proof.
My real favorite part of Inside Out at the multiplex was hearing parents murmuring to their worried children until they quieted. On the other hand, the mother behind me stopped her kid’s bout of seat-back kicking with a few strict words. It felt sweet, to be in the middle of that intimacy.
I look forward to the sequel. Do you think they might follow Riley all the way to 58, to one morning as she sits on her suburban sofa, wondering about child-rearing in the era of functional magnetic resonance imaging? Maybe not.
This one’s for you, daughter of mine in medical school.
Have a spectacular weekend everyone, in actual or virtual multiplexes of the spirit.