Friday, September 4, 2015

Inside Out and how Empathy lets Joy "Grow Up" (and its parallelisms with Hector and the Search for Happiness)

*slight spoiler warning*
Inside Out reminds me of Hector and the Search for Happiness.

In this film, Simon Pegg's character Hector starts out pretty unhappy even though he is quite well off. He feels very meh about his very comfortable, "tidy" life. He is a psychiatrist and he listens to his clients' stories with emotional detachment. He tries to find meaning in his life and goes traveling, being the privileged individual who can afford it that he is.

I highly recommend this film for good vibes, by the way.

There is a moment in this film that keeps coming back to Hector, when he finds himself under Tibetan prayer flags, and he hears a voice saying that it takes all of the different colors. It takes all colors.

In Inside Out, this concept is illustrated through the five emotions in Riley's head. At first, it seems as though Joy is the only positive, functional emotion. I'll try not to spoil Hector, but at the end of both movies, the lesson is clear: processing, or working with the other seemingly negative emotions is the way to sustain Joy's functionality. We should not suppress "negative" things, but deal with them and let them allow us to empathise with each other, so that happiness can have meaning. 

As children, for us who are privileged enough in terms of where we live, our world is kept small and simple. At this stage, it is easy and natural for Joy to be the only emotion we come across often. But as we grow up, our world becomes bigger. We are made to deal with a lot of uncomfortable changes in our own lives, and we see the state of the rest of humanity. We also hopefully start to understand other people better, and we are pressured more to take other peoples' feelings into account. A lot of people cannot choose to live without these negative feelings as a result of their life's circumstances, or mental/psychological capabilities, or the experiences they've had.
Even though Inside Out and Hector demonstrate the same concept in very different life stages, both stories put Joy in charge, and allow her to work with the others. Joy is in charge, because it motivates us to keep going on so that we can make things better.

 Both stories attempt to teach the lesson that a meaningful life, one we can be happy to look back on, requires us to be open to all emotions and not suppress pain and discomfort when they come. Processing and going through all of them together, "all the colors", and not clinging too much to joy and comfort so much that it loses all meaning. 

Joy in itself is a dead end, if we don't put it in context with the other emotions. We need to use joy to propel us to ease each others' pain, and our own.. But only after we open our eyes and hearts to find out where that pain is.

Movie Rating: 4 STARS. Really cool, but makes me really want a sequel to feel like it's enough.

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