No, this isn't yet another clickbait article, pointing out the homosexual joke left by Anger when he talks about “bears” in Los Angeles, and no, this isn't a knock on any of the feeling based characters. This article will instead focus on where the movie should have, the story of Riley, and everything wrong with Riley's existence.
Recently, a video popped up on the video sharing site Vimeo, cutting out all of the colorful scenes of Riley's emotions, and instead, just showing the “Riley Only” segments. Considering the fact that the movie is supposed to be all about Riley, it's pitiful to see that the main character's actual role lasts a mere 17 minutes of actual animation. This is not only indicative of how little the cast actually thinks of Riley, but is an adequate setup for where her story goes wrong.
In the muted tones of Riley's outside life, we see a short vignette of Riley from birth to her tween years. We see that she lives in a nice home, in a safe neighborhood, surrounded by friends and family. She goes to a good school, has access to a decent education, and lives a happy, normal life.
Suddenly, her parents, who barely even acknowledge her existence, sell the house, and drag her against her will across country, to a seedy, crime ridden street in Los Angeles. They cram her into a leaking, falling apart, attic-bedroom, strip her of all her furniture, and leave her cold and alone on the floor. Over the course of the film, we see her new classmates treat her like utter garbage, her new teachers are sullen and uninterested in her, her new hockey team comes across as abusive, sexist and equally uninspired by Riley, and her parents grow more and more selfish and self-centered. When Riley shows even the slightest distaste in her new, abusive surroundings, her parents sweep her emotions under the table, and insist she just “act happy” to make them feel better. They scold her, ignore her, and do absolutely nothing resembling proper parental guidance. The only point in the film where they at least feign a caring emotion, is near the end, where Riley breaks down and cries after stealing her mother's credit card and trying to run away. But even here, where Riley is offering her heart to the only people she has left in this world, she is again reminded to fake a smile and deal with it.
The reaction from so-called “adults” over this film, is as disheartening and frightening to see unfold as the misery this poor little girl is forced through. Below is a comment I recently left on an entertainment website about the film:
“Speaking as a kid who was forced to move from one horrible area to another, and was a consistent outcast, I feel really sorry for Riley. Her parents come across as selfish and self-centered. If they really cared about their child at all, they:
1. Would have stayed in the nice, large house and GOOD neighborhood they foolishly left behind.
2. Would have at least pretended like her feelings mattered BEFORE she resorted to thieving her mom's credit card.
3. Bought the kid some decent furniture.
4. Would never have moved her into a slummy, falling apart shack of an apartment.
5. Would have scoped the area out first, spotted the equally selfish hipster culture that has sprawled out, and decided not to subject their tween to this life of misery.
6. Changed to a job that would have allowed them to stay where Riley was safe, rather than to throw away everything to live in a dump.
This hits very close to home for me. I would love to trade Riley's dad for Mufasa, Bambi's mom, or any of the other Disney parents who were wrongfully killed off.
Riley is forced to suffer for her parents' selfish choices, and she's pretty much told "your emotions are garbage, you get nothing and like it" until the tail end of the film, when her parents give her a hug, while accepting no part of the blame in her running away.
Call me cynical, but I find nothing charming or "whimsical" about these segments at all.”
After this comment, I was bombarded with hateful emails and mudslinging comments. Below are the four that spoke to me the loudest:
From a 27 year old Man: You're a stupid (withheld) who had better die. Riley's parents probably HAD TO move her, because a house that nice is probably too rich for their blood. Riley is a stupid, whiny (withheld) if she doesn't understand that. Kids can be so selfish.
A 32 year old mother of two: You probably hate your parents and need therapy you sicko. Riley just needs to deal with the fact that life will not always be fair. I feel so bad for her parents and yours.
A 25 year old woman: Riley's parents really do love her. Sometimes when you are a parent, you have to make hard choices, whether your kid likes it or not. Who cares what Riley thinks? She's a kid, she'll get over it. It's not like she'll remember anyway.
A 40 year old man: Riley is just a selfish little (withheld) who will likely grow up to be a (withheld) if she doesn't get her attitude in check. Her dad probably is doing this for her future. He probably had to move the family because of a job, and she's being very ungrateful for not getting that.
This is not even a full list. On several pages, I've seen grown adults in varying age groups wildly defend this movie, and hate on the character of Riley. But where the hatred of Riley is unwarranted comes in the character herself. She isn't “whiny”. In fact, she only has one real fit of anger after the move in the entire film, which is again greeted by a quick dismissal from her parents. She allows as much abuse as a tween can take without showing any emotion other than happy or confused for a majority of the film. I'm starting to wonder what subliminal message has been dropped in the background of Inside Out, especially considering the fact that this film just stole the Oscar for Best Animated Film, despite being a very depressing film that left most of the kids at my local theater in tears.
Aside from the childish name calling, here is where the excuses from fans falls short:
1. At no point in the film is it even hinted that Riley's parents are in any type of financial straits. In fact, their run down apartment proves to be more of a financial ache than their old house, so the excuse of “this is for Riley's financial future” just falls flat on it's face.
2. Riley's parents do not move because of their jobs. This is not hinted at nor mentioned during the film.
3. Riley's parents only care about Riley when she is behaving like a smiling goody-goody. When she has any other emotion, they shut down. They can't even care enough to buy her furniture or at least learn the names of the new people in her life. This extreme, gross negligence is what leads her to running away.
4. If Riley's parents actually cared about her future at all, they would never have moved her into a crime ridden area. California is a big enough state they could have found literally any other apartment, and maybe even a cheaper apartment, away from “the ghetto” as I have heard some adults call Riley's neighborhood.
I could delve into everything wrong with the more colorful segments of the film, such as Riley's imaginary friend committing suicide on camera, or the fact that Joy comes across as a Tinkerbell version of Riley's parents, shutting out the real life issues Sadness brings up, but for as dark as those spots are, they pale in comparison to the depressive state Riley's real world segments leave viewers in. The lesson of the film is that basically your emotions are garbage, lie down and accept what life gives you, but be sure to smile to make everyone else happy. And I can't think of a more damaging message to send to the 2-11 year olds this film was aimed at.
Inside Out is not brilliant. It's not fun and it's not appropriate for small children. It's a shameful display of bad parenting, and the hold it has on adults is disturbing.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!