Going to the movies

I don’t go to the movies very often–mainly because of my phobia (there’s fucking vomiting in maybe 95% of movies I’d be interested in seeing, and movies are too loud in the theater for me to just look away and plug my ears).  Also, every time I do go, I roll my eyes at every single preview.  It may be trailers themselves that are formulaic, but I pretty much never want to see a movie based on it.  That stops me from utilizing my free time to actually watch a movie (The Master, for example, has been on my to-do list forever).  I never go into a movie feeling enthused about anything except, perhaps, the recliners that are taking over theaters.

The bright side of that is that, when I do get to the movies, my expectations are so low that I’m often pleasantly surprised and impressed by a movie just because it doesn’t completely suck balls.  I distinctly remember that happening for the first time with the Michael Keaton Batman, and it has happened several times since, as I think the only movies I’ve gone into with high expectations were the LOTR movies.

I don’t like to discuss whether I liked or disliked a movie walking out of it because I need to tease out what’s “exceeding my low expecations/not totally sucking” versus “actually being a good movie.”  I tend to give dumb answers to “what did you like about it” if it’s right away.

However, I REALLY liked Inside Out. My expectations were low because it’s Disney, and I was an old-school crabapple about Pixar’s takeover of animation.  (I still won’t admit to being a Disney person…although I loved my trip to Disney in 2010, I have dressed as Disney princesses for two Halloween…and not even “sexy” ones, just regular ones, and I think Frozen was great.  Totally just being stubborn).

I’ve heard people argue about the choice of emotions–particularly “disgust.”  I can understand not finding disgust to be that crucial to the story, but it is technically one of the major emotions.

I heard, “Why not love?  Why not hate?”  I don’t really think of “love” and “hate” as a feeling (especially the latter, which is so complex compared to, say, “fear”)..    To translate it into my terms, “happiness,” “sadness,” “anger,” “fear”, and “disgust” are pure soundwaves, like a tuning fork.  Love is…I don’t know what the fuck love is–or even if I consider it an emotion (you could argue it’s just pleasure/joy that has been reinforced over and over, but it tends to stick around even once the original reward changes or goes away).   It’s comparable to something that has overtones/timbre at the very least.

I could make a witty joke right now comparing my love life to a ~4.5 minute John Cage piece if I were wittier or more patient.

One of my friends who is a HUGE Disney/Pixar fan didn’t like Inside Out, but his response to it didn’t annoy me just because it was coming from him…he has this funny, Louis Black way of acting angry/outraged when he tells a story. He said, “An hour and 40 minutes to say ‘It’s okay to be sad?'”  I giggled when he said it (this is the same guy who hated Wicked because “The wicked witch became wicked because of PETA?  That’s so fucking stupid!”) even though I totally disagree with his take.

To him, though, I say, “Yes.  Yes, it took an hour and 40 minutes to say it’s okay to be sad.”  Why? Why not talk about emotional invalidation in childhood? How many of us grew up feeling that it wasn’t “okay” to express anger, sadness, or any other ‘negative” emotion?  There’s a continuum, of course, that runs from “mistakenly thinking you can’t be [this feeling] for whatever reason” to “abuse in which you are punished for expressing [this feeling]” (scroll down on this page for concrete examples of how this sounds).  I think that’s why the movie affected me so much emotionally.

Riley’s family was obviously at the “healthier” end of the continuum of validation/invalidation: she had loving, well-meaning parents, but, at 11, kids are egocentric enough to take on a simple “it helps to see you smile and still be happy you” as the burden to hold the family together and never be sad.  For a kid Riley’s age, moving across the country and away from everything she’s known–except for her parents and a few possessions–is traumatic.  To her, that IS losing everything.  I don’t think it’s melodramatic to have all of the “islands” that make up her personality crumble.  (They rebuild–kids are resilient).  But I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the movie to treat Riley as someone who has lost everything, and I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic based on what I know of children psychologically and developmentally to have Riley hear her mom’s compliment of Riley’s smiling and still being her happy self as a plea that to stay that way in order to hold the family together.

The feeling that had to be suppressed could have just as easily been anger.  How many of us grew up in a household in which no one–or only one person–was “allowed” to express anger?  (I know that’s a common characteristic of alcoholic families).

I also love that Joy is kind of a narcissistic asshole: Riley’s internal representation of the mother who means well and mildly hurts her daughter in her attempts to only have good things for her.  (I’m not bashing optimists, who tend to be inherently less annoying than pessimists, but: what is more annoying when you’re having a rough time than someone who won’t just admit that things suck right now?)  In spite of my determination to accept and affirm whatever my kid is feeling at any time, she reminds me of me a little bit…feeling that it’s all going to fall apart if she doesn’t manage it all, constantly running interference to try to avoid any kind of unpleasantness, but (hopefully) willing to adapt and change.

While the actual psychology behind the movie is solid, I like that that emotions don’t know everything.  They just do what they do–they’re operating things, but they’re just managing.  They’re not actually in charge.  The whole is clearly larger than the sum of its parts, but there’s no talk of a higher power that’s bringing in the new console and hiring long-term memory maintenance.  Thank God.


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