Tuesday, July 7, 2015

At the movies: 'Inside Out'

One of the best things about participating in Notre Dame Center for Liturgy's annual Symposium last month was meeting and getting to know the Center's Director, Dr Tim O'Malley, and Assistant Director, Carolyn Pirtle. The Center has a blog (now added to my "Blogs I Like" list)- Oblation: Liturgy and Life. It is Carolyn's most recent post on their blog that prompted this post.

A week ago Sunday I took my family to see the Pixar movie Inside Out. It is one of three films I want to see in theater with my wife and children during this hot season. I wanted to see the movie, but not being a Disney fan (Pixar is now owned by Disney), my expectations were not very high. To me Disney movies, on the whole, are gaudy, predictable, and didactic- the same 2 or 3 stories told over and over in ever less imaginative ways. But I'll be honest, I was amazed by Inside Out. Carolyn's post "All of the Feels: The Joy of 'Inside Out'" captures well a few of my own thoughts about the movie. It offers me much more worth considering.

"Inside Out," Carolyn observed, "invites young-at-heart viewers to ponder questions like: What does it mean to remember? What does it mean to forget? What does it mean to feel things deeply? What does it mean allow our behavior to be ruled entirely by our emotions, and how can this effect the people we care about? I don't want to steal her thunder and so I will simply direct you (again) to her post.

I also read Eve Tushnet's review for The American Conservative, "Feeling Down on 'Inside Out.'" Some of her critical points are quite valid. In particular she was spot-on with her observation about Riley, the 12 year-old girl inside of whose psyche the movie plays out in response to what is going on in her life, namely her family's re-location from Minnesota to San Francisco:
In general I found it hard to believe that a child had reached that age with so few awful memories, persistent shames, or sins. We visit her subconscious and the great lurking fears there are broccoli and the vacuum cleaner. She’s eleven. I led a charmed life as a child, and I had accumulated more Dostoyevskyan angst by age six than this kid seems to harbor at twice that
But I think it's important to keep in mind who likely comprised the movie's target audience.

Eve did go on to note Inside Out "moves from happy memories to an emphasis on bittersweet ones. It strongly hints that all memories eventually become bittersweet. There’s even a moment toward the end where Joy, not Sadness, turns a memory blue: That’s a haunting, beautifully simple way of conveying a complex psychological truth."

As Christians we put a lot of emphasis on "the heart." This is something we take away from reading Scripture. The heart is certainly embedded deeply in Roman Catholic spirituality. Hence, we should not be hesitant to see the need to pursue emotional intelligence. Our emotions, our affectivity, certainly must come into play in our spiritual life. Why? Because, as Christians, the very heart of our faith is our relationship with Jesus Christ. At the heart of Carolyn's piece is a wonderful New Testament reflection on what it means to have joy.

In the car on our way home from the movie theater I asked the question, "So what did you think of the movie?" Our six year-old son, who we affectionately call the Snack, piped in with "At first I thought Sadness was useless, but she actually turned out to be quite important."

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