Theme of Mental Illness in 'Inside Out': Research Essay

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Consider the characterization of each of Riley's five emotions in Inside, Out. Choose three of them. Explain what makes each distinctive in terms of their physical appearance, dialogue, types of interactions with others, and role in the film's message/s. Write a paragraph on each of your chosen 3 emotions, referring to specific details from the film to support your insights.

Throughout the film Inside, Out each of Riley's five emotions play an important role in the film. The characterization of each emotion is unique and distinctive, with major differences in physical appearances, interactions with others, and the messages they convey. I believe this is particularly evident in the emotions of fear, sadness, and anger.


Fear is portrayed in the film as a tall and thin character, always nervous and constantly worried about the safety of Riley. His purple skin reflects the emotion of fear, as when people are scared their face may turn purple in response. The appearance of this character is based on a raw nerve. Fear's body language is also very reflective of the emotion he represents. His body posture is typically hunched over and closed in with his knees together, an extremely similar representation of real-life body language when scared or fearful. Fear's main purpose throughout the movie is to keep Riley aware of possible dangers. Fears interactions are typically nervous and unsure of himself from both his perspective and Riley's perspective. He has a tendency to exaggerate which is seen when on Riley's first day of school: 'Did you see that face?! They're judging us!!!' Fear teaches us that there is no problem with a cautious approach to daily activities, in fact, it can even be beneficial. The emotion of fear allows us to have an immediate reaction to unsettling or unusual things. This enables us to avoid dangerous situations and be safe, however, it is also made clear that fearfulness is not always a positive thing, and we must continue to live life properly.

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Anger is an extremely tempered and irritable character. He is dressed in a shirt and tie and he is represented as the colour red. Red is definitely a color associated with anger and energy as the color is strong and intense. Anger's main purpose is to make things fair for Riley. Anger's dialogue is also very unique and distinct in the movie, with him easily reacting and his vocabulary being very simple. Through the quote: 'So, is that how you want to play it, old man? No dessert? Oh, sure. We'll eat our dinner right after you eat this!' Anger's temper and angry interactions with others are displayed. His body language directly relates to the emotion he represents. This is displayed through clenched fists and crossed arms. Facial expressions of this character including frowning and gritted teach display this emotion as in real life, when people are angry, their body language is somewhat similar to this. Anger conveys the message that emotions are complicated and when we are angry we cannot always think clearly and rationally. Even when emotions such as anger may seem like a negative thing, they are crucial to the healthy functioning of a person, and we rely on them to balance ourselves.


Sadness is portrayed throughout Inside, Out as a sad and droopy character, always slouched and upset. She is dressed in a jumper, which was based upon the feeling of wanting to hide away in a blanket. She is a blue character, which is a color associated with tears, therefore sadness. The coloring of this character could also be related to the phrase 'feeling blue.' This character's appearance is based on a teardrop, as she is fairly round in shape. Sadness' interactions with others are very distinct. When a positive statement is made, Sadness will always look at the situation from a negative perspective. This is clearly displayed when Joy makes a positive comment about hockey and Sadness says: 'It was the day the Prairie Dogs lost the big playoff game. Riley missed the winning shot. She felt awful.' Sadness teaches us multiple lessons throughout the movie, with a major conveyed message being that happiness cannot be forced, and negative emotions are also necessary to be joyful. She teaches us not to suppress negative emotions, as the consequences of them are not always bad, and are in fact critical to a balanced and healthy life.

Happiness is not only about being joyful - cannot be forced

Do not suppress negative emotions, the consequences are not always bad.

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Theme of Mental Illness in ‘Inside Out’: Research Essay. (2023, October 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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