I had a brilliant idea this morning when I unintentionally woke up at 5 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. The best, and the craziest, ideas are birthed in the early morning hours. This morning as I lay staring at my twitter feed on my phone, this idea came to me: a sequel to the Pixar animated film “Inside Out”. This movie is one of my favourites and mostly because of the plump and lethargic Sadness who disrupts the simple and over-enthusiastic Joy to bring nuance to the emotions and memories of young Riley (see below for GIFs). For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, its setting is inside the “head” of young Riley where five “voices” or emotions compete, and then ultimately work together for their host. Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, and Sadness all have their parts to play as Riley grows and faces the challenge of moving to a new city. Long story short, Joy has to learn that Sadness’ role is just as important as her own.
Joy: Just make sure that all the sadness stays inside the circle.
The sequel idea is as follows; Riley is in the throes of adolescence, facing the usual angst of searching for autonomy and community. Joy and Sadness become badly ill, turning dull and grey in place of their usual fuzzy, yellow/blue selves. When they try to handle Riley’s memories, they become dull and discoloured as well. In trying to aid their colleagues, Anger, Fear and Disgust also catch the illness. On the outside, Riley again becomes distant, lonely, lethargic and loses interested in everything. She spends sleepless nights journalling about her new chaotic reality. Her parents become worried and bring her to the doctor who prattles off a list of the usual mental health questions, asking her to rate her mood. Riley is annoyed that she has to talk about this in front of her mom and is resistant to answer the majority of the questions, but when asked to rate her mood she gives the doctor a 2.5/10 and her mom and visibly upset. “For how long have you felt this way?” the doctor asks. Riley shrugs and says, “months”. The doctor, although hesitant to give any sleep aids that might become addictive, suggests trying melatonin and prescribes an antidepressant to try. The screen shows Riley sitting slouched next to her mom who sits upright, purse on lap staring at the floor looking horrified as the doctor's voice drones on about the possible side effects of the medication and a recommendation to give it 4 to 6 weeks if the side effects are manageable.
On the drive home, they sit in silence as Riley’s mom searches for the words to say. She can’t seem to find any. As they get home Riley runs upstairs to her room and slams the door. That night they try the medication. Transition to inside Riley’s head, where the medication is introduced as a character. And so starts a montage of 4 to 5 “medication characters”; one who is dopey and uncoordinated who rambles in inspiring quotes, another who is a drill sergeant and tries to get the five emotions into shape, and another who is a sort of free-flowing, wheat-grass drinking health hippie. Finally, there is a “medication character” who the five emotions can stand and don’t mind having around. I’m not set on what this character would be like. I’m open to suggestions.
I would also love to see them tackle suicidal ideation, but, of course, this would be more suitable for a more mature audience. Psychiatry should also be introduced, although if we want to be realistic to the North American health system, suicidal ideation is almost mandatory to get onto any waitlist for a psychiatrist. I think therapy or counselling should also be explored, but I do see Riley’s mental illness to be more biological and more effectively treated with medication than with counselling. Therapy would be available to help her make sense of her own mental state and work through the numbing bleakness of depression.
Wouldn't it be great if we had kids movies, or movies in general, that helped us start conversations about our mental health, that gave us an idea of what getting help looks like? I think it would be important not to make mental illness into a villain to defeat, but an illness to treat and manage. "Inside Out" did a great job at showing us how disorienting it is to only value joy, to demonstrate the richness and nuance of the partnership our emotions need to have. However, there is a misconception that sadness and depression are the same thing, and they are NOT. Depression cripples your emotions and makes you numb. Depression is the dull, bleak and discolouring of your memories until they are devoid of life. I don't think this sequel would do to well at the box office, but I do think we need to start and keep talking about mental illness. For the sake of all of our emotions.