When Disney Pixar’s Inside Out hit theaters in 2015, several quizzes infiltrated the internet and prompted users, “Which Inside Out Character Are You?” I took them all to confirm what I already knew—I am Sadness.
As Josh first notes in “Toxic Masculinity,” Inside Out depicts five basic emotions: joy, anger, fear, disgust and sadness. All these emotions drive the human mind by reacting to any and all of life’s circumstances—from discovering broccoli on pizza and stepping in a puddle, to moving into a new home. Yet, each character’s team of emotions is governed by one. Eleven-year-old Riley’s dominant emotion is joy. Her father’s is anger. Her mother’s, sadness.
As a character, Sadness says things like:
I’m too tired to walk. Just give me a few … hours.
We could cry until we can’t breathe.
Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.
I’ve been described as a “sad person” before. Sometimes it happens to my face, but I’d wager it happens most often behind my back: My senior year of high school, I was walking down the hall and got trapped behind a guy comparing me to “a sad little bunny.”
While I have to admit that sometimes I might “obsess over the weight of life’s problems,” I know I’m being melodramatic when I do. Disney Pixar’s portrayal of Sadness as a character is less about the truth of sadness, and more about how other people view the emotion. In the movie, Sadness is the caricature of a feeling that is often pushed aside, taken for granted, or looked at negatively, as an inhibitor.
All the “sad people” … we’re misunderstood.
To prove my point, I took one of playbuzz’s quizzes and responded honestly about my preferences. Green is my favorite color, autumn is my favorite season, I rarely wear makeup, and I would choose oversized sweaters over a sparkly dress any day.
I guess playbuzz believes the reason autumn is my favorite season is because EVERYTHING IS DYING. My results told me:
You are the tearful Sadness. You tend to think negatively about things … Remember to try and think positive.
I took the quiz again. This time, I marked responses I knew would render a different result. My favorite color is orange, summer is my jam, I often wear makeup, and … sure, I’ll choose the yellow sundress that will most certainly clash with my pasty skin.
Well, aren’t you just a bundle of joy! You are fun, creative and always a pleasure to be around!
The difference in these results … it cuts me deep.
In Inside Out, Joy is the domineering emotion, and the only one viewed positively. She’s at the center of command, telling the other emotions what to do. When Fear, Anger, Disgust, or Sadness take charge, chaos ensues. Sadness, in particular, is a bit of a drag. Literally. Joy drags Sadness around. As the film’s plot unwinds, however, it becomes increasingly evident that it’s not so simple to define emotions as “positive” or “negative.”
“There’s one thing these different emotions have in common … they’re all about taking care of you,” said Phyllis Smith, voice of Sadness, in a promo video.
Example: Broccoli on pizza could kill you. Surprise! Disgust just saved your life.
As the movie’s plot unwinds, Joy discovers that adolescent Riley needs Sadness. While it’s not healthy to feel sadness every waking minute of the day, in the end, Sadness helps reconcile the rough spots in life.
It’s one thing, however, to be a characteristically joyful person allowing yourself to feel sadness because you moved to a new town and miss your friends. It’s another phenomenon completely to allow sadness to drive your daily actions.
But that’s just it. Having a characteristic emotion isn’t really about feeling a particular emotion all day every day. Rather, it’s about the underlying emotion that motivates actions or other feelings.
One of my friends describes herself as being “calibrated” when she’s sad, and I discover something similar in myself. Other emotions—joy included—are certainly present, but whereas these emotions elicit responses to circumstances, sadness naturally inspires action.
Sadness drives me toward community in a way joy never has. Sadness bids for honesty, serves as my greatest ally in empathy, checks my anger, and encourages me to look at another side of the story. When I let sadness drive me, I’m a more attentive listener. Probably a better friend.
And yes, it’s true. Sometimes the sadness is too much.
As Inside Out shows, humans need all the emotions to be healthy. Similarly, the world needs humans of all character because we’re all wired to give the world what it needs. I’m thankful for the counterparts: The ones who can make a splash out of life’s puddles; the ones who seek justice from anger; the ones who do bold, brave things out of fear; the ones who, disgusted with wrongs, keep the world’s moral compass true.
Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.