Grow up

My apologies for the lack of posting. Total lack of inspiration, sloth, etc. etc.

I saw Pixar’s Inside Out a couple of weeks ago, and like many people thought it a good movie, possibly great.

The movie is more curiously layered than it seems – yes, it’s another animated flick which does the whole, “your interior life is actually an aggregate of little homunculi running the show from behind the scene,” schtick, but it uses the conceit to interesting effect. The story, wherein Joy and Sadness get separated from the other emotions and need to find their way back, plays out more like a Medieval allegory where the subject is psychological instead of theological. But then we also get to see the outward action literalized: a little girl (Riley) attempting to cope with a difficult move.

There’s something very culturally on the nose about this, as our post-Freudian world has made the psyche into a realm of myth; we like to talk about people as the playthings of occult forces like the subconscious or the id much in the way the Greeks would have said of Athena or Zeus, with a resigned fatalism at times obscuring human agency.

Anyway, while the overall moral of the story is such that I’d feel more comfortable showing Inside Out to a hypothetical daughter or son that most of the Disney princess musicals, the film does fall into that category of Pixar movies which are really meant for adults: its insights on loss and the role of sadness have such a retrospective quality to them that I’m not sure how well they’d ring true for someone Riley’s age or younger (the theater I saw it in was exclusively peopled by twentysomethings like myself).

Compare that to Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea, which is first and foremost a children’s film (which also deals with grief and loss), but which has enough artistic merit to appeal to adults as well. And to be honest, I much prefer that.* Yeah, it’s nice to see animation tackling more complex themes, but I’d rather see that handled in the form of animation which is actually targeted at adults. In a manner that doesn’t boil down to, “this has R-rated stuff in it.”

The trouble I have with the odd middle ground epitomized by modern Pixar is that it reinforces two false propositions: “Animation is for kids,” and, “you can’t be childlike and be profound.” Our current surfeit of kids movies for adults is an attempt to find a loophole in this, when we should be making movies that challenge it.

I’m not trying to say that Pixar movies are bad, or that I don’t like them. What I am trying to say is that part of the pleasure of watching a kid’s movie is that it isn’t an adult movie, and hence plays according to a different set of rules and expectations. You don’t read Virgil for his psychological realism. And to accuse me of favoring escapism on this regard is, again, to underrate the potential that children’s entertainment represents.

*and, while I admit to being biased in favor of 2D stuff, I still think that Moore’s work is more artistically accomplished and interesting to look at as a piece of animation.



About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
This entry was posted in fragments of culture, pop culture and its discontents, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Grow up

  1. jubilare says:

    You know, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why Inside Out didn’t strike the right tone with me, and I think you may have just pointed me in the right direction.

    I haven’t seen Song of the Sea, but I desperately want to.

  2. Pingback: The abyss | Res Studiorum et Ludorum

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