Saturday, July 18, 2015

Inside Out Is All About Parents

So far I've seen Inside Out twice in theaters, and I think it's probably my favorite movie of this summer. It's so nice to see Pixar doing a new story, not a sequel, and doing something kind of outside their normal story set of "nerdy guy goes on journey and learns lesson about self."

I think the parts of the movie that work the best are the ones that focus on the emotions of parents. Maybe it was totally accidental, or maybe they were trying to get that subtext in there. Anyway, the emotions in Riley's head somehow seem more like parents than her even actual ones.

For example, the imaginary friend Bing Bong seems a lot like a dad who realizes his little girl has grown up and all the fun things he did with her when she was little, he'll never get the chance to do again. It's very nostalgic. And like all the characters, he has to eventually learn to let go.

Joy also seems a lot like a mother to me. She refers to Riley as "our girl," which is something a parent might do. She takes a lot of pride in Riley. Like Bing Bong, she gets nostalgic when she remembers how Riley was as a little girl, saying, "I could listen to her stories for hours on end."

Also like a lot of parents, she's very invested in Riley being happy, to the point of being micro-managing. Joy is willing to alter dreams and push unwanted negative thoughts (Sadness) out of the forefront of Riley's so that Riley can keep her happy state of mind.

In this way, Joy mirrors Riley's actual Mom, who at one point encourages Riley to keep up a happy face when things are going wrong. The advice is well-intentioned, but leads to trouble later because Riley can't be honest with her parents about how sad she is. We don't even really see her considering going to her parents for advice or support when she has a bad day at school or flubs hockey try-outs. Pent-up emotion leads to resentment and desperation, and Riley goes into a downward spiral which is only reversed by Sadness intervening.

Another thing we learn about Joy (and Joy learns about herself) is that she has a selective memory. For example, she remembers one day as a happy memory, while Sadness remembers it as a sad day. When Joy replays the memory from the beginning, she sees that the memory was both happy and sad. In fact, Riley had to go through a painful time before she could be reassured by her friends and family and be happy again.

I don't know if this was intentional--whether one thing we can get from this is that the nostalgia goggles are strong in parents and they remember children's young lives as being idyllic when in fact life is always more of a jumble of emotions. In the movie Joy stops trying to force Riley into the childhood state of "primarily happy all the time with a few blips of other emotions" and acknowledges that for a more adult life Riley needs to have the tools of a variety of emotions to help her process tougher situations. But I also wonder what would happen if Joy had replayed more memories. Would she find other things she had missed? You could almost make the argument that not only is Joy trying to stifle a child's growth, but that she's trying to preserve something that never really existed in the first place.

In the end, I think you could see Joy as a primarily nurturing character who learns to give up her micromanaging and occasionally dick-ish behavior. And the message for parents is about letting go, while the message to kids is about acknowledging that you have a range of emotions but are still in charge of your actions.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Customers You Meet at Kohls (1)

Working retail, you meet a lot of interesting people. Some you see over and over again....

One type is Asian Coupon Lady. Unlike your average bargain scrounger, the Asian Coupon Lady does not harass you or try to get more deals through force of annoyance alone. No, the Asian Coupon Lady does not need to use arguments. That's because she KNOWS the deals. She has her shit together.

As soon as you start ringing up the  Asian Coupon Lady's purchases, she brings the coupons out of her purse. The are all active. They all apply correctly to her purchases. The Asian Coupon Lady does not complain that her coupons have expired, because she plays fairly. She also checks them carefully before she goes to the store.

All of the Asian Coupon Lady's purchases are on clearance. She does not shop in any other section. Moreover, they all come up as clearance, when other people's items often come up as a different price from what they expected. Somehow the Asian Coupon Lady is not fooled by the items that mysteriously wander into clearance on their own.

After the Asian Coupon Lady has checked all her items and presented all her coupons, her total will come up to less than ten dollars. Sometimes, it will come up to less than five. The Asian Coupon Lady will pay in cash, in exact change. If she does have the Kohl's card she will often pay it off directly after purchasing. However, she is more fond of the point card.

As customers go, The Asian Coupon Lady is by far not the worst you can get. She doesn't get angry and abuse you. If the line is longer, it can be a bit tedious to go through her elaborate dance of coupons and gift cards, but the line will always be with you, and there will always be someone who is slow for whatever reason.