Pixar’s “Inside Out” could be a coming out story

By : Jeremy Williams
Comments: 3

Is Pixar’s new film, Inside Out, a young girl’s coming out story?

While the movie does not premiere until June 19, several trailers have been released that point to this being Disney and Pixar’s most LGBT-friendly film yet.

The film follows 11-year-old Riley, a young tomboy who loves hockey and her friends. When her father starts a new company in San Francisco she is forced to leave her home in Minnesota and start over in a new city and school. This is Pixar’s first nod to the gay community, San Francisco.

The City by the Bay is a gay Mecca. It is home to the first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk, and has been an open and liberal city since World War II. If Pixar is going to do a story of a young girl discovering herself as a lesbian it only seems fitting that San Francisco is the setting.

Notably, the best joke from the trailer mentions San Francisco’s well known LGBT history. As Riley is in bed and hears a noise coming from the closet, her animated emotions react.

“What was that? Was that a bear?” asks Fear (voiced by Bill Hader).

Disgust (Mindy Kaling) says, “There are no bears in San Francisco.”

“I saw a really hairy guy, he looked like a bear,” Anger (Lewis Black) replies.

Riley is at the age when she starts going through adolescence, so the timing fits as to when she would start discovering who she is attracted to and the feelings she has about it.

Also, the gender assigned to each emotion raises questions. In the most recent trailer we get to see into the minds of not only Riley, but her parents as well.

Her mother’s mind is comprised of five female emotions, all sitting at the brain’s control and concerned that Riley is unhappy. She darts a concerned look to Riley’s father and a look into is mind shows five male emotions, all of which are ignoring Riley’s mother. Both parents are obviously heterosexual.

Once we dive into Riley’s mind we meet each of her five emotions – three female and two male. Why are her emotions mixed genders? Why aren’t they all female like her mother’s?

While this may seem stereotypical, saying you’re gay because you have mixed gender voices in your head might be a way to help young gay and lesbian kids understand the differences they feel as they are growing up. Pixar’s visual representation that Riley’s emotions are not all the same gender may be the best way for someone not knowing what they’re feeling to express themselves.

An LGBT-friendly nod is the rainbow theme that runs through Riley’s mind as Joy (Amy Poelher) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) venture through Riley’s long-term memories.

When Joy and Sadness visit Riley’s imagination, they come across her dreams and explore her love of fairies and rainbows. They meet her favorite cartoon character, Rainbow Unicorn, and ride on a rocket with a rainbow stream behind them. In fact, Riley wears a rainbow striped sweater through most of the trailer.

The film, more specifically Riley’s mind, shows that her head is filled with lots of vivid, colorful representations of the gay community.

A Google search of “Inside Out” brings up websites and promotional materials for the film, but a search of “inside out gay” brings up pages of LGBT-themed books, television shows and websites. The Toronto LGBT Film Festival is called Inside Out. The 1991 book Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories by Diana Fuss is a collection of short stories about the “representations of sex and sexual difference in literature, film, video, music and photography,” and explores the emotions within coming out.

This all is just speculation, of course. Basing the entire theme of a movie on just the trailer is like judging a great meal by tasting one ingredient, but it does raise the intrigue factor of “what if.”

What if Disney and Pixar are trying to make a statement with this film that it is OK to be different and it is OK to ask questions if you don’t understand your own feelings?

It wouldn’t be the first time a Pixar film addressed a heavy, social topic covered in the non-threatening veil of animation. In 2008, they tackled how we treat the Earth in Wall-E and in 2009 they used Up! to look at death and how we handle it. Both are considered among Pixar’s best films.

In 2012, Pixar released Brave, in which many people made a lesbian connection between the main character, Merida, and her rebellious attitude against gender roles. Is it so far-fetched to think they wouldn’t tackle gay rights?

We will just have to wait until the film is released June 19 to get the full story. One thing is for sure; because Inside Out is a Pixar film, you can guarantee it will be a huge hit.

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  • Stephen J. Miller

    I see this on Wednesday and review it for the weekend opening!

  • Daniel

    My favorite nod to a possible gay under-theme was when Riley’s mind creates an “imaginary boyfriend” who lives in Canada. That gave me a good laugh.

  • Hal Briggs

    #boycottdisney