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Sunt lacrimae rerum [Jul. 31st, 2015|09:47 pm]

There is a comic strip - it first appeared in The Beezer in 1962, but it still exists - called The Numskulls in which a person's activities are explained in terms of a team of miniature people living inside their head: the eyes, ears, brain etc. each have their own department. There's a classic example here, but an image search will turn up plenty more.

We went to see Inside Out at the cinema yesterday. It starts from a similar premise: Riley's actions are determined by the little people inside her head. But where the Numskulls divide their host's inner workings along functional, almost mechanistic, lines, Riley's inner life is controlled by her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. I boggled a bit at this point: Disgust? Really, Disgust is one of the five big emotions? But she's a great character, Riley's inner teenager just waiting for the chance to manifest herself, and I didn't feel the need to take the analysis too seriously.

As a comedy, Inside Out works well enough: it has some great moments, some snappy one liners, and its heart is in the right place. But I did feel that I was being asked to take it more seriously, to admire its psychological insights, to learn its lesson; the didacticism is not subtle, and the happy ending consists in both hugging and learning. I enjoyed it, I'm glad to have seen it, I laughed: but I don't see where all these superlatives are coming from.

That seems to be my conclusion, so what follows must be postscript, two random thoughts about narratives in which human emotions / qualities are personified:
  1. My, the Roman de la Rose is all over the internet, isn't it? It even has a Twitter feed. And so many pretty manuscripts: I like this one, from the Bibliothèque Nationale.

  2. There were scenes in Inside Out in which Sadness bore a strong resemblance to Despair, of Neil Gaiman's Endless. But in that family, the equivalent of Joy, the perky but practical one, the elder sister - I don't need to spell it out, do I?

[User Picture]From: steepholm
2015-08-01 09:08 am (UTC)
I thought of the Numskulls, too, when I saw the trailer.

I watched the film and thought it was funny and inventive, and there were some very perceptive touches (e.g. the way a happy memory could become tainted - if that's not too negative a word - by the touch of sadness; the effect on Riley of being separated from her core memories), but overall I felt as if I were being put in a bit of an armlock about how I should feel, what constituted a satisfactory outcome, what values I should put first, etc. Yes, it's great to have imaginary friends, but there comes a time when you have to consign them to the dump to be able to progress. And so on.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-08-01 02:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, I particularly liked the way it talked about memories: on reflection, this was more interesting than what it had to say about the value of sadness.

And 'an armlock' is a good description of its didacticism, which irked me. I also wondered just who the message was intended for: it seemed adressed more to the parents than to the children who are the film's ostensible target audience.
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[User Picture]From: lamentables
2015-08-01 02:26 pm (UTC)
Just saw this on Twitter & thought of you: https://twitter.com/NPBeanoArtist/status/625958010771386369
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-08-01 03:56 pm (UTC)
Wonderful! Thankyou.
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