INSIDE OUT: Joy and Sadness | FCC 80

In Disney / Pixar’s latest film Inside Out, the characters Joy and Sadness embark on a quest to return Riley’s core memories back to Headquarters. In this episode of the Finding Christ in Cinema podcast, we discuss how we can use this film to talk about the Christian themes of joy produced by the Holy Spirit, the Godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and how God Himself is the bridge between the two.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:32 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:26:35 – Christian Themes in Inside Out 
  • 01:01:00 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
  • 01:09:57 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:18:29 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:20:52 – Upcoming

In the Beginning, There Was Joy…and Sadness…Together

Joy is the emotion that assumes authority in eleven-year-old Riley’s mind. She takes on the overall big-picture tasks for herself, and she delegates lesser responsibilities to the other emotions. The only reason why Joy believes herself to be in control, though, is because she has been with Riley ever since the latter’s birth. Other emotions like Fear, Anger, and Disgust came in later, but Joy overrides them because she was there first.

But so was Sadness. Joy may have been the only thing in newborn Riley’s mind for the first “thirty seconds,” but Sadness quickly joined her, and the two have been as inseparable as broccoli and pizza ever since. Too bad for Sadness, though, because everyone – Riley’s parents, crazy clowns, and even Joy herself – has tried their best to stop Sadness from fully developing. Joy’s efforts to suppress Sadness end up being her fatal mistake because it is what leads the two of them and the lot of Riley’s core memories to being ejected out of Headquarters.

This image from INSIDE OUT shows Joy and Sadness.

The main action of the film, then, becomes a quest to return to Headquarters with the core memories still intact. It may not be the first mission that Joy and Sadness have had to share, but it is the first time that Joy and Sadness have actually had to work in tandem – not one pretentiously usurping authority over the other – in order to achieve the desired result: an emotionally stable and content Riley.


Godly Sadness Leads to Godly Joy

As the film continues, the relationship between Joy and Sadness deepens and becomes more complex, so much so that they start to affect each other. As Sadness comforts Bing Bong upon the loss of his rocket, for example, she experiences a type of joy as she herself and not Joy is able to comfort Bing Bong in his mourning. Conversely, Joy experiences sadness for herself when all hope seems lost at the bottom of the Memory Dump.

But then she finally realizes that Sadness has been just as crucial to Riley’s genuine joy as she herself ever was. As she picks up the core memory she believes Sadness has tainted, she finds herself witnessing something previously unheard of: Joy and Sadness in the same core memory. At first, she only the saw the joy of Riley’s parents and hockey team lifting her up and encouraging her, but when she rewinds the scene, she sees the sadness from which that joyful scene sprung. Now she understands that sadness brings others closer, and then and only then can true joy occur.

This image from INSIDE OUT show Riley and Mom and Dad sitting on a tree branch in a core memory.

This best illustrates why God wants us to have a healthy, balanced dose of sadness and joy within ourselves. Whereas the way of the world tells us to go through life with our heads held high and a smile on our face, God calls us to a life in which we are honest about our emotions. We know what to do when we are joyful (not just happy but truly joyful), but if we are sad, don’t hide it. Just be sad, and give God Himself the chance to come to your side and comfort like only He can. Then and only then can we experience joy as He intended.


Key Texts

Psalms 30:11-12 NET

Then you turned my lament into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.
So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;
O Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.

Ecclessiastes 7:3-4

Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.

A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

John 16:22 AMP

So for now you are in grief; but I will see you again, and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away from you your [great] joy.

2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NLT

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.


Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

Use the audio player at the top of this article to listen to the podcast, or use the links below for other convenient ways to hear FCC.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people’s hearts.

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  • Philip Heard

    Hey guys, great film, great show! Personally, when the trailers came out for this I was not very interested. I waited for the Redbox release and was so impressed, it surpassed my expectations big time!

    The main thing I get from it is Ecclesiastes 3, pretty much the entire chapter, but I’ll quote verses 1 and 4 here from the ASV: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:………….a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”

    We seem to avoid sadness in our society as if it is a bad thing, but Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for it to be embraced.

    Also, Isaiah 61:3(ASV) is appropriate to this film. “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified.”

    At the end when the whole family was sad and mourning the loss of their home back east, their ashes turned into something beautiful. Our own mourning can be turned into something beautiful, making us into people who can better serve and glorify God.

    Overall, this was just an outstanding movie. The beginning of Up may be the most intense emotional part of any film I’ve seen, but Inside Out takes that sort of emotion and spreads it out over the course of the whole story. Which is a good thing, otherwise we all might suffer some sort of a breakdown, right?

    I recently opened an account on a site called Flickchart, it’s set up to rank movies and make lists, etc. Two movie posters will pop up and you click on which you like better. I’ve only messed around on it a bit so far, but it seems really fun and I think will especially appeal to folks like Michael who enjoy ranking things. Feel free to friend me if you like. http://www.flickchart.com/Philip03

    And lastly, I have digital comics for the Kindle Fire as well, both from the Amazon store and the Comixology app. Which have you been using Brenden? I much prefer Comixology, their guided view feature really gets the most out of a tablet, in my opinion. And Comixology also has a nice selection of Free issues you can get anytime, and sales on a regular basis. You will especially find 99 cent sales when a super hero film or maybe even TV show has a new release.

    Love the show guys! #muhweeladgimli

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