When we were small children, our gender didn’t mean much other than our anatomy. We recognized differences between ourselves and the opposite sex, but it didn’t mean much as far as how we acted. The older that we got, observation and instruction began to dictate our behavior based on gender. We saw other children of the same gender acting a certain way and then we made the connection that that was how we were supposed to act also. Along with observation, adults and other older children told us things like, “boys don’t cry” and “you’re such a pretty girl.
Statements like these focus on stereotypes of genders: the masculinity of men and the appearance of women. We are not born knowing these stereotypes. The world and culture around us cultivates the stereotypes that we will see in the future. As we grow up and learn these stereotypes in America, our perspective changes. Women are supposed to be soft-spoken, gentle, and pretty. Men are outspoken, assertive, and masculine. Women talk too much about their problems and men never talk about their problems.
We didn’t know these things when we were born. They were taught to us, and they influence the way that we process information and emotions depending on our gender. The movie Inside Out is a perfect example of how gender expectations change our own emotions as we grow older. “Inside Out” I chose Inside Out for my analysis for many reasons. Inside Out is a children’s movie but it has a lot more depth to it than is found at first glance. It was praised for being the first children’s movie about a main character who has depression.
The movie is about an 11-year-old girl, Riley, who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco at the beginning of the movie, and the audience sees how she processes the move through tiny people inside of her head that represent each emotion. The emotions live in a space in her head known as “Headquarters,” and they operate a control panel that changes how Riley reacts to and feels about situations. There are three females (Joy, Sadness, and Disgust), and two males (Anger and Fear). Sadness is a soft-spoken female who is always wearing a sweater and glasses.
Riley’s depression can be seen as “Sadness’ increasing autonomy is starting to affect the hue of Riley’s memories and reactions” (Leslie, 2016, p. 11). Sadness acting out is reacted to by Joy who is gentle about saying what she thinks whereas Fear and Anger, the two male emotions, have no difficulty expressing their thoughts. Gender Expectations: Adult vs. Child There is a visible differences between the emotions of Riley’s parents and her own emotions. Riley’s emotions are all female and Riley’s dad’s emotions are all male.
This brings up an interesting concept that maybe the reason that Riley has a mix of male and female gendered emotions is because she has not yet conformed to the gender expectations of her emotions. For example, when women experience anger, they aren’t supposed to “blow up,” where as it’s normal for men to “blow up” when experiencing anger. Riley still experiences the type of anger where she “blows up,” and this could be why Anger is portrayed as male in her mind. If this theory were true, as Riley grew up, she would observe and be instructed until finally Anger and inevitably Fear were transformed into females in her mind.
Another difference between Riley’s emotions and her parents’ emotions is that Riley doesn’t have one particular emotion in charge of her control panel. Inside the mother’s brain, Sadness is in charge. Inside the father’s brain, Anger is in charge. In Riley’s brain, each emotion takes over at different times, though Joy does seem to be stepping up as a leader. This could be explained also through gender expectations. The mother’s emotion in charge is Sadness, who is quiet and reserved, which could be because society has pressured her into making herself small, like a lot of women.
The father’s emotion in charge is Anger, who is loud, outspoken, and assertive. These are the characteristics of a stereotypical male. Perhaps the parents have grown up observing and being instructed about how their gender should act and feel, and the most fitting emotion has taken charge over their “Headquarters. ” Gender Expectations: Stereotyping Emotions Despite the fact that the emotions in Riley’s head are evenly gendered, which suggests that stereotypes haven’t changed her emotional processing yet, there is still some gender stereotyping that can be seen in the way her emotions are visualized.
These leads me to believe that even though she herself hasn’t been affected by gender stereotypes, she is aware of them and they do affect the way that she thinks and processes emotions. The way that culture has influenced Riley to see qualities in each gender would affect the gender of each emotion in her head. Joy Joy is a female in Riley’s mind. Joy is very sweet and soft-spoken with the exception of when she is excited. She wears a long, simple dress with no shoes and never has any makeup on.
Her hair is messy and she is very talkative. Joy’s appearance also suggests that Riley believes that you don’t have to wear makeup or fancy clothes to be happy, but it also suggests that Riley still believes that happiness still boils down to appearance. Her qualities are relatively stereotypical of a woman, especially in the way that she expresses herself. Joy is very expressive when she is feeling positive and is very reserved when she experiences negative emotion. For example, when Sadness starts touching memories, they become blue.
Joy wants the memories to stay yellow, or joyous, but she doesn’t feel comfortable being outspoken and just telling Sadness how she feels, so she tiptoes around the subject by giving Sadness other things to do that keep her away from touching memories. Men are typically more reserved than women about positive emotion, and that could contribute to why Joy is a female in Riley’s mind. Sadness Sadness is a female. She is quiet and reserved for the most part. She is very reluctant to speak up. When Sadness starts becoming more active, Joy draws a circle around her and tells Sadness to stay in the circle.
Sadness represents certain stereotypical qualities of a women, despite not having a very feminine appearance. The way that the other emotions react to Sadness becoming more active suggests that Riley believes that as a woman, those qualities should be kept private. This supports the stereotypical belief that women can express emotions more vividly as men, so long as it’s not depression. Women with depression are typically thought of as attention-seeking. The way that Sadness is rejected and shut down by the other emotions may contribute to why she is a female in Riley’s mind. Disgust Disgust is a female and the perfect stereotypical woman.
Disgust is mostly focused on fitting in at Riley’s new school and looking good. Disgust is pictured in Riley’s mind dressed in a fancy dress with leggings, scarf and flats. She is also wearing mascara on her very long eyelashes, blush, and lipstick. Her hair is always perfectly done and she touches it frequently. At Riley’s age, she would just be learning about how women are assumed to be superficial. This particular emotion in her mind shows that she has been taught that to be “cool,” you have to be mean and act like you are disgusted by everything, like you are too good for everything.
Anger Anger is a male, short and stocky, and outspoken. He will never admit that he is feeling an emotion other than anger. Anger is essentially the stereotypical male in emotion form. He is the stereotypical male even further in the way that he is wearing a clean suit all the time and he very rarely listens. Of course, not all men are like this, but in the very basic stereotype, Anger fits very well. This may be why he is portrayed as a man in Riley’s mind. Fear Fear is a male in Riley’s mind. He is tall and thin and, of course, terrified of everything.
This, interestingly, is the opposite of the stereotypical ideal male. He relates with all of the emotions and isn’t very brave. However, the way that he does fit male gender expectations would be the way that he is not reserved in saying what he feels at any point in time, and he wears a suit, like anger. He is also very assertive about taking over the controls in Riley’s mind. Despite his other qualities, his assertiveness might be the reason that he is portrayed as a male in Riley’s mind. Boy’s Mind (After-Film Short)
The film also portrays the inside of a boy’s mind after he meets Riley. In his mind, an alarm goes off, “GIRL, GIRL, GIRL,” with red lights flashing and his emotions running around terrified while the boy has a blank look on his face. In a short that was released after the original movie, the boy comes over to meet Riley to go ice skating with her. The boy sits and talks to Riley’s father while waiting for Riley and we get to see the inside of his mind again. This time, we see the boy’s emotions either laying around or skateboarding around his mind.
Like Riley, he doesn’t have just one emotion in charge, but even further than that, he doesn’t seem to have any particular emotion even touching the controls. This could go along with the gender stereotype that teenage boys don’t think or feel anything. It would suggest that growing up, this boy observed other boys not showing much emotion or, as far as he could tell, having any emotion, and he also was probably told not to be so emotional, because that is a feminine trait. The results was that he just doesn’t care about anything, and you can see that in the way that his emotions do not respond to stimuli in the situation with Riley’s dad.
Conclusion We are shaped by the world around us, but we rarely take into consideration that this happens in stages. As women, we do not become feminine and quiet overnight. It takes nonverbal and verbal communication from the culture around us to change the way that we believe our gender should behave. This particular movie subtlely shows the way that children and their emotions can be affected by stereotypes and gender expectations around them without being as completely conformed as their parents’ emotions.
In the movie, Riley is at the age where she is able to rebel a little bit against the way that society suggests that she should act and that includes her depression. You can also see the difference in Riley’s gender expectations as opposed to other girls in the way that her parents have always supported her as a hockey player, ever since she was a little girl. Some parents may see hockey as a dangerous and masculine sport and wouldn’t let their daughter play. Riley’s parents’ support of her playing hockey may have played a major role in how her emotions have developed in her mind.
So, while the culture around us has a large influence on how we end up as far as our own gender expectations, our parents are an even greater influence. They shape and mold our expectations when we are young and malleable and those values stick with us through adulthood. Riley also showed that her own emotions shaped who she was. This goes to show that though our cultures influence us and our parents shape and mold us, we are still able to go on our own paths and create ourselves outside of the expectations of others.