Last night my boyfriend and I went to see Pixar's latest CGI masterpiece, Inside Out, and as is to be expected with anything from Pixar, it was a delight to experience. Gorgeous visuals, sharp humor, earnest and emotional storytelling...you know, the things Pixar is known for. The movie is absolutely a must-see.
Later that night I ruminated a bit on the movie, imagining what it would be like to have the five personified emotions - Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger - running around in my head. While I did, I came to a sudden realization: the human protagonist, 11-year-old Riley, is probably bi.
Just to get this out of the way right off the bat: no, I don't suspect she's bi because she plays hockey. It's a cliche (and somewhat insulting) stereotype to assume that any female in a sport rougher than gymnastics is lesbian or bi, and Pixar are much better storytellers than that. What clued me in were Riley's emotions; specifically, their genders.
In Riley's head, her five emotions are co-ed: Joy, Sadness, and Disgust are female; Fear and Anger are male. This in and of itself doesn't mean much of anything, it just provides some nice variety in voices. Seriously, you can't do much better for gruff, shouty Anger than an indignant Lewis Black. However, we briefly get to see the emotions inside other people's heads as well, most prominently Riley's mom and dad. While they share the same basic character design, there's a slight difference...
All of the emotions in Riley's mother's head are female, and all of them inside her dad are male. It's not cosmetic either, slapping wigs on the "women" and mustaches on the "men"; all of the mother's emotions are voiced by female actresses. Fear is voiced by Bill Hader in Riley's head, but in her Mother, Fear is voiced by Laraine Newman. Anger doesn't seem to be credited, but the chorus of voices are all female. Similarly in her father's head: it's a chorus of male voices from all the emotions.
The brief smattering of other internal emotions that are seen throughout the film seem to support this idea, as Riley appears to be the only one who has a mixed-gender emotional set. I'd have to watch the film a second time and pay closer attention, though, to be sure. Now, things might change once she hits puberty and the emotions all settle into a specific gender once the hormones start flowing...but then that would make about half of her emotions trans, and that's a whole other barrel of monkeys.
Or, I could be overthinking all of this and reading a message in the movie where none exists - humans excel at seeing patterns where there are none, after all - but given Pixar's history of cramming all sorts of subtle messages, symbols, and details into their movies, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if it was deliberate.
Regardless, it's a fantastic movie so go see it ASAP!