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‘Inside Out 2’ Addresses the Realities of Adolescent Anxiety

‘Inside Out 2’ Addresses the Realities of Adolescent Anxiety

inside out 2 photo of headquarters

At 13 years old, Riley is changing — and her mind is too. Inside Out 2 picks up where Inside Out left us, with all the emotions getting along in harmony. Now, Riley is in middle school, and she’s just starting puberty. Along with changes to her body, she’s taken on a handful of new emotions.

Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust meet Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy, and Ennui, typical emotions for a pubescent teenager. Soon, the original emotions find that Anxiety has a plan — actually a multi-step plan lasting long into the future — so Riley will have friends in high school. When Riley goes to hockey camp, the emotions realize they have different ideas for how Riley should act. Suddenly, headquarters is thrown into chaos.

Inside Out 2 introduces a few new creative metaphors for Riley’s changing mind, including “brain storms” and “sar-chasms.” Riley even has a belief system now, stemming from memories the emotions have decided will make Riley who she is.

The punch of the movie, though, comes when Anxiety takes full control, throwing Riley into a full-blown panic attack. It’s in this moment that Joy realizes a powerful lesson: We don’t get to decide who Riley is.

Movie poster for Inside Out 2

Inside Out 2 is striking for its playful plot and loveable characters. And the film is not short of hilarious scenes that will have the whole theater erupting in laughter (like when Riley’s favorite childhood cartoon character speaks directly to the audience like Dora). But viewers can’t miss the larger theme of the movie. In the craziness of middle school, with puberty changing your body and the looming fear of high school impacting your friendships, a young teenager’s emotions are running wild. But they don’t have to define you.

The message becomes all the more powerful when it’s anxiety that takes center stage in Riley’s mind. In Inside Out 2, Disney addresses an extremely relevant topic in today’s culture. More than ever, young adults are suffering from anxiety and depression or similar symptoms. In fact, CDC data shows that anxiety disorders among adolescents are increasing year-to-year.

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Disney doesn’t back down from this prevalent statistic but deals with it in a way that demonstrates healthy coping with the emotion. The movie’s theme is one that many struggling with anxiety need to hear: your emotions do not define you.

Inside Out 2 will be in theaters on June 14.

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