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Inside Out 2: Anxiety Takes Over

New animated film explores the internal anxieties of a teenage girl
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The new Disney/Pixar animated film Inside Out 2 came out last weekend and is one of this summer’s biggest hits so far (not that there’s much else significant playing at the moment). A sequel to the 2015 original, the film continues the story of Riley Anderson, a young girl living in San Fransisco, and her colorful host of emotions.

We get introduced to a few new emotions in the movie, including Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy, and Boredom, all of which arrive after Riley hits the tumultuous moment of puberty at age 13. Riley goes to a summer hockey camp with her two best friends the morning Anxiety arrives, and quickly starts competing with the usual director of the mental operation, Joy (played by Amy Poehler).

Inside Out 2 | Official Trailer (youtube.com)

It’s timely to talk about anxiety, especially when it comes to teenage girls. The mental health of teen girls in the United States and other countries around the world steeply declined around the year 2012. The culprit? Smartphones and social media apps, particularly Instagram.

The hockey instructor in Inside Out 2 has all the girls turn in their cell phones at the very beginning of the camp, which was really great to see demonstrated. The film admits how much time young folks interact with screens but takes the effort to intentionally show how getting off of them, even for a weekend, can have a major impact.

What doesn’t get explored, though, it how phones actually play a central role in producing anxiety in kids. Instead, the movie is all about Riley going through the typical issues of a teenager: wanting to fit in, experiencing awkward moments, trying to be cool to get accepted, crossing boundaries, facing consequences. And it’s a great view on how anxiety over one’s performance and how that relates to personal identity can start to drive so much of human behavior. If Riley doesn’t make it on the high school hockey team, she’s “not enough.” At least, that’s what Anxiety tells her.

It’s a fun and at times quite insightful and tender film, and its nod to banning phones is rare to see in modern cinema. If they decide to make a third film, though, they may have to deal a bit more with the smartphone as a prime source of anxiety in the life and relationships of an adolescent.


Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is a prolific fiction writer and has written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and is a contributing writer and editor for Mind Matters.

Inside Out 2: Anxiety Takes Over