Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Inside Out: An Appreciation.

I will say upfront: this is NOT a film review. Oh my gosh I have tried to write film reviews, and it's proved impossible. Firstly, I could never write about a film I don't love with all my heart or hate with all my soul, y'know? I also would hate the pressure of having to include the whole synopsis and avoid spoilers and credit the full cast AND rate it using a stars system! Please, no. This is just a piece about my mad love for this exciting new film and my personal response to it. Cheers!

Inside Out is the new smash hit Pixar film. Starring the delightful (voices of) Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, and yeah, many more.
The film was directed and co-written by Pete Docter, who was inspired when he witnessed his daughter going through different phases and expressing different emotions (in different intensities) as she grew up. Basically, he saw changes occurring in her personality and started imagining how that came to be. Finding out about the origins of this film was almost as awesome as the film itself...

The main characters are the emotions who pilot the headquarters of a young girl's brain; Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. They have control over how she feels, and for the most part, when they're not arguing over the control panel, they strive to ensure her memories (little lit up balls that roll through chutes in her brain headquarters as they are made) are joyful and worthwhile and contribute significantly to her being. They help her make decisions and react to revelations – for instance when her parents suddenly move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco, which is the event that first shakes things up in the film and starts the action. Oh, and there are more madcap adventures and up-shaking when Joy and Sadness are accidentally shot out of HQ – more exploring of the mind, too!

Some emotions will always be more prominent and bask in the spotlight of our minds. For Riley, Joy is the one who is at the helm most of the time. When we briefly get a (hilarious) glimpse into her parents' minds, we see that her mother is mostly governed by a very sensible Sadness. Also, all her emotion characters are wearing glasses like the human they control, and they all seem to be sitting side by side and each getting their input across. Her father has Anger behind the wheel, and all his emotional characters have taches like their human does, and they all enjoy daydreaming about football. This delighted me – two individuals who are not necessarily primarily joyful, yet they still come across as decent people and the slightly less positive emotions in charge of their brains can still figure out what the best actions are and steer them perfectly along their roads.
This made me wonder who of all the characters would be in charge of my rather unfortunate and problematic brain. I like to think I am a perfect blend of Disgust and Sadness – Disgust pouting at certain foods and planning perfect outfits (given what she has to work with in my wardrobe), Sadness wallowing in her own, well, sadness. Letting herself mope about as much as she wants, not putting on a brave face like Joy might, claiming she's under attack from 'the infinite miseries of the world' (paraphrased) and also confused as to why she feels the need to touch memories and sadden her human at times. I've been told I have some Joy working hard in my head, as well. Thank goodness for that, she does come in handy.

Now, there are especially bright balled-up memories that run through the chute in Riley's (or any human's) mind and instead of collecting with their fellows on the walls, run straight underground and into the Core Memories wheel thing. These special Core Memories then create Personality Islands within a person's mind; Riley's include Goofball Island (she loves acting out and being silly), Friendship Island (kinda obvious, that one) and Hockey Island (her beloved hobby she found living in icy Minnesota). There's also a Family Island, and I like to think most people have one of those. My Family Island would be linked to my Friendship Island, as I find my friends easily can become my family – and that my friends tend to get along almost too well with my family. So this leads me into what I think my Personality Islands would be. This is what I was thinking about as I had a post-film-pee the first time I saw the film...
Cat Island. Self-explanatory. All my Instagram photos of my family's cat Harvey, plenty of plush comfy surfaces for naps. Strays I've seen wandering through residential areas free to roam about and scratch the sofas surrounding the island. Also untouchable dragonflies and burrowing creatures to entertain the cats but never to be caught by them.
Reading Island. This Island will be built out of stacks of books, with portraits of characters in my favourite books decorating the spine walls, and a giant cafetière on top of one stack promising endless coffee to encourage more reading into the small hours, and a steam-powered quoting machine will eject quotes from excellent novels into the air all day every day.
Then there will be Writing Island. A gigantic desk covered with notebooks and old essays and my trusty purple laptop; drawers packed with an endless supply of mechanical pens and biscuits, mood boards hanging in the air above the desk along with mind-maps of fictional characters and plot ideas...
I feel it's only right to attach Reading Island to Writing Island – and they will be connected by a sturdy Blog Bridge that has only got longer and stronger over the course of six years.
Okay, I could go on forever – I actually love the idea that through my life I've encountered fun hobbies and certain people or subjects in school that have stayed with me and become passions that I feel so strongly about, they manifest themselves in islands within my mind.

Anyway... I got tearful. Well I mean obviously, it's a Pixar film after all, but there were so many moments in the film that resonated with me.
The film teaches us that certain emotions are necessary. While some may cause problems in the short term (e.g. Anger being set ablaze and forcing Riley to act out and expel high levels of sass, aggravating her parents; Fear making her act irrationally and be over-cautious, meaning she may miss out on some fun memories that could be made), we do in fact need them to shape our existence. Yes, even Sadness, with her dejected half-empty attitude.

This film is apparently being used already by parents and teachers alike to teach young kids about emotions; how different feelings can be more prominent at different times, how it's okay for another emotion to take the wheel for a while, and even how mental illness works.
This post right here on Tumblr (a lovely friend's Tumblr, which y'all should follow like ASAP) picks up on what I said earlier about different emotions sitting at the helm in different people's minds, and then a reblogger-type person added in that she worked at a mental health clinic and that at that clinic they're using the film Inside Out to help kids identify their feelings! And then a mother reblogged and wrote that she uses the film to explain to her child how she's feeling when her illness strikes. So many good things are happening already thanks to this film! 
Apparently when the film plot was first pitched to Mindy Kaling she broke down in tears, saying "I just think it's really beautiful that you guys are making a story that tells kids that it's difficult to grow up and it's OK to be sad about it." Damn right, Mindy.

If I were a film reviewer (which I am most definitely not, and may never be, you'll all be delighted to know) I'd give this film five stars and take the time at the end of the review to add in my 'favourite bits' (Sadness being dragged along the ground in the wilderness of the mind by Joy; Anger always reading newspapers with headlines about the latest goings on in Riley's life; Riley's invisible friend Bing Bong shooting up to the skies singing in the Rainbow Rocket)... But I'm not quite there yet. I just wanted to communicate with everyone how much this film means to me and will mean to everyone else! So yes, please see it if you can.
Now, I hope all you readers have Joy spurring you on and keeping you smiling today. But remember, if Anger or Sadness have you stuck in a dark funk, or Fear is discouraging you from something, or Disgust isn't helping you pick a meal from the menu... Well, that's okay too!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Yes, please do bruise me...(??!)

Hickeys. Love bites. Let's discuss these; let's discuss this phenomenon that has been sweeping nations and generations for decades now.
I was inspired recently to write this post, but I mustn't say by whom or I'll be running the risk of being bitten (viciously, not lovingly!)... 

Let's start with my first experience of love bites -- those unusual bruises which mark your skin and vary in darkness and size, and are caused and created by intimate behaviour. Intimate behaviour here meaning intense kissing coupled with biting and sucking on a partner's skin (or a friend's, or a stranger's, if 'partner' seems like too much of a label to you...), this biting and sucking an act of passion -- and perhaps even intended as a mark of ownership, but that's a whole other can of worms that I don't fancy eating. 

Okay, so my first encounter with these suckers was actually not me receiving or giving them. No, it was the total lad harlot in my GCSE Geography class, who sat directly in front of me and who I'd known since being as high as my knee is today. It was a relatively hot summery day, and so we pupils had all shed our layers to embrace the delightfully chilled 'summer uniform' (jumpers off, for girls tights were optional, then remove ties, undo top button, breathe in deeply and remember how it felt to not be choked for six hours a day). 
Now, for the curious part. As we all lounged in our plastic chairs and paid maybe a generous 40% attention to what our teacher was describing and pointing at on the Smart Board, and between jotting down lyrics and sick rhymes for raps about famous volcanoes with my friend sat beside me -- I suddenly noticed the back of the boy in the seat before me was a little damp beneath his blue shirt. As in, there were drips and drops visible on the thin fabric. True, it was a hot day, but it wasn't that hot. This is England, after all. Then I realised this boy was wearing a white roll neck jumper beneath the school shirt. Now this was classic nineties style that for a moment I thought might be recurring in the noughties -- I mean, if one of the most popular stylish lads in school was wearing one, he was clearly kick-starting a new trend. C'mon, this boy had a moped, a tatt and apparently even *whispers* smoked! I was steadily embracing this new style movement when one of his mates decided to pull the rolled neck down and make some joke about him looking like a toff... And there they were. Scorching purple smears all over his neck! I believe my friend next to me, a perfectly respectable girly swot, gasped and shrieked 'tramp tags!' I won't lie, I was fascinated by them. I even went as far as to wonder who the girl was who'd bestowed these passionate marks upon his golden skin -- then remembered he had an older girlfriend, an arty pierced-up beauty in the year above. He was clearly being well-educated in the bedroom by her. Good for him. His mates were in hysterics as he spent a little too long readjusting the polo... It seemed he was no longer a boy -- he was a man. 

In stark contrast, I will now share the story that came with my first tramp tag. Remember, it is often the case with men's experiences vs. women's that the man will come across as a legend/lad/Lothario and a woman will be scorned and criticised relentlessly for being a slut/slag/strumpet... At sixteen I had gotten a bite, against my will may I add, from my boyfriend at the time. I didn't get any pleasure out of the making of the bruise, which surprised me as I'd heard it was super-sensual... Nope. Ouch. Then my mama sees it and insists on covering it with makeup, and I wore a scarf to college for days, even indoors while doing coursework in the library surrounded by geeky strangers, to hide it. I was told over and over how it can look so nasty, how a person will see it on another person (which I have since realised means woman) and immediately think 'ooohh, she's been doing it, she's filth'. Sigh. 
You would think this attitude would have changed in the six years since I was a 'filthy' teen. With all these feminist movements, authors and individuals, all this YA Fiction waking us up every day to the reality of teen/young adult behaviour/pressures/trains of thought...
Nope! Even now, the person who may or may not have inspired this blog post felt the need to say he/she had walked into something rather than be honest and say 'Oh me and my boyfriend/girlfriend were having a bit of fun'... A guy would have said that at the very least, probably gone into more detail and demanded high-fives from his pals, too. 

So basically I've never had a good relationship with hickeys. In fact, the only good moment to ever come of me having one and having given one (while tipsy and engaging in very ill-advised activities with a very ill-advised suitor) was the following morning, being in a lecture and too hungover to care about how I looked and therefore not bothering to cover up the evidence of my indecent and somewhat illicit activities... A lecture buddy pssst's me and points, saying 'who gave you THAT?!' I remember, and I touch a hand to the (enormous, sloppy and all-consuming, now that I think back) love (or actually quite hateful) bites, shut my eyes in embarrassment just as one of my supposedly close friends giggles and whispers back for me 'look for the other bites in the room!' 
I hadn't realised that the two of us, him and I, having matching sets of bruises would be so incriminating and obvious. I saw it now. I could have cried with embarrassment -- but instead, I felt the tiniest glimmer of pride; yes, I'll admit I did get that fleeting thrilling feeling of yes, I did that, I made that, I marked him... Luckily that strange possessive feeling passed as quickly as it had arrived. Then I cracked up laughing. Because I simply didn't feel the need to be ashamed! So that was my breakthrough; now I may never every want one of those ugly hickeys again, but at least I can say I went there and I had my experiences. And weirdly, having my neck sucked taught me a lot. 

Now, I feel John Green (as usual) makes a very good point on this matter: 'Are hickeys still a thing? I never understood hickeys, it's like I like you, so I'm gonna suck on your neck until there's bruising...'
(His Question Tuesday video on Romance & Sex taught me so much when I was a relatively innocent/clueless eighteen year-old thank you John love you)
It does basically boil down to that. You really like someone, maybe even love them, or at least can stand their company for longer than seven minutes, and so you choose to make a point of that by making a mark on this someone's body. I respect that, although I don't enjoy it much myself. It's a fascinating concept! It's almost primal in its nature. I may now actually Google where the hickey originated... Wish me luck...

(In case anyone needs to giggle and at the same time be educated somewhat)
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