Michael and I took advantage of our first post-Sebastian's birth date night to go see a children's movie. We wanted to see Inside Out because of all the good buzz it has received, and not just film-related buzz, but broader discussions of how the movie could impact the way children talk about their feelings.
We were deeply moved by the film (it is about emotions after all), both of us crying a number of times. The movie also provoked a great deal of conversation afterwards, with us raising all sorts of interesting questions about the choices the filmmakers made and the meanings one could interpret from them (like Riley's emotions being both male and female unlike every other character).
I had two intellectual reactions to the film. I do think the movie will help children to talk about their feelings. I can imagine conversations about the importance of what we normally think of as negative emotions--sadness, fear, anger. I liked how sadness was the empathetic character. I know I'll make use of the film's metaphors in the future.
But I also reacted as a philosopher of mind (my dissertation topic). The reviews and articles I had read ahead of viewing the film worried me, and the actual film supported that worry. The premise of the film promotes one of the worst mistakes in Western philosophy--the Cartesian theatre. Alva Noe has written a very good critique on this very point. We philosophers have been working hard to debunk folk understandings of the mind and our work will be even more difficult if a group of young people grow up imagining the human self functioning as the film presented.
So, effective metaphors if one can teach kids (and adults) that they are only metaphors and not good representations of how the mind functions.