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Priscilla Shirer Sees Biblical Truth in How ‘Inside Out 2’ Portrays Joy, Anxiety

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Author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer posted a humorous video on Instagram Tuesday, featuring her husband Jerry, where she expressed appreciation for how the movie “Inside Out 2” depicted joy and anxiety.

“All I want to say is, there’s this one part where Joy looks Anxiety in the face and says, ‘Let her go,’” said Shirer, who told her followers that she saw the film with Jerry and one of their sons, as well as with her brother, his wife and their five kids. “I’m just saying, I felt somethin’ in my spirit right there.”

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for “Inside Out” and “Inside Out 2.”


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‘Inside Out 2’ Offers ‘All the Feels’ 

“Inside Out 2,” which was released on June 14, has been a huge success at the box office, where as of this writing it has grossed over $748 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie is a sequel to 2015’s “Inside Out,” which introduced viewers to the five personified emotions of a young girl named Riley, who is struggling to adjust to moving to San Francisco.

​​Riley’s emotions at that time are Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. One of the primary themes of the movie is that all emotions, even sadness, have an important role to play in our lives. That idea continues in the sequel, where the audience is introduced to the new emotions of Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui (boredom).

Riley has been flourishing in her new city but discovers she will be entering high school without her best friends, Bree and Grace. She and her friends get the chance to attend a weekend camp with the high school hockey team, and Riley becomes increasingly focused on making the team and being accepted by the older girls. It doesn’t help that the puberty alarm in the headquarters of her mind goes off the night before camp starts.

With the advent of puberty come the four new emotions, which soon clash with Riley’s existing ones. In particular, Anxiety and Joy, who each take leadership roles among the emotions, have differing views on what is best for Riley. The new emotions conspire against the old ones, kicking them out of headquarters and destroying Riley’s current Sense of Self, built on the idea that she is a good person. 

Led by Anxiety, the new emotions take control of Riley’s mind and decide to build her an entirely new, anxiety-driven Sense of Self. The rest of the movie focuses on the efforts of the suppressed emotions to get back to headquarters and restore Riley’s previous Sense of Self; meanwhile, Anxiety has an increasingly negative effect on Riley.

The plot culminates with Riley having a panic attack on the last day of camp, depicted by Anxiety spinning in an uncontrollable whirlwind at the control panel of her mind. Joy fights her way through the whirlwind and tells Anxiety that she needs to let Riley go. After Anxiety complies, she sorrowfully tells Joy, “I was just trying to protect her.” Riley finally calms down after Joy realizes that no emotion (not even her) gets to determine Riley’s Sense of Self, and a new, more complex Sense of Self emerges that is comprised of Riley’s strengths and flaws. 

Despite the harm Anxiety causes in Riley’s life, the movie still portrays the emotion as having a valuable role to play in protecting Riley. Anxiety is accepted by the other emotions at the end, and she has learned not to get carried away with worries about the future.

In a review of “Inside Out 2,” Christian ministry Movieguide pointed out a number of biblical messages in the film, including the importance of humility, friendship, and asking forgiveness. Movieguide observed, along with Shirer, a connection to what Scripture says about joy and how the film portrayed that emotion.