Inside Out: Is Riley Bi?

It occurred to me, on about the fifth time through “Inside Out” with the Cub, that there is a difference between Riley’s emotions and everyone else’s.

In the closing of the show, they show the groups of emotions for Riley’s Dad and Mom, her teacher, the boy she bumps into at hockey, and so on. And every one of them, the five emotions are the same gender as the person: Dad’s are all male, Mom’s are all females, the boy’s are all boys, etc.

But not Riley. Anger and Fear are guys, and Disgust Joy and Sadness are girls.

Why is that?

The powers that be said that this wasn’t SUPPOSED to be significant, but really, once they showed the state of other peoples’ emotions, they shouldn’t be surprised that there were… interpretations.

A quick answer might be that her emotions were the main characters in the movie, so the filmmakers wanted both male and female characters/voice actors.


Also, you can see that the makeup of your emotional team changes over time. The mother’s team are all female, but they all kind of look like Sadness, except for their colors. The dad’s all look like Anger, except for the colors. It’s possible that all children have a mixed team until they get through puberty and their adult team takes over. “What could happen?”

I also thought it was interesting that in the mother’s mind, the blue emotion seemed to be the one in charge most of the time.

Pete Docter, who directed it, discussed the issue of her having both genders inside her head.

Noticed on the first go, during the dinner table scene where we see the parents’ emotions the first time.

My explanation: Riley is trans-something.

(I don’t buy any glossing over based on “She’s not old enough …”. Kids are what they are early on.)

Or, maybe – just maybe – a person having both “feminine emotions” (which, after all, is an arbitrary social construct) and “masculine emotions” (an arbitrary social construct that the movie was happy to use) has nothing to do with their sexuality.

If Riley was Bi, there would have been fantasy girlfriends in the mix with the boyfriends who were willing to die for Riley…

Perhaps Riley is still subconsciously identifying her emotions as “Male” or “Female” until she is old enough to integrate them into her own self-image.

Seems most realistic to me. As Eyebrows of Doom points out, it allows for a mixed gender main cast for Riley to have both male and female emotions. The other sets we see aren’t as important, so shortcuts to let us know whose head we’re in
are reasonable. Nothing to see here.

Sheesh what?

Sure. But then why is there only one character in the movie who has those particular social constructs?

As Mahaloth quoted above:

In other words, it’s tricky enough tracking the five characters in Riley’s head without essentially introducing ten more distinct characters in one scene (a comedy scene, no less). So Docter intentionally kept things simple in the parents’ heads to make it easier for the audience to track - and to keep their attention on the jokes, which are the point of that particular scene.

Also, it should be noted that Riley isn’t the only character with different-gendered emotions. Upon a recent rewatch, I noticed that one of the girls in the “mind montage” at the end of the movie has an emotion whose voice is distinctly male. But at that point, the color-to-emotion pairings have become so ingrained into the audience’s heads that we don’t need the voices to match in the same way as in the much-earlier scene with Riley’s parents to get “who” is talking.

Yeah, I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds like there’s plenty of evidence to reject RealityChuck’s hypothesis within the world of the movie.

If the movie is shown from Riley’s point of view, couldn’t it just be that the voices in one’s own head are more distinct and individually characterized than the voices in other people’s heads (which we can only imagine or know about second-hand)? (LIke I said, I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know if this works or not.)

I noticed that. Docter’s explanation is clearly correct in movie terms.

Before reading that, I assumed that if the mixture meant anything it was because Riley hadn’t hit puberty yet, and her emotions hadn’t differentiated as to gender.

I found it more interesting that her mother’s lead emotion seemed to be Sadness, while her dad’s was Anger. Will Joy be demoted as Riley gets older?

The commentary on the DVD mentioned that because the first thing most babies do is cry, Sadness should have been Riley’s first emotion to take the helm. But they wanted Joy to be the lead so she was first.

It’s a little odd to conclude that Riley must be bi because some of her emotions are male characters.
What would you expect her emotions to look like if she were lesbian?

Bi is a sexuality, which I think is not quite the same thing as gender identity. (But someone please fight my ignorance if I’m wrong.)

I do think a theory could be made that Riley has a mixed gender identity, or is still finding her gender identity.
But really, the simple answer is the one that has already been explained by Eyebrows Of Doom, Mahaloth, **Tanbarkie **and the creators of the movie.

Anyway, great movie.
Watched it with my kids (on their recommendation).

This is the interpretation that I had seen that makes the most sense to me. Currently Riley models her emotions on those of her parents. She sees her dad as the source of anger, so Anger resembles her dad’s anger. As she completes her own self-image anger will start to be her own emotion instead of just an echo of her dad’s and her Anger will start to resemble her instead of him.

As of the time of the movie, she, like most children, is still mostly asexual. That’s probably going to start changing very soon, when that puberty button gets pushed, but it hasn’t yet. Yes, she has fantasy boyfriends, but that’s a very shallow, one-dimensional fantasy, which is probably shaped as much by social expectations as by her own orientation.

One can, of course, ask why her emotions are of mixed genders, while her parents each have a single-gender slate of emotions. But then, one might just as well ask why anyone’s emotions have any gender at all. The answer to that one is already in the realm of storytelling conventions (they have gender because they’re anthropomorphized for the sake of the story, and people have gender), and so any question about which gender they are must necessarily also be for reasons of storytelling conventions.