Shout Out to Sadness: The Greatest Character of Our Time

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Pixar
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Pixar

Sadness really is that bitch.

Imagine if your whole deal—your job, even—was to cry the second anything became too overwhelming. I mean, that is my deal—and what I currently do at my job—but it is not expected. It certainly is not valued. But I have come around to the fact that it should be.

Sadness is the secret breakout star of the moment. I used to banish her whenever she lurked; now, I welcome her.

Have you been alive these last few years? With apologies to Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Donald Trump, that lady with the bizarre flag fetish who is married to that guy who is taking away our rights, and the pope who can’t stop saying “faggot”: There is one figure who is the most consequential presence in our collective lives. Sadness is fierce. She’s dangerous. She makes people uncomfortable. She is the breakout star of the moment.

I am, of course, talking about the pivotal character in Inside Out 2. Sadness is not, technically, the star of Inside Out 2. Though, speaking from experience, when is Sadness ever the previously announced attendee of any major occasion? She kind of just shows up unannounced, but when she does…she’s the star. Even if she doesn’t want to be.

The fascinating thing about Inside Out 2 is that it unleashes, as is the tradition of a sequel, a new great adventure. There are new characters, voiced by a star-studded cast. And yet, the crux of it is still the same revelation: We would all be screwed if it wasn’t for Sadness.

The actual movie Inside Out 2 is brilliant in that it delivers on exactly what you want from a Pixar sequel: The plot is obvious, the twists you see coming, and the voices are hysterical. I would imagine that they didn’t bargain for an elder millennial to dissect the profundity of a side character, but in this moment, who carries more weight than Sadness?

The gambit of Inside Out 2 is that the movie introduces new emotions—Anxiety, Embarrassment, Ennui—but it reveals to us how, whatever complications encroach on our lives, the binary still exists: Are you sad, or are you feeling joy?

Even if unintentionally, Pixar has made Sadness the hero. In this sequel, she is the one who has to clear the physical and emotional hurdle that eventually leads to the solving of the movie’s big problem: If anxiety takes over, how can the person we’re controlling still exist? The answer is Sadness.

I think we’ve all tried to move past a truth that is, honestly, inescapable: We’re all real sad.

The reasons why? I don’t intend to have my mentions poisoned by that, but suffice it to say: People are sad. In reaction to politics, power, pop culture: the answer is the same. Getting a little teary.

In Inside Out 2, the film, the central character, Riley, hits puberty. There is a flood of emotions that (literally) encroach on and disrupt her life: Envy, Ennui, Embarrassment. Riley, I get it. But what crystalizes to me is those nuances: There are two things that energize us all. Joy, and Sadness.

What struck me in my screening of the film, is the assumption: When Sadness is involved, things will become a disaster. What actually happens is that, even while sitting by the sidelines, Sadness is the reason that anything is a success. Sadness is the reason for happiness,

My therapist and I are currently untangling these things: Why Sadness is the most relatable emotion; how to wrestle that into progress; the revelation that being sad is actually the greatest super power we have. Imagine that! In this climate: Drowning in the muck of *the world* right now, but discovering a way to scrape your way out of that into some sort of triumph. It’s so stupid, and yet, that’s what a great Pixar movie can do.

I can tell that we’re all excited to see our Queen (being unapologetically sad and crying in public), so here are my favorite reactions to Sadness feeling her Angelina Jolie self at the red carpet of Inside Out 2. This bitch can’t even eat popcorn. I love her. I am her. I’m so sad. Rejoice me.

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