In Inside Out, the emotion Joy views Riley's hockey "core memory", which she thinks is a purely happy memory of Riley's hockey team the Prairie Dogs tossing her up on their shoulders and celebrating her, presumably for a victory. The emotion Sadness tells her that in fact Riley missed the shot and lost the game. Later Joy views it again in the pivotal and climactic scene, and realizes that it is actually a sad memory, and that Riley's sadness emotions are actually a healthy and necessary reaction to express and to outwardly signal her pain, which should not be surpressed. It caused her parents to comfort her, and her team hailed her.

I can understand parents comforting a hurting child. But I don't really understand a team of 8 year olds having the maturity to think to comfort the player who lost the game. And since they all lost, as a team, wouldn't the whole team need cheering up? Why single out Riley? And if they did have the maturity (or their coach put them up to it) to try to lift one teammate's spirits, celebrating and cheering and tossing as if they had actually won seems like an extremely inappropriate method, more likely to worsen her feelings of failure than relieve. Denying reality doesn't seem like a healthy response to disappointment?

It doesn't seem like thing that would happen, and if it did happen it doesn't seem like a thing that would become a happy memory. Have I misunderstood this scene? What is happening?

4 Answers 4


Well, Joy realizing that a sad memory of an ice hockey game turning into a happy one because her parents and friends consoled her.

The aim is to flesh out the fact that sadness is to induce empathy in others, prompting them to reach out to Riley when she is emotionally overwhelmed and needs help.

As for her teammates cheering her and hailing her, I think that the coach put them up to it. It seems very mature of 8 year olds cheering after a loss.

  • Presumably Riley is not the only one who messed up the game. Probably several players missed shots, missed assists, missed passes. Probably a goalie let in some goals that they could have saved. Winning is a team effort, and so is losing. Why should Riley be tossed up on their shoulders, and not the other players? Even if a coach wanted to make the kids do such a strange thing, why single out Riley to the exclusion of the other disappointed players?
    – ziggurism
    Mar 4, 2018 at 0:03

I received this scene as kids hailing not her fail per se but the fact that she is not ideal.

Joy controlling Riley's emotions and view on memories was creating traits of narcissism. I make only good things, I never fail, bad things that happen to me are always someone else fault and so on.

So the kids reaction was, from movie making point of view, a homage to "Freaks" where they are chanting "one of us" when they welcome person who is broken is some way and not perfect.

Also the sadness from that memory was lesson that winning is not that important but the joy of being with friends, spending time together and being a part of a team (so again opposite of narcissism).

  • Note that the memory isn't a sad memory, it's a mixed one. That's the point of the plot. Riley had encountered sadness before, but up until then her emotions had always been one-dimensional. Sad things were the WORST thing. Happy things were the BEST thing. Fearful things were the SCARIEST thing. Anger was directed at the WORST person ever. But now, she learns that one memory can be both happy and sad at the same time (= bittersweet). This requires both happiness (celebrating with friends) and sadness (having missed the essential shot) to occur at the same time.
    – Flater
    Feb 15, 2018 at 15:45
  • Maybe to rephrase in a better way, the issue wasn't so much that Riley used to externalize blame when she felt sad. The point is more that she was incapable of relativizing whatever emotion she was experiencing. What she has learned at the end of the movie is that something can be sad (a) without it being the end of the world and (b) while also having an upside at the same time.
    – Flater
    Feb 15, 2018 at 15:48
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    The teammates tossed her onto their shoulders to celebrate the fact that she is not ideal? That doesn't make sense to me.
    – ziggurism
    Mar 4, 2018 at 0:04

It could be that Riley took it the hardest out of all the teammates. She has compulsory need to not let people down because at the time, joy was her greatest strength. When her teammates saw that she was so upset about it, naturally the team came together to make her feel better. Just like how people console people who are down with jokes and compliments, the team showed Riley compassion as if to say you didn't let us down.

  • This is the only plausible answer. They all lost, but only Riley took it super hard that they lost. And if it had been shown this way on screen there would be no question that this is the answer.
    – ziggurism
    Dec 19, 2019 at 19:31

It's quite possible that the coach/parents established an environment of unconditional support and taught the kids to lift each other up, especially in the midst of failure.

There's a pretty similar real life example of this found in this video where a young kid (5ish years old) is struggling to break a board. The child is encouraged by the teacher to keep trying even when the kid breaks down crying. Once the kid finally manages to break the board, the other classmates swarm the kid to applaud him in his eventual success. It's not a 1:1 comparison since there was success, but there was a lot of support leading up to it. I find it likely that Riley's team has a similar ethos.

  • But why lift Riley instead of any of the other girls on the team, who all shared in the loss?
    – ziggurism
    Dec 20, 2019 at 20:02

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