Movie Reviews

1 Viral Tweet Made Me Look At Inside Outs Joy Differently

Warning! This article contains SPOILERS for the Inside Out movies.


  • Joy being canonically a lesbian in Inside Out 2 isn’t a new theory, but the evidence is compelling.
  • Joy’s lack of interest in Riley’s supposed male crushes hints at LGBTQ+ representation in the movie.
  • Inside Out 3 could explore compulsory heterosexuality and help viewers understand LGBTQ+ concepts.

When the Inside Out 2 trailer first dropped, I, like many others, hoped they’d make Riley canonically LGBTQ+. Unfortunately, I also knew that despite its popularity, the Inside Out theory would likely never be confirmed. Other viewers felt the same way based on reactions to the movie on social media. Since Pixar’s poor LGBTQ+ representation history lowered my expectations, I was just excited I wasn’t the only one who caught the subtext. As someone who began to accept my sexuality around my freshman year of high school, I strongly related to Riley’s storyline.

I came out to my family and friends in 2015, the same year Inside Out premiered. It also happened to be the year I moved out of my family’s childhood home. I was basically a puddle of tears by the end. Anxiety’s character in Inside Out 2 also made me cry, particularly with the panic attack scene. I loved Inside Out 2 for more than the queer coding, but this viral tweet from the satirical X (formerly known as Twitter) account Lyric Vault made me see the subtext differently.

Joy Being A Lesbian Isn’t A New Inside Out Theory

Joy’s Character Design Has Drawn Comparisons To Famous Lesbians

As aforementioned, I pretty much knew Pixar wasn’t ready to make a main character in a franchise as popular as Inside Out canonically LGBTQ+, let alone a lesbian. So, while I knew the post was satirical, I wasn’t prepared for how much evidence there would be that Joy was a lesbian. Riley has 10 Emotions in the Inside Out movies, all of which have different unique appearances, unlike those in other people’s heads. All their Emotions resemble them, but Riley’s Emotions don’t quite resemble her.


Every Person’s Mind & Emotions Shown In The Inside Out Movies

Riley is the star of Pixar’s Inside Out movies, but she’s not the only character whose mind and personified emotions are shown on-screen.

Riley’s main Emotion in the Inside Out movie is Joy. Some people assumed famous lesbian entertainer Ellen Degeneres would voice Joy upon first seeing her character design. Degeneres is known for her pixie haircut, as seen on Joy, and her work with Pixar in the Finding Nemo franchise. Joy is voiced by Amy Poehler, who doesn’t look much like her character, and perhaps this was intentional. EveryQueer wrote about pixie cuts and other short haircuts being a lesbian rite of passage; it’s even seen in famous lesbian characters, including Pixar’s canonically lesbian character in Onward.

Joy’s dyed blue hair raised some eyebrows as well. A pixie cut is one of the most popular lesbian haircuts, and there’s a longstanding trend of LGBTQ+ people dying their hair blue. X user the council of evil lesbians once made a comedic post about “blue hair and pronouns,” representing what’s sometimes considered an inside joke in the LGBTQ+ community. I knew Joy’s character design looked queer, but it wasn’t until Lyric Vault’s viral tweet that I began questioning Joy’s sexuality specifically.

Joy Isn’t Interested In Riley’s Male Crushes In The Inside Out Movies

Joy’s Disinterest Is More Than Wanting Riley Not To Grow Up

One of the biggest hints that Riley is a lesbian in the Inside Out movies is her lack of interest in Riley’s male crushes. I noticed this in the first movie, but I assumed this was an example of her not wanting Riley to grow up. In Inside Out, a boy named Jordan has a crush on Riley. He then appears in the Pixar short Riley’s First Date? with the question mark in the title because they insist it’s not a date, but they might want it to be.

Jordan appears on Riley’s Mount Crushmore in Inside Out 2, as does a new character, Lance Slashblade. A big piece of evidence that Riley is LGBTQ+ in Inside Out is how Joy reacts to him. Despite being Joy, she is completely unimpressed by him, his looks, and his melodramatic personality. When Riley’s Imaginary Boyfriends first appear in Inside Out, Joy is disturbed. Though Joy worries about Riley growing up too fast, she wants her to be happy. This could mean crushes on boys don’t make her happy.

Joy Is In Charge Of Riley’s Happiness (& Her Emotional Suppression)

Joy Being A Lesbian Could Suggest Riley’s A Lesbian Too

Since Joy is the Emotion controlling Riley’s happiness, she should know more than anyone else what makes Riley happy. If the supposed crushes she has on boys don’t make her happy, one female character does. Joy’s reaction when Riley and the Emotions first see Valentina “Val” Ortiz in Inside Out 2 is the complete opposite of when they met Lance Slashblade. Though Val obviously isn’t a love interest for Riley (she’s a high school senior and Riley’s a freshman), this doesn’t mean Riley doesn’t have a crush on her.

When Jordan meets Riley in Inside Out, his Emotions panic, unsure what to do when the “Girl Alert!” goes off. It’s framed as a scene where a boy develops a crush on a girl, but we never see what’s happening in Riley’s head. When Riley meets Val, the scene is framed similarly. Joy is overexcited, telling everyone to “act regular,” leading to the Emotions panicking when Riley acts “uncool” in front of the coolest girl she’s ever met.

Riley openly acts like a teenager with a crush in front of Val, but Lance is one of her secrets that gets locked away in the Vault. Inside Out 2 shows Joy repressing memories she considers bad and useless for Riley’s Sense of Self. If Joy is in charge of both Riley’s happiness and repression, Joy and Riley could be lesbians. I initially thought Riley was probably bisexual, like the main character in Strange World, but Joy’s behavior has me convinced that she’s leaning toward girls far more than boys.


Why There Are So Many “First” Gay Disney Characters

It’s easy to make fun of the many “first” gay Disney characters. But there is actually a good reason why they are each considered a “first.”

Riley’s Emotions Could Have Different Sexualities

Riley’s Emotions Already Have Different Genders

Beyond Riley being a lesbian, bisexual, or another sexuality, there’s a chance that Riley is nonbinary. Her Emotions have different genders, with seven voiced by female voice actors and three by male voice actors (Fear, Anger, and Embarrassment). This has already been established, but their sexualities haven’t. I had assumed each Inside Out Emotion could be considered bisexual. Fear and Anger are also enamored with Lance, and Disgust is particularly interested in him. Disgust has been the most “boy crazy” Emotion, but her being interested in boys exclusively could suggest Riley is secretly disgusted by boys.

Envy and Anxiety are as obsessed with Val as Joy is. While the other Emotions are interested in impressing Val, they seem equally interested in Lance and other male crushes. Riley is still young and going through puberty, so it’s not surprising her sexuality and gender haven’t fully developed yet. Riley’s Emotions having different genders and sexualities could suggest she’s still exploring what labels fit best for her, something that could become more concrete in future Inside Out movies.


Amy Poehler’s Inside Out 3, 4, & 5 Ideas Are Promising For Pixar’s Future

Amy Poehler pitched a brilliant idea for more Inside Out sequels, and Pixar should follow her approach for a successful series of films.

Inside Out 3 Should Make This Theory Canon

Inside Out 3 Can Teach Viewers About Compulsory Heterosexuality

Inside Out 3 has yet to be confirmed, but it seems inevitable. When a sequel is made, especially by a big studio like Disney, there’s almost always the question of whether it’s necessary. However, Inside Out 2 has proved that the sequel was worth it and necessary, as it helped people understand anxiety and how to manage it, learn the importance of self-identity, bridge the gap between parents and teenagers, and more. Inside Out 2 could also help people with coming out or understanding important concepts in the LGBTQ+ community, like compulsory heterosexuality.

Riley’s crushes on boys have been established, but Joy has made it seem like they aren’t real crushes. Instead, they’re crushes Riley thinks she should be having as a young girl. The Inside Out 2 scene where Riley pretends not to like her favorite band, Get Up and Glow, to impress Val and the older Firehawks, shows she’s susceptible to peer pressure. Like any young person, Riley is also susceptible to the pressure that comes from living in a heteronormative society. Merriam-Webster defines heteronormative as

of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.

If Riley believes being a lesbian isn’t normal, it would make sense for her to try and fit in with those she deems normal by forcing herself to have crushes on boys. This is part of compulsory heterosexuality, which many lesbians struggle with when exploring their sexuality. For many who identify as lesbian, it’s harder to admit they don’t like men than it is to admit they like women. This is often a deep form of repression, which could help explain Riley’s Deep Dark Secret in the Inside Out 2 post-credits scene.


Riley’s Deep Dark Secret Reveal Makes A Popular Inside Out Theory Less Likely

Inside Out 2 is finally out, and while it is a great film, it has seemingly unconfirmed one of the most popular theories surrounding Inside Out 2.

Inside Out 3 has the chance to do something new for Disney and explore compulsory heterosexuality with a popular character whom viewers have gotten to know through multiple movies. When young people don’t see a coming out journey like this, they often don’t know it’s an option. I came out at 15, but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I learned about compulsory heterosexuality and felt comfortable identifying as a lesbian. If an Inside Out 2 follow-up movie could reflect this experience with Riley, maybe another young lesbian wouldn’t spend years feeling confused, ashamed, or unnatural.

Source: EveryQueer, Equality Archive, Merriam-Webster

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