Inside Out 2: what Ennui’s character teaches about boredom in adolescents

Inside Out 2: what Ennui’s character teaches about boredom in adolescents
Inside Out 2: what Ennui’s character teaches about boredom in adolescents

Ennui, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, fulfills several new functions focused on protecting Riley from the intensity of being a teenager.

Animated children’s films have long strived to teach young viewers how to manage your emotions. Disney Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) made this task of emotional regulation literal.

Joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust (the five basic emotions of the protagonist Riley) became characters in her inner “control room.” Together, they guided her actions as she grew from a toddler to a preteen. Now, in the next installment, Inside Out 2, Riley turns 13 years old. This means the arrival of more “sophisticated” emotions, including anxiety, shame, envy and boredom.

I am a researcher who has studied how boredom shapes the content and use of media. That’s why I was particularly intrigued by the character of Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who embodies the mood of disconnected apathy more commonly known as boredom.

At the beginning of the movie, Anxiety (Maya Hawke) explains to the oldest emotions that “we all have a job to do,” adding that hers is “planning for the future.” So what role does Ennui play in the film and how does this relate to the role of boredom in our daily lives?

The other additions in this new version of the film were shame, anxiety and envy (©2024 Disney/Pixar)

Since its inception in the early 19th century, the concept of “boredom” has been a topic of debate and disagreement. Philosophers and psychologists have observed that boredom can have a both positive and negative impactsuggesting that it plays a particularly important role in childhood and adolescent development.

In his influential analysis of boredom, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips describes boredom as: “That state of suspended animation in which things begin and nothing begins, the state of mind of diffuse restlessness that contains that most absurd and paradoxical desire: the wish of a wish”.

Or, as psychologists James Danckert and John Eastwood put it in their recent study, the inertial state of boredom is primarily “a call to actiona sign to commit more,” or try something different.

Although it is associated with disengagement and apathy and can be a sign that we need to change course, my research shows how media corporations They have increasingly focused on boredom. They have worked hard to cement the link between being bored and using our digital devices. Our phones are often promoted as tools for fight boredomAnytime, anywhere.

Boredom can be a protection against sensory intensity and nervous overstimulation (EFE/ JM García)

Boredom and the fear of it motivate us to move without thinking. But research has shown that the more we use smartphones to distract ourselves from boredom, the more we risk becoming bored. This is a particular problem for teenagers. In recent decades, research has shown a correlation between increased boredom and mental health difficulties.

Inside Out 2 doesn’t exactly address these potentially negative aspects of boredom. Instead, it doubles the positive role that boredom plays in development to help Riley manage intensity of adolescent life. Throughout the film, Ennui, with strong french accentshe is lying on a sofa in a dark blue tracksuit, looking dispassionately at the screen of her smartphone.

While early concept design sketches showed Ennui in pinkish red, the final version reimagined her in shades of inky blue and deep purple. As the film’s production designer explains: “We finally chose this dark gray-blue tone and desaturated; If I had to give it a name, it would be ‘blah‘”.

The appearance, movements, and verbal tics of boredom exude the mental exhaustion, physical lethargy, and lack of interest of feeling bored.

There is a correlation between increased boredom and mental health difficulties in adolescents (Illustrative image Infobae)

For most of the film, she takes a backseat to Anxiety (Anxiety), the main antagonist of the film. While Anxiety burns the screen with its frenetic nervous energyEnnui is a marauder who exudes what the French call je m’en foutisme: the distinctly adolescent art of not giving a damn. Significantly, Ennui’s smartphone also functions as a remote control for the control console, allowing him to modulate Riley’s emotions. without having to get off the couch.

This ease is a central aspect of Ennui’s role in the film. To a large extent, he passes into a background in front of the other emotions, responding only minimally to the drama with dramatic sighs, yawns, rolling the eyes or through sarcastic phrases and put-downs. This sense of detached tranquility is the film’s way of making sense of the role of boredom in Riley’s emotional life, as she passes from girl to teenager.

However, at key moments in the film, Ennui takes control of the console, influencing Riley’s emotional experience by decrease its intensity; for example, when Riley tries to impress the older friends he made at summer camp. When they name the deeply uncool boy band he went to see last summer, prompting Anxiety and Embarrassment to appear, Ennui stands up from his couch and announces, “I’ve been waiting for this moment”.

The boredom counteract fear from Riley to how others perceive her with a strong dose of sarcasm, which acts as a protective shield. At other key moments, the function of boredom is to keep other emotions in check, helping to soften the emotional intensities of adolescent life.

Telephones are currently promoted as tools to combat boredom (Europa Press)

The way this helps moderate Riley’s emotional experience speaks to sociologist Georg Simmel’s notion of a “indifferent attitude”. In his essay The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903), Simmel described the indifferent attitude as a consequence of the “rapidly changing stimuli of the nerves that come together in all their contrasts” in the modern metropolis.

Defined by a feeling of apathetic indifferenceSimmel argued that the indifferent attitude provided a form of protection against the sensory intensity and nervous overstimulation that arose from city life.

It could be said that it is this version of boredom that dominates the character of Ennui. By smoothing over Riley’s emotional ups and downs, Ennui offers its own inimitable form of protection against the overstimulation that comes with being a teenager.

*Tina Kendall is Associate Professor of Film, Media and Communication Studies at Anglia Ruskin University.

*This article was originally published in The Conversation.

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