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Pixar's 'Soul' is a sentimental film with universal themes of self-determination and following one's dreams. Why did people cringe?

Are you dead inside? This is why Pixar’s ‘Soul’ didn’t make you cry

Pixar’s Soul is the next movie in a long line of animated stories about protagonists charting their own path while proving the themes of security, mental health, and going after one’s dreams are universal themes that any human can relate to. It’s beautifully stylized and reportedly, made a lot of people cry.

A notable Pixar first: Soul features Pixar’s first black protagonist, voiced by Jamie Foxx. Soul follows Joe, a music teacher who inspires his students to follow their passions. Sadly, after an accident where he falls into a manhole, he finds himself in a purgatorial zone known as The Great Before.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. After toiling for years, he finally lands a staff job at his school and lands a gig with legendary jazz singer, Dorothea Williams. Joe is finally manifesting his dream life and now he finds himself in a coma.

Did this uplifting movie about the meaning of life make us cry? Let’s take a closer look at Pixar’s Soul.

Chasing dreams

Audiences can relate to chasing a dream or goal, only to be bested by circumstances beyond one’s control. That’s what makes Pixar’s Soul intriguing & touching.

Joe’s biggest setback, per the movie, is that he plays it safe. Constantly concerned about others’ opinions about him, he kept a “safe” job as a teacher with steady pay. That said, he didn’t fully pursue a career in music as hard as he could have. Pixar’s Soul shows how Joe’s mentality prevents him from developing meaningful relationships and keeps him second-guessing himself about his viability as a career musician.

More introverted content creators might be able to relate to this. Some artists get the message that working hard & doing great work is the only thing that matters.  Yes, that’s important, but without the relationships and a strong professional network, it takes longer to “make it”.

Fighting for ourselves & each other

As a soul, Joe finds himself in a position to help others struggling with their purpose in life, just like he was.

Luckily for Joe, he doesn’t die right away. He ends up in The Great Before, which is a place where nearly departed souls discover a “spark” that will drive them to a happy & productive life down on earth. Here, Joe realizes he could’ve spent more time making friends and going after his jazz career full steam ahead instead of playing it safe.

Joe soon meets 22, a cynical inhabitant of The Great Before. Before she meets Joe, she’s rejected mentorship from the most iconic figures in history, like Carl Jung, and avoids discovering what makes her happy on Earth. Unsurprisingly, Joe helps 22 find her purpose on Earth.

An uplifting . . . grind?

Soul teaches us to step out on faith. Per Soul, logical risks and believing in yourself is what pushes you towards your true destiny. Joe had to learn how to let go of his self-limiting beliefs so he can fulfill his dream and pay it forward to another lost soul.

In a way, Pixar’s Soul shows what the life of a content creator is like. Nothing is guaranteed, especially in the arts & music. We spend countless hours watching tutorials, writing drafts of stories that mutate faster than coronavirus, and making financial sacrifices in order to say close to the studios, production companies, and organizations that can help us push ours to manifestation.

Pixar’s Soul teaches us that in order to become a fully realized person, who walks in their power and destiny, you’ve got to take risks. Also, when on your own journey, don’t forget to reach out and help others on their path if you can.

Vexing problem

Critics have noted how black characters in animation are often shapeshifted throughout the course of a movie. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog turned into a frog, Lance from Spies in Disguise turned into a pigeon and Joe from Soul turned into a blue, glowing spirit.

This Insider article explained why Pixar’s Soul made them cringe, not cry. “After Joe “dies,” we see him turn into a green blob — a pattern we’ve seen of turning Black characters into creatures. Sadly, the co-director Pete Docter told journalists during a virtual press conference Insider attended that he wasn’t even aware of the trope until working on this film.”

The Insider article also expressed concern about Joe dying just before his dream was realized, wondering what kind of message that would send viewers, especially young children, who saw themselves in Joe.

Did Pixar’s Soul make you cry or cringe? Let us know in the comments!

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