“Soul”, representation and finding your purpose

New Pixar movie rewrites the meaning of living

Isabella Tranello, Staff Reporter

Joe Gardner in front of the Jazz club he dreams of playing at one day. (Courtesy of Disney)

With the current state of the world and society, it is possible that many families struggled this year to have a Christmas that was as fulfilling as previous years. However for those who have a Disney+ subscription, an exciting and motivational present was delivered on Christmas morning straight to all streaming devices.

Soul, directed by Pete Docter, follows the story of a middle-aged jazz band teacher named Joe Gardner, played by Jamie Foxx. After many years of failures, Joe lands his dream gig of playing at the greatest jazz club in his city, but he is torn away from his dream when he mistakenly falls into a colorful world known as The Great Before. 

From the minute this movie opened, it was like a breath of fresh air. The sheer amount of Black representation in this movie is quite frankly, spectacular. It was illuminating to see a person of color as the main protagonist when most Disney movies tend to lean towards using characters with whiter complexions. It shows that the world is changing and evolving. 

In recent years, Disney has created movies like Moana, The Princess and the Frog, and Coco, that have highlighted this new era of representation of different races and cultures which are in and of themselves a step in the right direction. Soul is no different. It is a step in all the right directions.

Joe Gardner loves jazz and wants to play professionally but mostly teaches music at a high school. (Courtesy of Disney)

Seeing the movie almost completely dominated by people of color brings hope for what the world could be, a place where all are celebrated and represented equally. Everywhere that Joe went the audience was introduced to new characters, almost all people of color.

After learning a bit about Joe’s life and being introduced to the stunning amount of representation in the film, viewers watch as he dies in a very unfortunate and untimely manner. Joe’s old world falls to pieces and his new life in The Great Before begins.

When it was first hinted at that Joe was dead, it was shocking. Disney movies tend to not kill off their main characters, let alone that soon into the story. It was intriguing and offered a new perspective that I have never seen from a Disney movie; the soul of a man who could not accept death, a man who felt his life was not complete.

In a quest to outrun his death, Joe does not go to the light in heaven, but instead runs away from it, landing himself in a new world: The Great Before. While Joe is there, he desperately tries to find his way back to his own body on earth by any means necessary. His desperation eventually leads him to becoming a mentor for a young soul named Twenty Two.

Joe trying to help his soul mentee, Twenty-two, find her spark. (Courtesy of Disney)

As a mentor, Joe must help Twenty Two find her “spark” so that she may go down to earth and inhabit a body, however, she does not seem too thrilled to go to earth. Unfortunately for her, she does end up inhabiting a body.

In a strange turn of events that include meditation and calming tambourines, Joe is transported back to earth along with his soul mentee,

Twenty Two. Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned. Twenty Two ends up inhabiting Joe Gardner’s body and Joe is uncomfortably placed in the body of an orange cat named Mr. Mittens.

Even though these circumstances were not ideal for either character in this movie, this switch was necessary. It created and enhanced the main theme of this movie: Finding one’s purpose.  The movie does an excellent job of showing various characters who seem to have passions for different things in life including: jazz music, playing trombone, barbering, meditation, and much more.

While in Joe’s body, Twenty Two finds a new passion for living that she had never felt before and she finally starts to realize that she, too, may have a purpose in life beyond finding her “spark.” She had begun to collect small tokens from each location she and Joe had visited throughout the day, all holding their own meaning to her. There was no single thing that became a passion for her, not like Jazz was for Joe. She was just simply living. 

Her message of life hit hard and may have even brought some tears. Sometimes it can be hard to ever find one’s calling or one’s essential purpose and to see a children’s movie showing that as a normal thing is very touching.

It is teaching children that it is okay to be more than one thing and that it is not strange to find happiness simply from just living. It is a very real moral, especially in recent times. It is a much needed message that deserved to be broadcasted, not only to children but to everyone who watched “Soul.”

It would be a shame if this movie was overlooked and not seen as a movie that inspires and gives even the most lost people a new sense of life. It promotes making the most out of your life and celebrating each day as if it was your last because it very well could be.

“Soul” is a way to free your soul.