As much as I adored Finding Nemo, when I heard there was a sequel out I had the usual pessimistic thoughts that involve hating on Disneys capitalist greed (with sequels and merchandise firmly at the helm), but whatever ‘corporate Disneys’ reasons for releasing the film, it really is a gem!
For those of you who’ve watched Finding Nemo, you’ll know that Dory is a lovable if scatty fish (she is a blue tang) voiced by Ellen Degereres. In Finding Nemo she is an entertaining and supportive sidekick who helps Nemo eventually get back to his father.
Diving into Finding Dory, we see our little blue tang with her parents, playing happily. Her Mum and Dad are aware of her memory problems, and they try and teach her how to get on in life and remember what she can. Dory is separated from her parents, and Nemo and his Dad try to help her remember what she forgot, as she initially didn’t know what it was that was plaguing her. When she remembers that she lost her parents, we go on a Finding Nemo’esque journey, where we come across lots of interesting sea life, including an octopus with depression and anxiety, a shark with vision problems, and another shark with a head injury which has affected his echolocation.
In each instance Dory sees the beauty in the other sea creatures, and focuses on their strengths rather than their struggles. Eventually Dory finds her parents, but the story itself is almost secondary to the subtext, which is rather marvelous, and something I have rarely seen in cinema, let alone from a family film.
It’s not difficult to peel apart the core message of the film, which is that it’s okay to be different. Disability does not disable, society does, but if society were more like Dory, disabled people would be able to carve out their place in the world with much more ease. Of course I’m not saying that going up to a disabled person and telling them they’re beautiful is a good idea, the message is not nearly as literal, but seeing, really seeing disabled people for who they are as a whole, not just disabled, not just a person, but a disabled person. Movies like Me Before You (film review coming soon) paint a stark and inaccurate picture of disability, and perpetuate a negative stereotype of what it means to be disabled. More films like Finding Dory are sorely needed is we are to fight the bleak picture that disability is portrayed as in the mass media.
On a personal note – I could really relate to Dory. Previous to my life as it is now, I studied law, I worked hard and I thought I had a bright future ahead of me. I did, it was just different than I imagined. A mixture of life and disability changed my path somewhat. My body I can handle, my mind I find more difficult. After a series of mini strokes, I’m left with a very poor memory and compromised cognitive skills. I used to be as sharp as a tack, but these days I’m often left staring into the distance, completely unable to articulate what I want to say, to remember and retrieve the information. It is very frustrating. This is why I like to write. No one sees my 1000 yard stare, and I have a backspace button to instantly erase rambley incoherent sentences. I know I need to accept this part of me too, and I will, with the help of all my disabled fishy friends, and always remember to, ‘just keep swimming’, even if it’s sometimes against the current.
Have you watched Finding Dory? What do you think was ‘the moral of the story’?