Saturday, June 18, 2016

Marlin was never equipped for Dory

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This week I took my family to our local drive in and watched the preview of Finding Dory. It's been a much anticipated movie for our household; the kids are in love with their favorite characters from Finding Nemo while the hubs and I are big Pixar fans. I was curious how this movie was going to hold up as a sequel to Finding Nemo and if it was going to bust Pixar out of their current rut. Brave (2012) was the last Pixar film that I was really wowed over, but one can't really expect them to have hit it out of the ballpark blockbusters every time.

I've been wrestling with myself about Finding Dory. The story line has some deep themes that have left me unsettled; I've got a new perspective about the main characters that I didn't really see in Finding Nemo. You see, most people will say that the main lesson in Finding Dory is "believe in yourself," to which I agree. I think if you are looking for the "happy ending" moral, that one can be easily said about this movie. Throughout the whole story Dory is continually working on moving through her struggle of short term memory loss, and just like in Finding Nemo, memories that mean a lot to her help spark her memory. But what unsettles me is Marlin.

Let's back up. I'll start with the good. Did you notice that most of the characters in Finding Dory, with the exception of Marlin, Charlie and Jenny (Dory's parents) have special needs? Hank the octopus is missing an arm, Bailey the Beluga whale has a problem with his echolocation, Destiny the whale shark is near sighted, Nemo has a little fin and Dory has short term memory loss. This was one of the main reasons why I loved Finding Nemo so much, because in Pixar's quiet way they reinforced to children that it's ok to be different. The whole premise of Finding Nemo is that he was showing his dad that he doesn't need to be held back because of his disability. "You think you can do these things, but you just CAN'T, Nemo!" I'm not a parent of a child with disabilities, but I am sure that this statement hit a lot of parents in the gut. Our job as parents is to find a way to help our children flourish, in spite of their struggles, and it's a dark moment if we ever realize that we were holding our child back. By the end of Finding Nemo Marlin seemed to understand that Nemo's disability won't slow him down for long.

But my opinion of Marlin was slowly changed in the beginning of Finding Dory. The early part of the movie shows Marlin, Nemo and Dory a year after the end of Finding Nemo. They lived next door to each other and Dory is an active part of the clownfishes' lives. Dory's short attention span and forgetfulness is well known throughout the community. The day comes where Nemo's class is going on a field trip to watch the ray migration and Mr. Ray quietly tells Marlin that having Dory along that day will make the trip more difficult. Both Mr. Ray and Marlin seem a exasperated by Dory's needs, but don't want to hurt her feelings. Marlin tries to explain to Dory why she can't go along that day and she misunderstands it as Ray needing a teacher's assistant. Ray and Marlin give a quick, tongue in cheek exchange that Ray gets Dory for the day.

This is what sets the mood to me that although Marlin and Dory are friends he still sees her as a burden. He had tried multiple times during Finding Nemo to unload her and now keeps her around, probably because Nemo holds him accountable and responsible in caring for her. Multiple off color jokes from Marlin pepper the whole movie, especially about Dory and Becky, the wacked out and 'not all the way there' bird.

What really caught my attention was the moment after the squid chase and the trio are in the kelp jungle. Marlin is trying to assess Nemo and Dory is trying to help. Marlin is clearly stressed out and Nemo is crying a little and needing comfort. Dory feels terrible and realizes that her whole scatterbrained quest is what almost got all of them eaten and she tries over and over to get in and make sure that Nemo is ok. Finally Marlin snaps and tells Dory to go away. I really think that Marlin views Dory as a burden.

A lot of us as parents can relate to this situation. I've had it happen numerous times where I'm doing the exact same thing - one child needs something addressed immediately and the other isn't letting up. I've snapped, numerous times, to get the other kid to give us space and I can figure out what needs to happen. In our age group (toddler and preschooler) it usually results in two kids crying and me feeling worse than before.

I'm no professional, but I do have a B.A. in Sociology which has trained me to look at social situations. This interchange is called caregiver burnout. Marlin was never equipped to fully handle Dory and her needs and he finally snapped.

Compare that to how Dory's parents relate to her. Each of Dory's flashbacks show us how Jennie and Charlie came up with games and songs (very much like an occupational therapist would do) to help Dory manage her life. They show sadness and fear at times where they realize how difficult her life may be in the future. Regardless, they work together to create a safe environment where Dory can flourish within reasonable boundaries, rather than be limited and restricted (which is how Marlin treated Nemo, and later Dory).

I'm not saying that Marlin is a bad guy. There are many amazing people in this world who are called on and equipped for the mental and emotional work of helping care for someone who has special needs. Some need a lifetime of care and others only for a short period of time. Marlin was already called upon to raise Nemo and learned that he doesn't do himself or Nemo any favors by holding him back and babying him because of the lucky fin. He made big strides through Finding Nemo to trust Nemo. The same problem is revisited in Finding Dory, but this time he is less invested because Dory is a friend and not his child. I wonder if Marlin thinks about what the long term solution is for Dory, and if she will ever be able to be on her own (even though she had survived childhood all by herself, showing that she can be fine).

Finding Dory is still a very enjoyable movie, and like many other reviews have said that it stands well alone as the continuation of the Nemo storyline, and parents of special needs kids can relate to Marlin vs Jennie & Charlie.

What do you think?

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  1. Wow! What a great perspective. Thanks for sharing, I didn't even think about it like that. I did think Marlin was a little harsh, but we've all been there when we are stressed out

  2. I think that's a very interesting perspective. I don't have any special needs kids, but I have a sister in law who probably fits in that category, and it was difficult for me coming into the family to understand just how to address some of those needs. Clearly, I'm not her parent, in fact I'm younger than she is, so sometimes I feel like the Marlin in the situation. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I think this post will definitely make me look at it differently. :)

  3. I like your view!! Maybe in some way they were trying to related to exasperated caregivers and show how burnout can totally happen?! How to not react and how our reactions affect others?? I think somedays I forget that me being exhasted can come off as completely awful!! I am a little saddened that Dory is seen as a burden and can totally imagine how kids could see that as something negative. Which makes me sad, but I also feel like I see a lot of that in kids movies lol!! Like don't even get me started in all the traumatic drowning scenes in the Good Dinosaur!!

  4. I haven't seen this yet, but I really want to with my son!

  5. I love this very thoughtful take on the situation in the movie, and I'm excited to see the movie!

  6. This movie was absolutely adorable! Fun for both the kids and the adults! :)

  7. Ok, we finally saw it, and I agree that Marlin has some issues dealing with Dory in the beginning, but I think that the movie shows his growth with regard to her. My sister in law is mildly retarded, and at times, I think I'm (at least internally) like Marlin... I need to remind myself, no matter how frustrated she makes me, that she isn't completely normal, and there are things that she can't understand, or change.

  8. My family still hasn't seen this movie, but we'll have to keep this in mind while watching.



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