with a toddler knows that animated movies are now a part of your life.
But perhaps only someone like myself looks at these movies through a
therapeutic lens. Finding Nemo is one of my
daughter’s favorites. As an occupational hazard, I began to point out
all the therapeutic issues the characters displayed, especially those
in the fish tank. They might as well be representative of an in-patient
OCD; disgusted by human mouth, ocean is contaminated
slightly schizo/delusional about her “sister,” Flo, who is really just
her reflection in the glass
neurotic about/weirdly possessive of the bubbles that come out of the
hard-as-nails fish who’s been there, done that, got the scar to prove
it; into conspiracy theories
anger management issues, which cause him to “inflate”
thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie
shark with abandonment issues from his dad
shark who relapsed on fish by eating his “bring a buddy” before support
short-term memory loss
over last words spoken to his father
But none come close to Nemo’s
father, Marlin. Let’s take a closer look at him. He got married and
hopped on the good fin to do the bad thing, resulting in tons of little
babies in need of loving care. He then suffers surely the worst kind of
pain imaginable when he loses his new wife to a shark attack, as well
as all his babies, save one: Nemo.
Marlin has severe PTSD from the
attack, as is evident in how he babies Nemo and doesn’t want to let him
grow up. He believes the little fin is proof positive of Nemo’s need to
be overly smothered. After all, Nemo can’t swim as well with his little
fin, which serves as a visual reminder to Marlin of all he lost when
the shark ate his wife and other babies. Marlin has a fear of the open
ocean now, and does his best to instill that in Nemo. It’s “not safe”
to swim there.
Nemo comes into his own obstinacy when his dad makes him feel foolish
in front of his new school friends, harping on how they could have been
killed at the drop-off and that Nemo can’t swim because of the little
fin. Most of you probably know what happens: Nemo gets defiant and goes
to the boat, touches it with his fin—a part that resonates in the
hearts of all parents with children—and gets caught by the Australian
deep-sea diver/dentist before he can return.
Then Marlin is on a mission to
find Nemo and bring him back safely. He encounters all manner of
traumatic problems, any one of which would send a sane fish over the
edge. First there’s Dory, who can’t remember anything. Then the sharks
and their “Fish are Friends, Not Food” support group—I can only imagine
true terror Marlin would feel after losing his wife and children to
a shark and then to have Bruce chase him down, intent on taking “just a
little bite.” Then they have the jellyfish ordeal, and the whole
getting-eaten-by-a-whale ordeal, having to jump into the mouth of a
pelican to prevent getting eaten by seagulls, and all this to see
little Nemo belly-up in a plastic bag, pretending to be dead.
Now Marlin is super depressed.
Who wouldn’t be? But to be reunited with his son, who is alive, brings
out the fierce protective part of Marlin once again. He doesn’t want
Nemo to do anything to endanger himself or put himself out further than
Marlin thinks is appropriate.
Then the last upheaval happens.
Dory gets caught in a deep-sea fisherman’s net, along with tons of
other fish. Nemo, having learned from his time with the Fraternal Bond
of Tankhood members that fish can work together, is small enough to
swim through the fish net and motivate the entire group to “swim down!”
to fight against being taken in the net. Marlin has to make the
decision to let Nemo go once again, and this is the deciding moment for
him as a father. (I would think writers would get a lot out of watching
this movie as it relates to internal motivation and external tensions.
It’s a kid’s movie, after all,
so all ends well. But Marlin has come to a more healthy decision about
how to parent Nemo, which leaves Nemo happier and Marlin happy, as
well. He’s beat his mental illness. Realistic? No … not after all
Marlin went through. But then again, who are we to try to fight against
the willful tenacity of a father with everything to lose? Perhaps it’s
a lesson of the power of the mind over mental illness.