Communism, Disney, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dory, Film, film review, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, food chain, Frasier, Identity Crisis, insanity, Karl Marx, Marlin, Oceanic Economic Superstructure, Pixar, psychology, Satire, short term memory loss, Totalitarianism, Utopic Ideaology
Pixar has become in many ways an abusive boyfriend. True he does really nice things for me like spray-painting my name across twenty cars of trains or baking me a cake on my birthday just because he thinks I’m special, but likewise he’s done horrible things too, like abuse me psychologically and sometimes physically. I don’t want to trust him again when he’s back with something new. But he smiles at me and he’s wearing that tank-top so that I can see his tats on those biceps of his and, well, a girl can only hold out so much. Likewise with Disney and Pixar in general I’ve come to an odd position of careful mistrust. Disney as a company is a rather soulless institution that had purchased an alarming amount of my childhood within the last decade, and it’s also released Frozen. However, despite this I do intend to see Finding Dory because say whatever you will about the economic side of Disney, as an artistic production center they never fail (except with Frozen and Cars 2) to disappoint me.
This doesn’t have to do with reviewing Finding Nemo, but I couldn’t resist writing the opening paragraph. One has to indulge where one can.
My sister and I have come to the conclusion that Finding Nemo is a film entirely about mental illness. We’ve reached this conclusion through a series of observations about each character in the film, and so as an effort of charity I’ll go through them one by one and allow the reader to decide for themselves whether they agree with my diagnosis or not.
First of all, there is the obvious case of Dory. While at the beginning the diagnosis is the obvious short term memory loss, which she provides for the viewer and Marlin, there is also an element of co-dependency on her part. The reader may object immediately, she would have to be if she suffers from short-term memory loss she would most likely have to have someone with her to watch over her and keep her company. The problem with that is that she clearly didn’t have that. Dory literally collides with Marlin while he chases after the boat with the divers who kidnapped Nemo, and if she truly had people in her life who cared about her why was she swimming all by herself? I’m sure Finding Dory will answer this, though the interpretation I prefer is that Dory was originally following an individual fish whom she had clung to, and as soon as she was distracted this person jumped ship. Because Dory is used to having a companion she quickly attached herself to Marlin in order to satisfy the need for company, for since she can’t remember much having someone else to occupy space close to her is the way she copes with reality.
This is the weakest diagnosis seeing as how she is already complicated with memory problems.
Second are the fish in the tank. These characters alone could fill a DSM, for each one demonstrates a different crisis. The Yellow Tang obsessed with bubbles, who believe it or not is actually named Bubbles, has clearly suffered a complete mental breakdown. He was most likely the first fish in the tank and the isolation, coupled with the traumatic re-location from his original owner/family/friends/etc. broke his mind. During the initial stage of this psychosis his mind must have latched upon the images of the bubbles and so whenever the treasure chest opens and the bubbles come out he screams and shouts the words “Bubbles! My bubbles” in a desperate attempt to have his voice be heard. More importantly this declaration of “my Bubbles” represents a desperation to own or possess a solid material reality from which he is able to derive some kind of comfort.
Second is Deb/Flo. This poor woman was most likely the second fish in the tank. She has manifested dissociative Identity disorder in the way she has created her “sister” which is really nothing more than her reflection on the walls of the tank. Because “Bubbles” was broken before she arrived in the tank she would have had no one-on-one contact with a healthy mind. As such she sought solace originally in her reflection. Much like Travis Bickle would develop his psychosis in relation to a mirror (the famous “You talkin to me?” line was ad-libbed as you probably know because your best friend who’s studying film will never shut-up about it), Deb created an imaginary persona of Flo first as a mental solace to combat soul-crushing loneliness. However, as time when on, and Bubbles’s constant screaming and psychotic behavior escalated, Deb began to look upon Flo with more desperation creating and fueling a vagueness concerning reality. Flo was most likely imagined as a sister at first so that Deb could struggle with separation from her family. Having a sister who was also a friend would help tremendously. Eventually Flo assumed more personality and Deb too was broken.
In walks Gurgle. Now his mental illness was most likely established before he arrived in the tank. He most likely suffered from neurosis before he arrived in the tank, however his germaphobia could have manifested upon entering the tank of watching the erratic behavior of his tank-mates. Being a “neat freak” when he was introduced into the habitat of the tank, and being stuck with a psychotic and a Split/Personality allowed his neurosis to fester into something severe.
Now Bloat’s condition, the puffer-fish, like Gill and Peach, is far more manageable. His neurotic behavior manifests in a comfortable cabin fever. Watching the Root Canal scene reveals this for he, like many of the fish, have established a kind of psychological comfort in watching the agony and suffering of those who come to the dentist. Keeping himself engaged with outside activity, specifically the physical suffering of others preserves his sanity against the near constant insanity that is the inside of the tank. In this way Peach and Bloat are suffering from some form of latent sadism.
Now for the gathering of fish who entertain Dory while she and Marlin have begun the search for “P.Sherman, 42 Wallaby Lane, Sydney.” The viewer will note that these fish move as one large body, a habit that is typical of schools of fish in general. However, while they move in a school, their interaction with Dory and Marlin acts as one body. There is a central figure, a faceless voice that commands them, and this in turn leads to the grim conclusion that the fish speaking (John Ratzenberger’s obligatory Pixar role) is most certainly a dictator who has managed to colonize the minds of his followers. The fish behave and act as one surrendering their will and bodies to the desire of the speaker. Taking the shape of a pirate ship, swordfish, lobster, and octopus demonstrate that the individual fish have lost all of their agency and have, in effect, surrendered their will to a totalitarian despot. The larger conflict emerges however as this fish is never actually seen speaking. As such it becomes clear all of these fish are speaking the voice of this anonymous speaker which leads to far more horrifying conclusion. There must have been an original individual fish who attempted to consolidate power over the group. As it became clear that this was impossible, he steadily began to infect each fish with the suggestion that he was their master, mind, and body all at once. This indoctrination campaign continued until, even after the fish was devoured by tuna and porpoises, his life force continued after him controlling the school. The gathering of fish represents a microcosm of the “Orwellian Nightmare.”
The issue of Bruce, Anchor, and Chum is most clearly exemplified in a combination of abandonment issues as well as identity crisis formed in Marxian self-recognition. The latter is clearly demonstrated in the groups opening remarks:
Bruce: [reciting] I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.
The three sharks have suffered an intense identity crisis that has left them paralyzed and struggling for a new variety of identity that would afford them some kind of working agency. This self-negation of basic biology is most likely rooted either in a kind of Existential crisis, or else perhaps a kind of Marxian conundrum. A shark’s purpose/role in the ocean is to eat and devour. Rejecting this image is in essence rejection of the societal economics and thus the sharks are in fact attempting to overthrow the superstructure of the ocean at large. This early Marxian interpretation of their role was eventually abandoned however as the sharks began to recognize that Communism as an ideology is ultimately Utopic, and Utopic ideology’s cannot work in reality, only in theory. With this recognition came the existential crisis, for existentialism despite the popular hoopla actually asserts the right of the individual to establish some kind of self in society, it affords choice. The sharks moved towards existential identities hoping to overcome the guilt of their existence.
Just as important in this decision is their location for the meeting. The sharks chose a sunken submarine as a symbolic declaration of their being. The submarine is a weapon of war designed to kill, rip, and tear into ships. By establishing a base of operations within the ruined submarine, the sharks recognize that they as individual sharks are creating a new identity in the destroyed symbol of destruction, death, and carnage.
Now as to why they began this path I cannot establish any clear origins apart from some variety of guilt most likely going back to their Marxian crisis. It’s likely the sharks saw themselves as Oceanic Industrial Bourgeoisie. Tired of their material existence, and feeling an intense guilt from profiting off of the proletariat, a.k.a. the weaker fish, they began a path to refute this identity and create a new utopic order of mutual shark/fish society.
Next come the seagulls. The seagulls, who constantly shout “mine,” continue this notion of Marxian dynamics, for ultimately they represent the broken proletariat. At one point the seagulls were like the pelicans who assume a functioning identity and balance in the Oceanic Economic superstructure, however the steady rat-race of capturing and eating food eventually and slowly reduced their minds into a state of material reality. The sickening part is that this concern for material wealth or goods in the form of food eventually caused a traumatic split in reality developing into a nasty solipsism. The Seagull’s are always calling out for “mine,” because they have abandoned the notion that there exists anything outside of their own mind. Much like the “I” of Descartes’s Cogito Ergo Sum, “I think therefore I am,” the seagulls know only the “I.” There aren’t even other seagulls because there is only the implied “I” of “mine.” Shouting the words “mine” implies: “This/That is Mine, it belongs to me, I am important, I am everything, I AM.” The “Mine” becomes a pathetic display of ego then for ultimately by declaring food as “mine” the seagulls are trying desperately to prove that they matter and that they are in fact real. They are constantly shouting “I” into the universe hoping that their existence will matter.
Finally I come to Marlin who begins this whole struggle. Given everything that I have written up to this point it may become clear the direction that I’m taking.
Marlin is insane.
When the Barracuda attacks Marlin and Coral outside of their home the viewer is shown Marlin being struck unconscious. He awakes in the dark implying a long expanse of time. Now being struck unconscious for extended periods of time can cause serious brain damage, and when Marlin awakes he discovers that Coral is absent, likely eaten whole by the barracuda, and all of the eggs holding his children are missing. The long state of unconsciousness, coupled with the intense trauma of losing his entire family most assuredly drove Marlin insane, and thus by implication the entire events of Finding Nemo are in fact nothing more than delusions he is suffering from while floating around in his sea anemone. Each fish he “encounters” allows him to recreate his identity as the sane individual in a sea of madness, and thus he becomes, in essence, god of his world providing order in a universe that is seemingly nothing but chaos and competition between the species. The trauma of losing his wife and children destroyed Marlin and so he, like many before him, retreated into a broken mind desperate to find some narrative that would justify the random act of violence that destroyed his life. By creating the narrative of Finding Nemo Marlin attempts in his own way to write a narrative that allows his mind some kind of closure and control, when in fact he is nothing more than a broken madman shouting within his empty anemone.
Finding Nemo then, must be understood as a film about mental illness for nothing could justify the first ten minutes of what is in fact a beautiful film about family and overcoming personal trauma. By looking at each fish as insane a new idea of the ocean and reality becomes clear: Marlin is a madman in the vein of Dr. Parnassus dreaming and narrating this world into being hoping desperately that no one will interrupt the speaker lest the world will crumble and he’s forced to face the fact that he lost everything in one moment.
Or, it could simply be cute kids movie about a dad trying to find his son. Odds are one of these interpretations will sell t-shirts, and at the end of the day that’s all Disney is after anyway.
The reader dares to mock or question my interpretation of the events? They ask me what psychological credentials I have to make such a bold assertion about their favorite movie? Why my rights come from television in fact. I like many people in the late 90s watched every episode of Frasier, especially the ones where he analyzed himself, and taking those lessons in hand I am able to clearly understand EVERY aspect of psychosis and mental disorders.
So yeah. I watch Frasier. That’s where my powers of deduction come from. What’s your excuse?
It’s satire for fucks sake. Get the joke or fuck off.