An adoptee’s thoughts on Finding Dory…
When I was in fourth grade, my classroom had Star of the Week, which meant that one chosen student brought in a poster with pictures of their family and had to fill out a sheet filled with their favorite things: color, animal, ice cream flavor, favorite movie.
I’ve never really loved movies, so I’m not sure what inspired me to fill in the blank with a film that had come out almost a year previously as “my favorite movie”, but my 4th grade-self decided on “Finding Nemo”. It’s been my default favorite for the past 12 years, and I haven’t given much thought to movies since…
When I realized what this new movie sequel was truly about – not Dory finding herself, but Dory finding her parents – I had the strangest sense of my heart both sinking and fluttering.
Dory’s anxieties were similar to the ones I have faced since I was old enough to understand adoption: What if my parents don’t want me back? What if it was my fault I had “lost” my parents? What if I never find them? What if I find them and they don’t remember me?
The memory of Dory’s parents setting up small seashells so she could always “find her way home” in their fish tank made me tear up a bit. Her parents did everything they could to make sure Dory was healthy, safe, and happy.
After Dory breaks out of the aquarium and finds herself in an unknown part of the shallow waters, she sees a shell, followed by another – and another leading out of the kelp forest. I almost started crying. Then, Dory swims out of the kelp to find a small rock with a hole cut out of it, and long paths of seashells starting at the rock and leading out in every direction to the open ocean. Two shadowy figures appear, and Dory struggles to see who is swimming towards her. Soon, the fish come into focus, and we see Dory’s parents carrying fin-fuls of seashells.
They reunite and hug and swim together around the small rock-home. Her parents tell her, “When you were lost in the pipe, we realized that you must have been taken to the ocean, so we went after you. Then we made our new home right outside of the aquarium and collected seashells every day, hoping that one day you would find them and follow them home to us.”
Well at this point I’m sobbing while still trying to watch the movie. Except the movie is all blurry because I can’t stop crying over the fact that Dory’s parents have stayed in the same place for years, collecting seashells and setting up tons of paths that Dory can always “follow home.”
After the movie was over, my boyfriend turned to me and commented, “Wow, That was a very emotional movie,” and I looked at him and said “Yeah.” He paused and then says, “That movie was very emotional for me; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you.”
And that was the best response I could have asked for from anyone. Dory’s feelings of inadequacy and abandonment, her burning passion to find her family, her reunion with her parents, and her acceptance of the fact that as much as she loves her parents, Marlin and Nemo are also her family, mirror any adoptee’s story.
So for parent’s looking to take their children to this film: know this is a very touching, very Pixar movie. Your adopted children might not understand why they’re feeling insecure or sad…but the movie offers both hope and closure. This allowed me to identify with Dory and let me think that maybe there’s hope for me, too.
For older adoptees who want to see the sequel to their favorite childhood movie, I hope that you also see a piece of yourself in Dory, and have the courage and strength to “just keep swimming.”