Finding Nemo: Mythological, Theological and Ideological Criticisms

The film Finding Nemo is an animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film takes viewers through the journey of Marlin, a clownfish, who lives in the Great Barrier Reef. Marlin is overly cautious in all parts of his life, especially when it comes to his son Nemo. The animated adventure film highlights faith and grace in a subtle yet powerful way, the film appeals to the emotions of the audience and showcases faith. For many individuals, films bring about emotions related to religion in ways that reading or hearing religious text simply lack. Although it seems quite odd to find theological significance in a Disney Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo emphasizes loss, separation, hope, despair, friendship, parental love, and how human beings play the role of predators to the natural world. This paper will analyze how we can find God in Finding Nemo.

Two clownfish, Marlin and his wife, Coral live in the Great Barrier Reef. The pair are happy, in love, and are looking forward to being first-time parents. As many first-time parents do, the couple began planning their lives with their new children and picking names, Coral expressing her fondness for the name “Nemo.” Unfortunately for this fish family, their days together have been limited by the appearance of a barracuda. Although Marlin warns Coral, the expecting mother ignores her husband's warnings and proceeds to protect her eggs. Initially, they can escape the barracuda, but he makes his return later in the night, and Marlin realizes that Coral is gone the only thing remaining of his family is a single egg with a scratch on its right side. Because of this traumatic experience, Marlin often restrains Nemo from exploring the big open sea. However, being the young and curious clownfish that Nemo is, he ignores Marlin's warnings. On one of Nemo's adventures, the young clownfish gets captured by deep-sea divers and is taken to be displayed in a dentist’s office in Sydney Harbor. Marlin is horrified and sets out to bring his son back home. Along the way, Marlin runs into Dory, a Pacific blue tang fish. Dory is a happy-go-lucky fish who has a good heart that unfortunately suffers from anterograde amnesia and is unable to form new memories (short-term memory loss). The pair travel the unknown waters in search of Nemo and on the journey they encounter sharks, jellyfish, angelfish, and a whole ocean full of danger. As the pair search the ocean vast and wide, Nemo plots to escape the fish tank with the other sea creatures he befriends in hopes of being free once again.

When a film is being studied there must be a methodology in place as there are many different genres. The methodology must utilize a wide range of critical approaches when evaluating films that fall into different categories. Three main approaches can be utilized when evaluating a film for religious context, the approaches include: theological, mythological, and ideological. The three criticisms will be used to evaluate how religion and faith are featured in Finding Nemo.

When viewed through the theological scope, Finding Nemo teaches many lessons which are reflected in the Holy Bible. The theological criticism analyzes the relationship between religion and film. When using theological criticism, religion is looked at more traditionally. Often theological criticism involves analyzing religious symbols and categories that draw from Judaism and Christianity). On Marlin and Dory's adventure to save Nemo, the pair encounters a series of events that make their journey anything but easy. In one scene, the two find themselves being swallowed by a whale. In Jonah 2. 1-10, Jonah spends a total of three nights and three days inside the belly of a fish, often thought to be a whale. Jonah prays from inside the belly of the fish calling for Lord his God. God believes Jonah to be a rebellious and resistant but also a believer, as a result, he rescues Jonah in a way that would affect his heart. An interpreation many take from this story is that when were are lost in the darkenss and only have faith to rely on, we should be able to have hope. The Church teaches its followers the importance of being committed to God and Christ. Often this commitment comes with a serious life event and in these life events, we often feel as if there is no hope, it is at those times that we should strengthen our faith and look towards God. God is there for those who choose to seek His help, and by integrating God and the teachings of Christ into everyday life those in despair can find light and turn their lives around.

The relationship between Marlin and Dory can be analyzed even further to find religious significance. Marlin and Dory are quite different; it is quite unusual that these two fish would even be friends. Marlin constantly worries, while Dory constantly forgets and further complicates the encounters faced by the pair. However, they both team up and travel through the great unknowns in the hope of rescuing Nemo. The pair highlight the importance of being faithful to each other and their mission. Although at times Marlin gets upset and tries to leave Dory and Dory’s short term memory causes her to forget Marlin, the pair stick together through thick and thin. The book of Samuel describes general kingship, in particular, the kingship of David. David and Jonathan were two friends who were quite different. Jonathan was a prince while David was the son of a shepherd. Like Marlin and Dory, this friendship was quite unusual, however “…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul”. The love of God guided the decision of the two friends and when tested, they put their friendship above all earthly pleasures.

Marlin and Dory were just two little fish, one had anxiety while the other had severe memory loss, yet they expected to find an even smaller fish in the wide ocean. The two remained devoted to their goal because they had faith and trust in something bigger than themselves. A father's love for his son guided the actions taken in Finding Nemo. Like Jonathan in the Book of Samuel, Dory has nothing to gain by helping Marlin find his son. Yet Dory was willing to put her life at risk for the sake of friendship; she is simply encompassed and taken by a father's love for his son. Similarly, the two friends, Jonathan and David place their friendship above the ruling of the powerful King of Saul. They simply did what was asked of them by The Lord expecting nothing in return. Ultimately, David became the King of Israel and Jonathan died with his father King Saul, however, his faithfulness earned him an eternal friendship and brotherhood.

Finding Nemo can also be evaluated with mythological criticism. Myth critics use a broad definition of religion and do not reduce religion to a single tradition. Mythological criticism as a whole uses a more global approach when analyzing films and is particularly interested in hero figures, and the struggle between good and evil. The initial conflict of the film begins when Nemo is captured by divers because of his rebellion and disobedience towards his father. Nemo's actions parallel the actions of those who have turned away from God. Jeremiah 14. 7-10, is an example of scripture that highlights the negative effect of turning away from God. God knows that humans are sinful creatures, but yet still wants us to walk virutuously with faith. Marlin has given Nemo a set of rules to not limit him, but to protect him, the same can be said about God. The Ten Commandments are a set of biblical principles that essentially relate ethics and worship. The Ten Commandments teach the difference between right and wrong and play a critical role in the Abrahamic religions. The commandments are not enforced to limit human rights, but to protect humans from themselves and each other. The power of God’s love can transform any human condition but it is up to us to follow the rules emplaced by God to make that love a reality for all humans.

Ideological criticism looks at the relationship between religion and things that are not considered religious. One can understand how religious concepts can be tied to everyday life with the use of ideological criticism. The concept of human beings being the predators and affecting the natural world is shown in Finding Nemo. The dentist character highlights how human beings can affect the natural world; regardless of if an individual's intentions are good or bad; humans still alter nature. The dentist has good intentions, he believes that he is saving Nemo from harm in the ocean: “I found that guy struggling for life out on the reef, and I saved him”. In reality, however, he traps Nemo and steals him from his father, friends, and community. This scene critiques how humans treat the world around them. Humans often believe that nature needs protection yet fail to realize that nature actually needs protection from us . The Church teaches its followers to rise above our natural instict to be selfish and only think of ourselves, but instead think of others, our family, our community, and those around us. Humans should seek to let go of the greed we hold onto and work together to help each other, as well as care for the world.

With the use of the three theological criticisms: mythological, theological, and ideological, one can see how religion, faith, and grace is highlighted in Finding Nemo, a film that has captured the hearts of millions. Films such as Finding Nemo allows the audience to see and understand religious concepts in a more light and heartfelt manner as the theological messages are brought to life with many subtle religious references throughout the movie. This film does a wonderful job of presenting situations that apply to our daily lives through the journies of Marlin, Dory, and Nemo.      

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now