The Hero’s Journey is the template formula for most movies, especially ones where you find Heroes, but ‘Finding Nemo’ has a special quality to it so prolific that I wonder why it hasn’t been examined in depth for its true meaning. I’ve looked online to no avail. Not even Pixar reveals its secrets of the movie. If you’re on the path of the Hero’s Journey, you may have caught these spiritual fish undertones, but perhaps you don’t dissect movies the way I do, so allow me to indulge myself today.
First of all, something terrible happens in Marlin’s life, which causes a great shock. He loses his wife and children, except for one. This one child has a disability, which Marlin seems to think of as a drawback in Nemo’s life. Instead of practicing gratitude for his son, he becomes attached and overbearing. Nemo is an innocent and doesn’t dwell on his disability, but Marlin is constantly focused on this little fin and even worries himself sick over it. He is so attached to Nemo that their relationship is unbalanced. He nearly stifles Nemo over his disability and (because of his attachment), but Nemo defies his father and ends up lost in the great big sea of life. The conflict is that now they are separate, and Marlin’s worry grows even greater. There is much fear in his search for his son (his innocence).
You see, the Hero’s journey, or to be “born again” usually begins with a shock in one’s life which causes a great surrender. Many of us resist the surrender and instead hold on too tight in life in fear that we will lose ourselves. When we begin The Hero’s Journey, there is truly no going back. The universe will support the movement forward, but many people will continue resisting the path. This is what Marlin did in the beginning after the great shock, but because Nemo defied him, he was forced to carry on. He had no clue on how to find his son, but nothing was going to stop him, and throughout the journey, he was constantly being guided. Along his path came Dori, who represents intuition or Spirit. He rejected Dori over and over, but she refused to depart from Marlin, even telling him he “felt like home” at one point. Marlin represents the ego, or the flesh, or the left side of the brain, which is logical, analytical and conforming. Dori represents Spirit, or the right side of the brain which is intuitive, creative, nonconforming and guided by something other than logic. She is forgetful because the spirit being in the human form, constantly forgets its source. It forgets that it is part of a great whole, which is (in essence) God. This element of the movie was a great clue to me that there was something rich being played out in a cute little story about fish.
Fear is evident in Marlin’s journey, but everything he feared, Dori ended up facing and nothing could stop her. She moved Marlin through his fears, and though he often pushed her away, he always came back to her because he felt almost empty without her. Without him, she was lost, and without her, Marlin was lost. The spirit needs the human body to find its way back to its source. This is the journey of the soul. It gets lost in its human form, so that it can find its way back to source, which is “innocence” or “Nemo.” When a human being finds its way back “home,” it discovers the innocence that it has left behind in the wake of its running. This path is all too familiar to me. Probably all recovering addicts will relate here, or anyone who has lost everything in life just to discover that they ARE everything.
Even more profound are the meaning of the three names, Marlin, Nemo and Dori. This will blow your mind if you are even the least bit interested here. Marlin means “little warrior,” which is the very definition of what a true hero is. A spiritual hero is considered a warrior. Dori’s meaning is “gift, or gift from God.” (Blown away yet?) Nemo’s name is even more profound. It is “Nobody, or no man.” Nemo is without identity, which is what the hero’s journey is all about. When a person takes the path of Christ, or goes on the hero’s journey, he loses his or her identity, which is the ego self. Once a person faces their fears, follows their intuition and re-discovers their innocence which is lost in the identity of being human, he becomes a “No-Body.” He is no longer being led singly by his mind of fear and in the mainstream way of conformity. He is now harmonized with his mind, his spirit and his body (the three in one) – the trinity. (Marlin, Dori, Nemo). He finds his true balance. Along the way, there was always guidance for Marlin. This is what I have discovered in my own spiritual journey when I “Let go, stay awake and keep on swimming” – three very clear messages and profound lines in the movie.
How amazing is THAT? I find it so moving that I have watched this movie several times over, only to discover how “deep” it really goes. There is so much more, but I will let you have fun with the movie if you decide to watch it again after reading this. If you have watched this movie and discovered more meaning than I have laid out, please post it in the comments. There are so many other movies that have prolific messages, such as ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Ratatouille’… The list goes on. The Hero’s Journey is a constant in movies. Once you know this, you will see it very clearly. Way to go Pixar – keep um’ coming! I’m a HUGE fan!