**This is a user-submitted post by Mary McKeon**
Content warning: In addition to spoilers for Finding Dory, this article and its resources briefly discuss instances of filicide of disabled children and the topic of assisted suicide.
I’ve seen Finding Dory twice now, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it both times, there was a line of dialogue that made me shift in my seat. It occurs just before Dory (as a child) gets separated from her parents and involves her mother worrying about whether or not Dory can make it without them. A perfectly normal thing for a parent to worry about, so what about it made me uncomfortable?
Sadly, we live in a world where the death of a disabled child at the hands of the caretaker is often met with rhetoric that sympathizes with the killer and places the blame on the victim, and often one of the “justifications” for the act is that the caretaker was afraid they would outlive the child, who would have difficulty living independently. Obviously, being a relatively light-hearted family film, Finding Dory wasn’t going to address that, let alone show it as the right thing to do. Just like the appearance of blue puzzle pieces in Inside Out didn’t mean they were giving Autism Speaks or The National Autistic Society a shout-out. But certain images or topics like these may hold a different meaning to the disabled community than they would to someone able-bodied and/or neurotypical.
Which is why it may not have dawned on everyone just how important a movie this is. Yes, Jenny and Charlie worried about Dory. She had a tendency to wander off, and they were understandably afraid it might put her in danger. But they still did everything they could to teach her to be self-sufficient in ways that took her short-term memory loss into account, and that’s the way it should be. Also worth noting is the fact that her disability isn’t treated as an inspiration to others or a character flaw, at least not by the writers. There are characters in the movie whose impatience with her causes them to snap and chastise her for difficulties that she may have inadvertently created, but in the end, they’re the ones who have to learn from it and try to change. Additionally, Dory herself isn’t somehow cured of her disability as part of her character arc. The point is that Dory’s disability doesn’t make her a burden and doesn’t preclude her or her loved ones from being happy.
For once, the disabled character isn’t a tragic figure, and for a family film, especially one that was released the same summer as Me Before You, that’s immensely refreshing. Even if Finding Dory is not quite as good as the original, this is the kind of thing audiences—children especially—need to be exposed to, whether they need to learn to accept and be patient with others or with themselves.
What are your thoughts? Let us know down below!
Edited by: Kelly Conley