Characters, Gender, Movies

Why I’m Excited About Finding Dory

Believe it or not, good peeps of the Internet, I have been in Disneyland for the past couple days (as you probably know if you follow me on twitter). Auto-posting is a wondrous thing. Thus, I have been able to enjoy my vacation instead of stressing out over the last week of BEDA (I just did all my stressing out about it last week when I had to write all these damn things in advance). But, since today is my last day in Disneyland, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about something Disney-related: Finding Dory.

Now, I know that just a couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how most unplanned sequels suck, and this is an unplanned sequel, so it seems a bit silly to get my hopes up for something that might very well turn out to be terrible. Believe me; I am well aware of the ways in which this could go wrong (I am equally aware of how much alliteration was in that sentence). However, I choose to be excited about this sequel for three reasons:

1. Finding Nemo is probably my favorite Disney film and it will be fun to revisit that world. I mean, I also really like Wall-E, so it might be a tie, but Finding Nemo is one of those films where everything just came together and every note is pitch perfect. The characters are lovable, unique, interesting, and rooted in their animal selves (unlike some other anthropomorphic children’s stories I could name); the plot is simple but epic in a way that keeps the audience engaged; the visuals are stunning; and the entire thing is absurdly quotable, from start to finish. Many of the side characters are worth a re-visit, and there is still a lot of leeway for creating new ones. If even half of the creative energy of Finding Nemo goes into Finding Dory, it will be a film well worth watching.

2. Dory is a well-developed female character, and she is not a goddamn princess. As female characters go, Dory is top-notch. Her personality is well-defined, she’s allowed to have flaws, she has agency and gets to impact the plot, and she’s funny as hell. Do you have any idea how rare it is for a female character to get to play the role of comic sidekick, much less next to a male protagonist? If you can think of another example tell me in the comments, because I legitimately cannot think of another one. Spending more time with her seems like an excellent plan to me, particularly with her in a protagonist role. Of course, in the original script Dory was meant to be male, and her gender was changed after the writer heard Ellen Degeneres’ voice and decided it was perfect for the role, so that probably explains why she was able to avoid all the pitfalls of sucky female characters. Hopefully this second film will stay true to that original characterization, and not try to “feminize” her back into a 2-dimensional imitation of womanhood.

3. There is a clear direction for the story to go. While Finding Nemo succeeded in its goal–Nemo was found–the movie leaves a huge question mark over Dory’s character. When we first meet her, she is entirely alone on the open current-way, unable to remember anything about herself or her life. This fact is largely ignored in favor of the plot of Finding Nemo, but the question still remains: where did Dory come from? Who is she, really? Where is her family? These are all questions that arise naturally from both the original story and from Dory’s characterization. The writers don’t have to force a new plot onto a closed book–they get to uncover one that is already hiding somewhere inside it. That is the perfect circumstance for a sequel.

While there is a lot that could go wrong with this sequel, there is equally as much that could go right. Thus, I am staying optimistic. See you in 2015, Dory.

Swimmingly yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“You got a problem? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” -Dory, Finding Nemo

P.S. I once got to watch Finding Nemo while on a boat on the Great Barrier Reef. That has nothing to do with any point I’m making in this post. I just wanted to brag.

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