Following the topic of disability this week, I would also like to analyze a piece of work by Disney and how it translates the concept of ableism to young children. I find this interesting because almost any individual who grew up surrounded by Western mainstream media can agree that at least some of their perceptions of ideologies (such as disabilities and ableism) were formed at a young age, and partly by such large influencers like popular movies of their time – many of which were provided by Disney.
This blog post is going to be taking an in-depth look at Finding Nemo. The film was widely successful and showcased a tale of a young fish who overcame much adversity to reunite with his father all the way across the ocean. I always found this story to be one of great triumph and victory, but after some deliberation, I realized that Disney made this story one about triumph and victory, despite a disability. Nemo finds himself separated from his father and the movie showcases his misadventures finding him again, despite the fact that he was born with an injured fin and does not have the ability to swim with as much agility as other young fish his age.
Considering the context (the entire Pacific ocean), it is miraculous that Nemo ever saw his father again – even if he possessed the most functional fin in the world. This made me start to think about why Disney decided to even include the story line about the disabled fin in the first place. On an optimistic note, it could solely be to encourage young viewers that regardless of their circumstance, if they truly believe in themselves and their abilities, they can accomplish anything. This is the type of heart-warming, encouraging, and inspirational messages that Disney is known for.
On the other hand, Disney is also notorious for providing ideological misconceptions (whether they have to do with gender, race, etc), and this could be another time they are (unconsciously) at fault. I personally don’t believe it’s correct to teach children from a young age that a person with a disability is capable of less than anyone else, and the idea that Nemo was able to reconnect with his father even though he had a disabled fin, is doing just that.
I also realize that the idea of an underdog accomplishing the impossible is what sells in this industry, but at what cost? Films such as this one are grouping the categories “underdog” and “disabled individual” as one in the same. There is absolutely no need for this, especially in films subjected to young, impressionable children whose minds are still formulating unique definitions as to what it means to be ‘disabled’.
Although Disney and other filmmaking companies may be doing their best to incorporate disabled bodies into their work, I argue that going about it in a way that almost pities them and then celebrates their victories differently than any other person’s is not exactly the most constructive.
Finding Nemo. 2005. Photograph. Cd MarcusWeb. 1 Apr 2013. <http://cd-marcus.deviantart.com/art/findingNemo-18997303>.