ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

Finding Nemo first swam onto cinema screens across the globe a staggering 13 years ago! Ridiculous, right? Way to go and make myself feel old. But despite the length of time it's been around and the endless replays we subject ourselves to, the movie still hasn't lost any of its grace, splendor and shuddering heartache.

If someone were to the ask you what the plot of Finding Nemo was, you'd say "it's about an overprotective clown fish called Marlin whose son, Nemo, goes missing after an argument. So Marlin... erm... goes looking for him, duh! Have you never seen it?!" Or something along those lines.

If you haven't seen the movie for a while, wrap your eyes around the trailer:

But what if I were to tell you that I've come across a very legitimate sounding fan theory that posits the idea that Nemo doesn't actually exist at all? How the movie is all about Marlin coming to terms with the immense tragedy he suffered at the beginning of the movie, and working his way through the five stages of grief.

When thought about, this makes Finding Nemo a thousand times sadder. Like, this blew my mind.

Okay, let's begin:

Finding Nemo - An Allegory Of Grief

This rumor has been working its way around online for a while now, from the hallowed halls of 4chan to reddit. I know that's reason enough to be like, "THIS IS BULLS**T" and run off into the night screaming, but it's also incredibly entertaining, so hold tight.

Before Marlin's wife and unhatched babies were taken from him by that bastard barracuda, he was a happy go lucky, optimistic kind of guy. He located the perfect spot to raise a family and was generally well pleased to be in his... scales. I was gonna say shoes then.

Enter barracuda, exit happiness.


Upon coming to and seeing his home and the egg cave's vast emptiness, Marlin enters the first stage of grief: denial. His psyche cannot handle the crush of the realization that everything he has ever loved has perished, so he invents Nemo as a coping mechanism.

"Fun" fact: Nemo in Latin means "no man" or "no one."


As Nemo "grows up," his father has become an overbearing pessimist that won't allow him an inch of freedom needed to explore as a child should. They argue, Marlin doesn't back down, Nemo is kidnapped and all of a sudden he is thrust out of his cotton wool comfort zone, into a thrilling, and incredibly dangerous, journey to retrieve his son/overcome the tragedy.


Along the quest, Marlin meets a cast of crazy characters who all inadvertently attempt to aid him with the coming to terms and self blame for the loss of his family. Dory, who Marlin bargains with to aid in his search, teaches him to live for the moment, and her short term memory could be a metaphor for learning to forget the past.

The sharks teach Marlin that not everything is what it seems, the scuffle with the anglerfish in the trench is a metaphor for fighting your way out of the darkness of depression, and the totally rad turtles basically teach Marlin to take life as it comes and go with the flow.


After leaving the turtles, being ferried by the whale in that awesome scene and then coming across Nigel the pelican who ferries them to the dentist's surgery, Marlin suffers yet another great heartache, as he has to witness his supposedly dead son being flushed down the toilet. Poor guy! This film is harsh, man.


But, in good ol' family film fashion, Marlin and Nemo are later reunited, and Marlin has finally come to terms with his grief. He's made a new "friend" in Dory, and can rest, as they say good-bye to each other and Nemo's manifestation symbolically drifts off into the deep blue forever.

How's that for a close reading of the movie? What's that? Speak up at the back, I can't hear you from here.

What About The Dentist's Surgery Subplot?!

You know, where Nemo is like... alive and stuff.

Interesting point, one that I've been racking my brain trying to figure out. Though it my seem like a bit of a cop out, I think due to Marlin's deep, deep shock and pain over Nemo's kidnapping, he invented the subplot to keep his son alive in his mind.

Think about this for a minute: if this fan theory was indeed true, if Nemo indeed didn't exist, the scene where Marlin takes him to school instantly amps up the emotion. Imagine all of the parents and the teachers were in on Marlin's pain, and played along in his world out of the goodness of their tiny fish hearts?

This is definitely one of the best fan theories I've come across on the web, it's so damn sad! But beautiful. I wonder if Walt Disney and his tragic childhood would have approved?

What do you guys think?

Great fan theory or what?!

(Source: imgur, reddit)


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