[WARNING: this post contains tons of spoilers!]
Dory is a fish, and she has a problem. You see, she doesn’t really
have any short-term memory. That means you can have a conversation with
her, but within second she forgets it -- and has the same conversation
again. And again. She forgets so many important things, such as the fact
that sea anemones sting, and she has to be very careful not to get lost.
She’s well loved in her community, but her friends and loved ones
clearly see her as a burden. The constant, repetitive conversations are
annoying. She causes a great deal of annoyance and she requires a fair
bit of looking after to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself -- but
her memory issues lead her astray anyhow.
Dory, voiced by comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, is sweet, happy and very open
about herself. She constantly tells those around her that she has short-term
memory loss. She knows who she is and it doesn’t get her down.
As the film progresses, however, Dory’s perspective begins to shift.
She begins to remember her childhood and her parents, in scenes that are often
super cute. But other memories begin to return as well, mostly centered around her
parents. They struggle to get her socialized; her memory issues clearly
make it hard to make friends. They practice playing with other kids in
a failed attempt to mix it up with the other little fish -- something
she desperately wants to do. They constantly work to bolster her self-esteem.
The image of the forgetful but happy-go-lucky little fish begins to crack.
Finally, Dory has a very sharp and agonizing memory that makes it clear
that more is going on with her parents than their endlessly patient encouragement
-- the burden placed on those around her by her disability is finally
revealed, and she’s devastated. It is a truly painful moment.
In the end, Dory realizes not only that she is loved and accepted by everyone
in her life, but that she has had a powerful positive impact on many folk
she has met. She relates to people in her own unique way, emotionally
connecting even with a grouchy, misanthropic acquaintance (well, the octopus
equivalent of misanthropic). Most of all, her memory issues means she
lives in the moment and follows her heart -- an example admired by her
family and friends. Dory does, in other words, have her struggles, but
she also shines in her individuality.
In the end, Dory’s disability is not something that holds her back
or makes her a “broken toy” -- rather, it’s something
that does, in words that have become so cliche around the world but in
words that will forever be true, make her special. Educators who work
with kids, including of course private tutors and in-home tutors, have
an intimate understanding of all the exceptionalities and the struggles
faced by the young people who have them. Indeed Tutor Doctor is guided
by the knowledge that one-to-one, tailor-made tutoring can bring immense
benefits to students with exceptionalities.
To sum up: Finding Dory is a super-entertaining (and highly successful)
movie about the adventures of a fish and her pals, but it’s also
a loving portrait of someone with special needs. Our society could use
more such portraits.