A movie character with some form of amnesia used to be a very popular plot idea in the earlier days of films. During the 1940s, especially, there were numerous movies made where retrograde amnesia wreaked havoc on certain characters not remembering who they were or where they came from. If 1942's "Random Harvest" was the epitome of it then, the culmination was perhaps the most played movie on cable in the 21st century: 1987's "Overboard" with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
Unfortunately, not enough movies have been made about psychogenic amnesia (where one forgets based on psychological stress), or lacunar amnesia. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" seemed to say everything that needs to be said about the latter. But what of the very popular amnesiac regal blue tang fish named Dory from "Finding Nemo" and, in 2015, "Finding Dory?"
Dory's amnesia was used mostly as a comic device in "Nemo." Other than "Overboard" above, comedy isn't the usual path when it comes to exploring amnesia. Nevertheless, it can't really be done as a drama in a Pixar film, even if there could be some interesting explorations of the subject in the "Dory" sequel.
That might prove to be something different considering mental disorders haven't been explored in animation form. It's clear enough at least that Dory didn't have anterograde amnesia, which is the form that wipes out new memories. So with her memories intact of what happened a year earlier in "Nemo", what type of amnesia does she actually have?
Is it possible that Dory's was caused more by psychogenic means than a retrograde amnesia? The retrograde side is what's usually cited as being the condition she had in the original film. Although one reason for the lauding of the sequel's script by Ellen DeGeneres could be because it explores the type of amnesia Dory had and the details to why it happened.
No doubt a fish out of familiar water tale has to have a natural progression of some sort of trauma taking place in the past. Besides, "Finding Nemo" didn't hesitate to show that the life of a fish isn't anywhere near being trouble free. The connection to children potentially being threatened in "Nemo" was ultimately the perfect parallel to the human world, as is mental illness.
And that's obviously the secret ingredient to Pixar scripts being such classics: Showing other worlds having the same concerns and problems as the human world. The sea was one of the most neglected universes recently to explore for those parallels, and you can be sure many more movies will be going back there. Is it a good idea, though, to make fish be so close to human that they deal with an issue of amnesia?
There was already concern after "Nemo" released of children wanting the film's exotic fish for their bedroom fish bowls. We don't really know, though, what goes through the minds of sea life and how many memories or elements of pain they experience. Equating them to the human experience may have been the most brilliant move since the days of "Babe" when what's on (or perhaps off) the mind of any creature other than human is probably more complex than we've ever known.
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