This Finding Nemo fan theory gives the Pixar movie a tragic twist

Prepare for this Finding Nemo fan theory to break your heart more than any Pixar movie ever has before, as we dive into a deeper meaning

Nemo and Marlin in Finding Nemo

There’s nothing better than settling down with the family and watching a Pixar movie; you just know you’re in for a sweet story and an array of loveable cartoon characters. Finding Nemo is one of the best animated movies of all time, but there’s actually a really dark and depressing spin on the story that makes it a far more tragic tale than first thought.

The 2000s movie tells the story of Nemo, a little clownfish who lives with his overprotective father, Marlin, among the Great Barrier Reef. When the pair have an argument, Nemo defies his father and swims a little too far, thus embarking on a misadventure that spans the Pacific ocean, the East Australian Current, and a dentist’s fish tank.

Marlin must face his fear of the ocean and venture out from the safety of his anemone home to search for his missing son. Finding Nemo is an inspiring and emotional story centred around familial bonds and embracing the unknown. However, this fan theory on Reddit paints a far more bleak picture for Nemo and his loving father.

At the beginning of the family movie, we learn that Marlin and his wife, Coral, were excitedly awaiting the hatching of their eggs and the start of their family, before their home was attacked by a barracuda. Unfortunately, the attack leaves just Marlin and one egg as the lone survivors.

You might think that’s already heartbreaking enough, but characters dying in the opening act is quite a common occurrence when it comes to Disney movies. Just think of Bambi, a classic Disney story which shows us his mother being shot before we even get to the end of the opening credits, or the more recent hit Up, which contains one of the most upsetting montages in movie history.

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Indeed, animated works from the House of Mouse and its partners have never been afraid to sprinkle a little misery and suffering into their kids movies. But, according to the fan theory in question, the version of the story we think we are watching is actually the happy version, and there’s a significantly more melancholy interpretation hiding under the surface.

The fan theory posits the idea that Nemo never actually survived the barracuda attack and instead died along with his siblings and his mother, leaving Marlin all alone. Essentially, Nemo is just a figment of Marlin’s grief-stricken imagination, and his journey to find Nemo, as it were, is merely his journey through the five stages of grief.

Nemo in the Pixar movie Finding Nemo

Marlin’s fear of the ocean is very much understandable given the traumatic events we see at the start of the film. It makes perfect sense then, that he would be reluctant to let Nemo head off to school, for fear of what might happen to his beloved child. The fan theory suggests this is actually Marlin’s denial, a more metaphysical refusal to let his son go.

The argument Marlin and Nemo have is par for the course in any parent-child relationship. You tell a kid not to do something, and there’s every chance they will go ahead and do it anyway just to piss you off. When Nemo pushes his boundaries, Marlin displays all the characteristics of stage two in the grieving journey, feeling angry that the situation is now out of his control.

Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo

With Nemo missing, Marlin is unwittingly paired up with Dory, a fish suffering from short-term memory loss who joins Marlin on his journey. He would rather not have such a troublesome and relentlessly optimistic companion, but Marlin puts up with Dory all the same. This is Marlin experiencing the bargaining phase of his grieving process according to the theory, a decision he makes peace with in order to facilitate the recovery of his son.

Things have to get a lot worse before they get better, though, and next up in this theory’s explanation is the moment of despair for Marlin when he sees Nemo flushed down the drain. This is the point where Marlin truly begins to acknowledge he may never see his son again, and though incredibly painful, it’s a crucial moment in his steps to overcoming his grief.

Nemo and the Tank Gang in Finding Nemo

Of course, in the happy land of this feel-good movie, Nemo returns to his father and they live harmoniously among the reef once more. Naturally, as part of any good character development, Marlin learns to give his son a little more freedom. However, this could actually signify the fact that Marlin has reached the stage of acceptance, where he is now willing to let go and move on from his grief.

Throughout Finding Nemo, all the supporting characters Marlin meets on his journey keep telling him to “let go” of his son, and while we assume they mean he simply needs to lighten up a little, with this theory in mind, their words take on a greater meaning. The theory also highlights the fact that Marlin takes a trip to the ‘land down under’, which could very easily represent the underworld.

As for Nemo’s journey, you may be wondering how he manages to interact with the other fish who form the Tank Gang in the dentist’s office? Well, we personally think they could all be in some sort of aquatic purgatory, and their attempts to escape the tank is their way of determining their path in the afterlife.

Nemo and Marlin in Finding Nemo

If you need more convincing, look up what the word Nemo means in Latin, we’ll wait. Okay, we got impatient so here’s the answer: it means ‘nobody’. So, the clues were there all along. Nemo was never born, he is nobody, and Marlin is all alone suffering through this immense pain. Poor Marlin.

For more fan theories, check out our piece on the horrifying backstory of Peppa Pig or how the Fast and Furious movies are linked to the Transformers. Or, dive into our guide to new movies like the Aquaman 2 release date or Avatar 3 release date for more underwater fun.