Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding Nemo's Resurrection

I'm planning a Sunday evening series for the next few months called "Jesus at the Movies"... so I've been spending a lot of time standing in front of my movie wall. I've ripped a bunch of clips from my collection, ready to start some good theological conversation. But I missed one. A parishioner asked me about the movies, listened to a few that I'd chosen, and then started talking about Finding Nemo. And he's right...FINDING NEMO!

Remember the scene where Marlin (Nemo's dad, played by Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) are trapped in the belly of the whale? Aside from the obvious Jonah parallels, there is a lot of good stuff goin' on in that whale's belly. First of all, Marlin tries to get out of the whale's mouth by pushing through the baleen plates (the screen-like stuff they have instead of teeth). See, he's trying by his own effort. He can't do it. He fails. His own effort fails him.

The water begins to drain from the whale's mouth, and neither Marlin nor Dory know what is going on. Dory, who "speaks whale," tells Marlin that the whale is asking them to "go to the back of the throat." Marlin, a notorious worry-wart, says, "Of COURSE he wants us to go to the back of the throat...he wants to EAT us!" Suddenly, Marlin and Dory find themselves hanging on to taste buds on the whale's tongue, with no water in the whale's mouth at all.

The whale makes a noise, Dory (who, remember, speaks whale) says, "Okay," and lets go. Marlon refuses to, thinking he'll be eaten...but Dory tells him that it's time...time to let go. Of course, this is a story point: Marlin has to realize that he's been holding on too tightly to his son. He has to realize that he can't protect Nemo from life. But the Christian parallels are actually pretty stunning.

Marlin, by his own effort, fails to escape from the whale's mouth. In the end, if he holds on to the taste bud, he'll die. There's no water in the whale's mouth. But Marlin THINKS that he has to hold on to live. The very thing he thinks is keeping him alive is killing him. He must let go, succumbing to "certain death" in order to be blown out of the whale's blow-whole, his life saved. We try to save ourselves by our own efforts. We try to "be all we can be." We can't. We keep trying, we hold on. This holding on, the thing that we think is saving us, is actually killing us. It is keeping us from our Savior. Letting go, giving up, and succumbing to certain death is the only way we can live.

If Finding Nemo supports the necessity of death and resurrection, who are we to argue?


  1. (Sigh) I'm transported back to the moment when I first watched this scene. It was, and is, very moving because it touches on this very human tendency we have to keep holding on (to all sorts of things that are destroying us). It always hits me hard to be reminded of the relief there is in letting go. Scary, full of uncertainty, but ultimately it's one big redeeming exhale.

  2. I'm going through a divorce...well, separation (he left) and struggling immensley. It was sometimes an abusive (verbally) marriage, but that doesn't make it any easier to cope with. So this morning I felt like Nemo's dad holding on and just needing to let go. For some reason, I remembered "tastebuds" but I just wanted to make sure that's what they were really holding on to, so naturally...I googled. This is the article that popped up. It seems what I was feeling brought me right back around to God. Thank you for writing this. It's what I feel now, but I know that it means so much more.


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