Inspired by this question- when is the first time you saw your disability in the media? #FirstTimeISawMe
Last summer, my family and I decided to go see the movie Finding Dory. We were visiting a medical center, and it had been a pretty discouraging trip, so we were hoping the movie would take our mind off of things (read more about going to movie theaters with low vision here). What we didn’t expect was to encounter a character that was exactly like me…well, if I was a whale shark.
Finding Dory is the story of how Dory, a blue tang with short term memory loss, goes on a journey to be reunited with her parents. While searching for her parents, she makes many new friends along the way, one of them being Destiny, a whale shark who lives in captivity due to poor eyesight. Dory and Destiny were friends when they were younger, and communicated through the pipes in their respective aquariums. It is unknown if Dory knew Destiny had poor eyesight prior to them meeting face-to-face. However, Dory never makes fun of Destiny’s poor eyesight, and none of the other characters do either. It seems normal to them- likely because whale sharks in the wild also have poor eyesight.
Destiny frequently bumps into walls and glass, something I can heavily relate to, having limited peripheral vision and no depth perception. In order to help her navigate, she has a friend named Bailey, a beluga whale, who reminds me of my many friends who act as my human guides (read more about human guides here). Bailey tries to warn Destiny of obstacles, though he doesn’t always prevent her from swimming into them. The movie portrays Destiny swimming into obstacles in a comical way, though my family and I were probably laughing the loudest out of anyone in the theater because it was so relatable. It’s worth noting I am not one to normally get offended over comedic portrayals of low vision and blindness.
I really appreciated that Disney/Pixar created a character that could still stand on their own, even if their disability was removed. Too many times, characters in media are portrayed as simply a disability, and are a static character without it. Destiny helps Dory tremendously by showing her kindness, and helps her to achieve her goals throughout the movie. She’s not just swimming into walls over and over again- she’s keeping up with Dory and is eager to help. I also appreciated that characters used words like “see” and “look,” and that these words weren’t avoided because of Destiny’s eyesight- read more on why these words aren’t offensive here.
I wish Destiny had appeared in Finding Nemo, because she is the exact character I needed when I was younger. This is one of the first characters I ever encountered with low vision, not blindness, so I was able to easily see myself in her- and so could many of my friends, as they all texted me after they saw the movie saying “loved you in Finding Dory.” When I was asked what Disney character I related to the most, I was able to answer without hesitation that it was Destiny, because of her positive attitude, even with her terrible eyesight. I’d never seen another character I could relate so much to.
So, thank you Disney/Pixar, for allowing me to see a character just like myself on the big screen of a movie theater, something I’d been waiting for, for 19 years. I hope that there continues to be representation of the blindness and low vision community, as well as the disability community as a whole, in future movies, TV shows, books, etc. And if there happens to be a spin-off all about Destiny, I will be the first in line to watch it.