Finding Nemo was an emotional rollercoaster through the ocean, as Marlin the bereaved clownfish faced his many fears while searching for his son.
Somewhat heart-warmingly, a large focus of the film was about how things which may seem scary are actually kind of fun.
Enormous Shark? He’s battling with his taste for fish flesh… and he has daddy issues! Painfully stingy jellyfish? Excellent makeshift trampolines!
Throughout his journey, anxious Marlin gets swallowed by a whale and flies into a dentist’s surgery via the beak of a seagull. And he’s all the stronger and happier for it come the closing credits.
However, what if Finding Nemo wasn’t about facing your fears? What if Finding Nemo was the fear?
For many of us, Finding Nemo was our first introduction to the clownfish.
We believed them to be loveable, timid creatures characterised by determination and strong family loyalties, plagued by the pressure to live up to the humour and clownishness their name promises.
However, what if I told you the real-life Marlin and Nemo would be living the sort of grim, sordid home life capable of making the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family blush?
We all cried ourselves into hysterics when Marlin’s literal fish wife Coral met a sticky end along with most of their unhatched children.
Only Nemo survives – although he is left with a damaged fin. Marlin heroically rises to the challenge, raising his son despite his own emotional scars.
According to The Fisheries Blog, this bittersweet origin story is nothing but seagull poop.
In fact – scientifically speaking – in the event of Coral’s death, Marlin would have simply changed sex and Nemo would eventually have to mate with his own father-turned-mother.
According to The Fisheries Blog, parenting is much more complicated in the coral reef. All clownfish are born hermaphrodites, in possession of both testicular tissue and ovarian tissue.
The sex of the clownfish all depends on which tissue is encouraged to grow. This is somewhat dependent on social experience factors.
Interestingly, the female clownfish is dominant so if they were to become the lunch of a much bigger fish, their male mate would become female to take their place.
In stands to reason Marlin’s real adventure would involve his personal journey to become Marline after Coral’s brutal murder.
According to The Fisheries Blog, there is no reason why this slice of clownfish life couldn’t have been shown:
As you can see, the first minute of Finding Nemo, outside of the talking fish part, is the only biologically accurate part of the movie.
Considering that they demonstrate reproduction and the killing of the mother in the first minute of the movie, how did they decide that a natural sex change is outside the bubble of viewable material?
Fish reproduction is complicated, and it is especially complicated in cases like the clownfish where species are sequential hermaphrodites.
These fish are born as hermaphrodites that develop as one gender before changing to the other gender at some point in their life.
So far, so good, though not exactly out of the Disney playbook. As we all know, Marlin is a dedicated dad who would be totally up for a sex change if expected of him. However, things are about to get dark…
Okay, *deep breath*. So all clownfish colonies consist of one dominant male and one dominant female.
In our scientifically accurate version of events, Marlin is now the dominant female, which leaves room for a dominant male waiting in the wings. Enter Nemo…
So basically, Nemo is destined to grow up to become top-dog man clownfish of the colony and mate with his own father/mother in a bid to repopulate the clownfish population.
Maybe not one from the Disney playbook.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.