Every summer there’s at least one big American blockbuster film that people can’t wait to open at the cinema, sometimes it’s a big loud action film and other times an animated film for children. This year the film every child wants to see is Finding Dory, the long awaited sequel to the smash hit Finding Nemo.
Along with the build up to the film over the past month, you’ll have seen warnings on your social media pages about taking some children to see it; particularly adopted or fostered children. My friend’s know I’m a foster carer so not only have I seen the warnings on my scrolling news feed, but concerned friends have also sent warnings to me. As it opened this week, my fostering agency sent out a letter about their concerns; so what’s the problem?
In my eyes, and in the opinion of professionals working with children, there are two problems. Finding Dory is about a lost fish and, unlike Finding Nemo who was lost during an attack on his home, this time it’s Dory’s fault as she’s so forgetful. A common theme that children in care struggle with is that somehow it’s their fault they’ve been taken away from Mummy or Daddy. This applies not just to younger children who may not understand what’s happening around them, but to older children and teenagers too. M, at 15, still occasionally refers to incidents in her life that she feels lead to her being taken into care and still has trouble accepting they are not her fault, let alone 9 year old J who firmly believes what he has been told by his birth family, that he’s responsible.
The other concern about this film, and this is a big one, is that Dory’s parents have never given up trying to find her and she is always on their minds. Regardless of the circumstances (except death of a parent or care giver) of a child going into care, even if the child realises that the situation at home isn’t perfect, they nearly all hold on to the fantasy that their Mum or Dad is fighting for them and wants them back. Finding Dory taps into this common fantasy and will allow the feelings of hope of being found and returned the child has usually hidden to bubble up and have validity.
Children from a secure background, living in what we consider to be the standard identity of a ‘normal’ family set up with Mum and Dad will be able to live in this ‘what if’ fantasy for the duration of the film, secure in the knowledge that they’ll hold onto Mummy’s hand on the way out and have dinner later around the table as normal. Of course, some adopted or fostered children may be able to see Finding Dory without the background of their situation putting a damaging filter on their experience, and individual carers or adoptive parents will judge their own situation to the suitability of the film. Luckily for me, M has no interest as it’s a ‘kids film’ and she’s waiting for the launch of Suicide Squad next week, but J is asking on a daily basis if we can go. The problem is not just about whether it’s suitable or not, but how you say no to a child when every one of his school friends are talking about it. So far, I’ve managed to put him off with trips to skate parks, a trip to the Natural History Museum and the promise of a tennis taster day. How long I’ll be able to hold him off will be another matter, and should I? All his friends have either watched it or are planning to, and do I want him to be different and singled out? I’m still debating…
Thank you to Shân Dobinson at Trinity Training – www.trinitytraining.co.uk