Revisiting ‘Finding Nemo’

Nov 18, 2016 by

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The election is over and progressive Americans are in shock. This wasn’t their expected outcome. Now what?

As a white, straight male I want people to know that I am not a racist, hater, Islamophobic or misogynist. If you were to look at my social media feed, there are lots of ways that people who look like me are trying to say, “I not who you think I am.”

This week my mind drifted back to one of my favorite Pixar movies, Finding Nemo. It tells the story of a fish father’s love for his ever-maturing and adventurous child. One day in a fit of frustration with his father’s overprotective nature, Nemo ventures away from the reef to touch the bottom of a fishing boat. He is captured by a scuba diver and taken away. The rest of the movie tells the story of Marlin (Nemo’s father) and Dory, an unexpected friend, as they search for Nemo.

One of the first characters they meet is Bruce the shark. Marlin and Dory are immediately brought to an AA-type meeting for sharks. The gathering begins with a pledge: “Fish are friends, not food.”

As I have been replaying this scene in my mind, one question keeps surfacing. When a great white shark tells a small fish that he has become a vegetarian (read: I didn’t vote for him), who has to have the faith that the relationship will work out? Bruce can change his convictions at any time and without any warning. What assurances do Marlin and Dory have that Bruce will stick to his new diet?

Since last Tuesday, those of us who are white have been exposed. How do we demonstrate that we aren’t racist? I can no more quit being white than some of my staff can quit being people of color, women or gay. I never asked to be born with the power and privilege that comes to me simply because of the color of my skin. But I still have it. Is it possible that under all my best intentions there are still whiffs of unconscious racism and privilege?

Should I wear a safety pin? Maybe. Will that make you safe? Maybe.

In many ways to be white is much like being Bruce, a great white shark. When we reach out to others asking for forgiveness, seeking reconciliation, and honestly desiring relationship, it is critical to never forget who we are — sharks, people with access to power and privilege.

Just because I reach out to a person of color, a woman or a GLBTQI person with an honest desire to be friends does not immediately mean that I have quit being scary. It is important to never forget that it takes a tremendous amount of faith to look past the teeth of a great white shark and see a potential friend.

Glenn Balzer is the executive director of the DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) Network and attends His Love Fellowship in Denver. He blogs at glennbalzer.com, where this post first appeared.


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  • Dale Welty

    The election is over and Trump non racist Americans continue to rejoice. This was their hopeful outcome. Now what? Pray for Trump/Pence to make necessary changes to make America great again for people of all skin colors. Dale Welty

  • Brad Longenecker

    wow this is a great example of being out of touch with reality

  • Berry Friesen

    “It is critical to never forget who we are — sharks, people with access to power and privilege.”

    What a harsh, vivid and emotionally manipulative image! And how reminiscent of the rhetoric of a particular stream of American Christianity, one that emphasizes how existentially and hopelessly lost we are because of sin.

    Of course, Balzer deploys his image selectively and for a political cause, but I expect there’s nothing new about that. The key question is whether it works: does it bring repentance and life-giving renewal, or only short-term advantage for the one who deploys it?