05 October 2019 821 Views

Greta! The Power of Image! And the SUPER-Power..of Autism on Film..

by James Murphy

Greta Thunberg is Changing the World. But not the One you Were Expecting..

 

 

Greta: a good kid, who works hard and is driven by a refreshingly un-precocious, innocent yet determined worldview. Yes, there has been some stage management, verging on the hysterical. Yes, a LOT of Friday strikers are lacking any purpose or objective outcome in their abandonment of the classroom. And yes, that viral video/ meme about ‘HOW DARE YOU‘ is funny.

What is NOT funny? Personal attacks on Greta, especially by a creepy breed of older man that seem somewhat fixated on her appearance. Dudes: she is SIXTEEN. Go get help.

And I also suspect some jealousy at work: WHY IS THIS GIRL GETTING NOBEL PRIZE chatter? Well, it’s NOT because of her enviro-vision, which may well just burn out.

It is because the girl has reinvented the perception of Asperger syndrome and autism. What was an affliction in some quarters is now universally a ‘super-power’. Great!

Hollywood has much to answer for here. They tended to define a fictional character as autistic and then jump to the ‘therefore a genius’ syllogism.

Rain Man was the start of that trend (everyone raves about Hoffman in that film: TOM CRUISE is just as good, if not better, and deserved an Oscar nod, too?). Mercury Rising followed: ‘how does a nine year old boy crack a top secret government code? He’s AUTISTIC!’. IE: You had to be both super-powered in mathematical skill AND somehow completely off the charts in your social behaviours relative to age.

One could not simply be very clever/charming/competent AND be ‘on the spectrum’. It has taken almost 30 years to undo that muddled perception; which placed both unrealistic expectation and unhelpful, stereotyped generalist behaviour templates onto the incredibly wide scale of ‘autism’. Greta is leading that charge. Thank God for her. And shame on you, anybody, sitting online and calling her nasty names.

I was very surprised to see Jeremy Clarkson joining her critics rather than supporters. Actually, scrap that: I am more surprised that he has a column at all. Even in The Sun. Amazing driver: yep. Tireless supporter of the Armed services: yes, he is. But columnist on anything beyond cars and his lazily inserted picture of whichever hottie he fancies that week..to said column..nah..I’d rather re-watch the HOW DARE YOU speech, because it is more entertaining.

So, we do still have some way to go in this area. People need to understand that a ‘spectrum’ by its nature is both sword and shield. Someone suffering acute dyspraxia is, by extension, impaired in motor skill fulfilment, which, in turn, depletes social speed of progress. But that need not prevent the person steadily, surely and yes, painfully, yet successfully, managing a transition to independence and happiness from the chrysalis of disability.

Do not assume you have either autism or an ‘aspie’, simply because someone says you are ‘on the spectrum’. It’s sword as well as shield and if you are allowed to be defined by that, the burden can outweigh the benefits. Equally, if a diagnosis is genuinely helpful and unavoidable, the help IS out there; but clarifying, securing, developing it and holding onto every moment of whatever kind of progress and joy can be found? It’s still tough.

Did Hollywood aid the prejudice? Sure. It always does, because a simple and visual medium has to simplify even complex conditions. Ergo: clever = autistic = does not function by rules = stereotype = unhelpful. Same way no biopic or prequel or reboot etc ever truly captures time or ageing accurately because that process simply cannot, relatively, be honoured on film. And so it is with ‘the spectrum’. Only the most extreme / fascinating / tangible cases can be contained in a screen story and so, in turn, that becomes a kind of well meaning and initially helpful awareness tool yet ultimately erroneous and counter-productive education for the casual viewer.

Yet Greta’s joy in her mission, and then, in the world becoming aware, not so much of her vision of an environmental Armageddon, as her informed and determined passion, is in itself a MASSIVE step forward. Educating and preparing observers in the awareness of..well, the awareness of how wide  ‘the spectrum’ can be.

And to be absolutely fair to movie magic, I believe there are indeed a few top flight characters that are indeed on the autistic spectrum. Matter of opinion /debate. But now that we view the condition as key to ‘super-power’ without it’s being solely viewed AS a power..then I think it’s perfectly cool to review some old favourites and diagnose them, afresh! Here we go..

BATMAN: Lives in a strict routine that still finds its definition in one event from his childhood. He is in effect trapped in that world, still and is lashing out at criminals because he cannot communicate his loss, rage and pain. Genius Detective. Top rate athlete. Loner. Defo high functioning Aspie.

INDIANA JONES: Talks in lectures, even when not lecturing. Has no concept of time, responsibility or property unless it serves his particular mission to acquire and defend rare artefacts. Occasionally emotional, inappropriate behaviour because he has no boundaries. Will even kill baddies without any thought of his own basic safety. Refer for review.

MELVIN UDALL: They SAY he has OCD. Nah, this guy is full on autistic. Jack even wanted Dustin’s part in Rain Man. He over-compensated here..and won an Oscar! A MUST SEE: As Good As It Gets, for all its feelgood fun, is also a touching and bittersweet visit to the mind of a man who is so trapped in his own world that it requires the shock of true love and brushes with real crime and mortality to inspire his getting help.

JAMES BOND: Cannot sustain a relationship, except with an outdated notion of patriotic pride. Dalton’s 007 keeps laughing, nervously, to himself. Craig’s take has a trance like ability to shut himself off to pain, as though he has forgotten it’s ok to do so at all, thereby coming across as rather mechanically ruthless in some of his line deliveries even about emotional subject matter.

MARTIN RIGGS: Obsessed with wordplay. Cannot resist winding you up, whether you are a goodie or baddie. Zero concept of consequence.

QUEEN / SENATOR PADME AMIDALA: Beautiful. Brilliant. Benevolent. But can ONLY talk about politics and believes she can save democracy in a one woman mission. Though she does communicate with others and even sets up the Alliance against the new Galactic Empire, her myopic focus on duty blinds her to the impending dangers of Darth Vader.

BLACK WIDOW: LIVES for orders, dies for duty. Has never been truly allowed to develop emotional fulfilment and, consequently, has fixated on a skill set that rivals even the genuinely supernatural power sets among her fellow Avengers. Takes words quite literally: ‘I don’t see how that’s a party’. Seems detached, unfeeling, when in fact, she is just hyper-focused.

DARK PHOENIX: Unlimited, unprecedented, unbeatable power. Cuts her off from the more accessible human self yet also, ironically, thereby helps reveal the qualities that separate the good and civil from the primal /destructive.

SARAH CONNOR: TOTAL Badass! Obsessed with and defined by an urgent need to defend the planet from imminent extinction event. Helped out by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sound familiar? Ah yes..just like..Greta! An absolute star.

And there are many, many more. NOT defined by being on any spectrum but instead, offering us some of the most entertaining and inspirational scenes in movie history. 

WE WISH GRETA EVERY SUCCESS IN HER MISSION. 

For more information on autism click here..



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