You cannot see how invisible I am to you. Yet.
Dear Up with Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry (and Other Reasonable Neurotypical People),
I want to thank the hosts and all of the people who help to create your television programs for MSNBC each weekend. As someone who is too liberal to comfortably fit into today's Democratic party, I appreciate the fact that you include people who share my political beliefs and interests among your guests. You give a forum to people who are not often represented on television. I am writing to you today to ask you to consider doing the same for people, like me, who have autism and other developmental disabilities.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been writing about how angry and disappointed I am that the producers of the film Bully chose not to disclose to their audience the fact that Tyler Long and Alex Libby, two of the film's most compelling subjects, are on the autism spectrum. After I saw the film, I wrote that I was reminded of the experience that Diane McWhorter had when she saw To Kill a Mockingbird as a girl when it first came out, and realized that she was crying for a black man, and that, because of the prejudices she was raised with, she felt guilty about that. I said that I thought probably there were people who saw the movie and had a similar experience with gay people because of Kelby, another of the film's subjects.
I did not realize when I wrote that that Kelby now identifies as transgender, and that that fact was also kept from audiences. As a gay white man, I really appreciate anything that brings attention to bigotry against gay people, but, as the guests on Melissa Harris-Perry said yesterday, gays and lesbians have much more visibility, and much more political power, than transgender people do. I know that it makes the story more complicated to acknowledge that some people transition from thinking of themselves as gay to realizing they are transgender, but this was a movie. They had time to tell the complicated, messy, accurate stories. They did not have to wipe their subjects' identities away. As glad as I am that people may have their hearts opened to gay people because of the way Kelby's story is told in Bully, I would be much more glad if it opened their hearts to transgender people, both because the need is greater and because that is part of the truth of Kelby's life.
Because I was sad about that lost opportunity, I was especially happy about the MHP discussion around transgender issues. Seeing intelligent transgender people on television, being part of a serious and informed conversation, should not be an unusual event, but it is, and I am very grateful to the show.
Trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
If I wanted to makes the most shamelessly manipulative movie ever, it might involve Tom Hanks, an autistic child, and September 11, 2001. So I'm not that enthused to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which uses that recipe, adds Sandra Bullock, and opens on Christmas.
But it was fun to read what critics said about Thomas Horn's possible aspie character.
David Germain for the AP finds autistic people annoying, especially in movies:
Newcomer Thomas Horn, the 13-year-old star who was cast after the filmmakers saw him on a "Jeopardy!" kids episode, is a mixed bag, holding his own among the adult actors but, through no fault of his own, forced to behave with excessive shrillness much of the time.
That's because his character, Oskar Schell, may or may not have Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism (his medical tests, we're told, were inconclusive). You make allowances in life for people you encounter with autism, but spending two hours with a fictional character possessing autistic qualities can be grating.
Matt talks about filmmaking camp.
This weekend, we're celebrating special interests here on thAutcast. I'm starting with Mathew Ryan Morin, because he made a great video on the subject (here, if you want to check it out) and because his special interest in filmmaking has created so much great content for this site.
Matt recently attended New York Film Academy's filmmaking camp. The video above describes what the experience was like for him.
In Citizen Kane, Orson Welles turned ordinary filmmaking on its side-- literally.
What appealed to me most in David Fincher's film The Social Network was the extent to which the movie about Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg seemed to be an homage to Orson Welles's masterpiece about newspaper billionaire William Randolph Hearst. I've already written about my disgust with Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's need to make Zuckerberg "smaller than life" in direct contrast to Welles' ability to create a true giant of a man in Citizen Kane. But I'll admit that the movie is as clever a riff on what many consider the greatest film of all time as Brian da Palma's Dressed to Kill is on Psycho. And just as watching Angie Dickinson die in that movie always makes me want to watch Alfred Hitchcock's shower scene, my primary thought when I left The Social Network was I want to see Citizen Kane.
It took me until a couple of weeks ago to actually convince Max to Netflix it and sit down and watch it with me. Of course, he loved it when he did. I don't think it's the best movie ever made, but I do think it's one of the most technically brilliant and fascinating. Now Max is annoyed with me because I held on to the DVD for too long, but I could watch Citizen Kane a dozen more times, just to learn about visual storytelling. It's the only movie that I think surpasses the first two Disney features for that.
Given my autism, it is inevitable that I would speak of Citizen Kane immediately in terms of one of my special interests-- the obsessions and areas of expertise that make up much of the safe territory in the world of someone on the spectrum-- in this case, Disney feature animation from before 1960. And since autism itself is now my most urgent special interest, it's completely unsurprising that I should see it everywhere I look.
Even in Citizen Kane.
I stopped writing about media that did not have any direct relationship to autism a few months ago because I did not want to bore people who came here for general autism coverage with my own special interests. I think I now have a volume of material on the site that allows for an occasional post that is more tangential. I've brought back my "Autistic Critic" feature to allow me to write about three sorts of media: those that relate directly to autism, like John Elder Robison's new book Be Different; those that include characters and situations of general interest to people on the autism spectrum, like Abed on Community; and those that I think can be revealingly examined from an autistic point of view, like Citizen Kane.
I'm not saying that Orson Welles intended to create a portrait of a man with Asperger's syndrome in Charles Foster Kane or that Citizen Kane was meant in any way to be an autistic movie. I am saying that the inner world of someone with autism is difficult to see; Citizen Kane is easy to see. If I can use it, or any other movie or book, to help people understand what autism is like for me, then maybe I can open a window into a more general autistic experience.
Or maybe I'm just indulging myself by rambling on about one my special interests. Won't you indulge me, too, by reading?
Yes, people with Asperger's syndrome fall in love, and no, it isn't like the movies. But we deserve to see movies that show people like us, in situations as real and as unreal as the one ones that neurotypical people get to see every day. Neither one of these love stories about people with AS is perfect, but I enjoyed and saw myself in them both.
Adam is the easier to watch of the two, a "meet-cute" fantasy about a young man with Aspergers who watches his world crumble after his father's death, but finds love with a beautiful NT woman. High Dancy and Rose Byrne are compelling and gorgeous as the lovers, who find obstacles both in his AS and and in her immaturity. I cared very much about Adam, and this movie made me remember both happy and sad situations in my own life in a way that was overwhelming at points.
Mozart and the Whale is based on a true story, but it's not necessarily more realistic. Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell both play people with Aspergers, and give performances that are both effective and cringe-inducing. This is a story in which autism is a much more substantial obstacle, and I both appreciated that and was embarrassed by some of the characters' behavior. I actually had to stop watching in the middle of this movie and return to it later because some of the emotions it brought up for me were very intense. But ultimately, I did enjoy it, and I would recommend it, too.