Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recent Feature in TV and Movies: Autism

It’s really interesting to see how autism is becoming subject matter in today’s television shows and movies. I think it is a positive step, since most of the population really has no concept of what autism looks like beyond Dustin Hoffmann’s portrayal of Kim Peek in Rain Man.  

Obviously there are more than what I will list here, but these are ones I’d like to highlight:

The Big Bang Theory
I first learned about this show from a professional who worked with teenagers with Aspergers. He was teaching a class about high-functioning forms of autism and I remember him stopping the lecture to tell us about the TV show. He talked about how the character of Sheldon Cooper was the ultimate conglomeration of his past and present clients with Aspergers. He told us a couple of funny anecdotes from the show and how they paralleled some experiences he’s had with his clients. I knew at that moment that I had to check the show out. I’ve been watching it ever since. True to form, it makes for a silly sitcom with a character that all of us autism moms can love.

Temple Grandin
You may recall Claire Danes winning some awards for her role as Temple Grandin. We’re talking Emmy, Screen Actor’s Guild and Golden Globe! I would have to agree that her depiction of Temple was spot on and the movie was incredible. Prior to watching the movie, I saw interviews with Temple and read some of her books. Based upon what I already knew about Temple, it was obvious that Claire spent quite a bit of time to develop her mannerisms in order to accurately represent her. The movie is a must see! I particularly enjoyed how the Director visually showed the sequencing of information through Temple’s mind. It really felt like a window into her thought process, which was very interesting. If you have a child with autism, no matter where they fall on the spectrum, I think watching this movie is time well spent!  

Starring Keifer Sutherland, this is a TV show that is set to air in March. They will have a special preview on January 25th. This drama features a 10-year old boy who is nonverbal and exhibits many traits of autism. He has a way of seeing complex patterns in things around him. The show follows the relationship and attempts at unconventional communication between him and his father. You should really watch the video clip! It looks like it could easily be a movie trailer and it looks really good!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
This movie was just released on January 20th. It stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock as parents of a 9-year old boy who has symptoms of autism. The father dies on 9/11 and the movie documents the journey of the son as he tries to make sense of his father’s death. He focuses on a mysterious key as a clue from his father, launching him on a healing journey of discovery throughout New York. After watching the trailer for this film, it is one I would very much like to see. I haven’t had time to yet, so I welcome any comments from those who have seen it.

These are just a few recent examples of how autism has become a thematic element in Hollywood. I’m glad to see autism coming up as a topic in works besides documentaries, and I look forward to seeing more shows and movies that add to autism awareness.
Have you seen any of these? Which ones did I not mention that I probably should have? Share your favorites in the comments below.   
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