Friday, January 13, 2012

Possible Asperger's in the Movies

My husband is a member of The Academy. No, not Star Fleet Academy, but The Academy that puts on the Oscars and decides what the best movie of the year is. That means we're crazy busy from early November until early February watching movies. We probably watch about 5 movies a week, most weeks. When we first received the screeners, I remember thinking, "Awesome!" However, it really is a lot of work and not as much fun as I thought it would be. Oh, the responsibility.

Anyway, I saw a couple of good movies this week that had main characters who had social skills problems. Both movies are based on books. Ironically, one movie avoided using the term Asperger's, while I understand the book mentions it as a possibility. The other movie suggested the character might have Asperger's while the book the movie is based on does not.

The first movie was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I loved this movie! The main character, Lisbeth Salander, is anti-social. She doesn't appear to have many (if any) friends. In the scene that introduces her, we see her at a business meeting, having to answer questions about work she's done. She fails to give eye contact, is frank about not wanting to be at the meeting, and appears to say whatever is on her mind. Asperger's is never mentioned during the movie, but I understand that the male lead in the novel speculates that Lisbeth might have Asperger's.

Lisbeth did not appear to have Asperger's in the movie. Her anti-social behavior seems to stem from her abusive childhood, in my opinion. I just didn't see much about her that was spectrummy, other than that first scene.

The other movie, Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, tells the story of a nine-year old boy, Oskar Schell, who is on a quest to get information. Oskar is incredibly smart. He also has a ton of sensory issues. I've heard that the book doesn't mention the possibility of Oskar having Asperger's, but the movie does briefly touch on it. Oskar mentions that he was assessed for Asperger's, but the results were inconclusive.

In addition to Oskar's sensory issues, he had a hard time regulating his emotions and would lash out inappropriately. He also has an extremely hard time talking with other people. The horrible events of what his character had been through could explain his issues worsening, but he did seem to be on the spectrum, albeit extremely high on the spectrum. I'm curious if the movie played up his quirkiness to make the character more interesting (or hip even).

I enjoyed both movies a lot and want to read the novels they are were adapted from.

Have you seen any movies you like this winter season?


  1. I don't get to watch as many movies as I used to or would like to. Hopefully we'll get back in that groove eventually.

    Funny that you should metion this topic, though, because I caught an old movie on cable earlier this week that was made long before the general public was much acquainted with the term Asperger's or with spectrum disorders, but I couldn't stop thinking that the diagnosis totally explained the male lead.

    I get up at 6am with my daughter, whose middle school bus arrives at 6:50. We usually turn on a random movie on Starz while she eats her breakfast and while we watch for her bus. This week, one of the movies we caught was one I'd never seen ... The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbara Streisand and Jeff Bridges. (Later, when I googled it, I was shocked to learn that it was out the same year as The English Patient ... which I didn't realize was that old !! Loved that movie at the time -- time flies!! Yet I would have pegged the Streisand flick as being much older. Time perceptions are so weird.)

    Anyway, the movie is really terrible and it only gets worse and worse as it goes on. But something about it (maybe the cast?) kept me watching. That and because I was wondering if they would acknowledge the lead's condition -- I didn't think so, but I was fascinated that you could make an Aspie movie and NOT know about it !! He so fit the bill in some ways. The wiki page doesn't mention anything to that effect either, so as far as one can tell, it was in no way a factor in the conception of this weird film.

    The premise is this extremely attractive yet utterly awkward, pragmatic-skill-&-theory-of-mind (to some degree) lacking math professor ... who has had bad experiences with emotional entanglements with 'needy', unpredictable, volatile women (you infer) ... and who, as a result, comes to the conclusion that sex is why these relationships get so complicated (can't seem to understand his experiences any way but by relentless intellectualizing). So he very logically and coldly persues a candidate to share an intellectual-bond-only marriage with him.

    In my mind, the only way this premise was plausible was if the guy was an Aspie (and perhaps the author modeled the character unwittingly on just such a profile, even though the condition was mostly unnamed and unrecognized in popular culture at that time).

    The first half of the film is like ... a (hollywood, shallow) version of an Aspie marriage tale. The second half devolves into total nonsense ... maybe it played better 16 years ago? ... Gosh, I'm getting really old :0

    Anyway ... he admires Streisand's rapport with her students, her ability to connect and draw them into her lectures (she's an anthopology or psychology prof?). And she tries to tutor him in how to be more compelling, more engaging (and it's all but lost on him the way humor was lost on Mr. Spock). And he doesn't seem to have any capacity to consider this unconventional arrangement from her point of view. She explains baseball to him; he doesn't quite fall for it, but enjoys applying math principles to the motion of the ball ....

    The movie tries to say profound things about ... ?? appearances ... empowerment??? ... men are from Mars ... I don't know. It's a mess. It's interesting that ... through the lens of those times ... HE is not the disadvantaged one (because he is attractive) -- SHE is. Even though she is smart and kind (because she is an ugly duckling). But there is a remake movie in there somewhere about an Aspie/neurotypical marriage. They were onto something; they just couldn't see what it was.


  2. I just watched "The Mirror has two Faces" and definitely think that Jeff Bridges' character has Asperger's. I am not sure about the female lead.