User:HanTheGene/Reviews

From Autistic characters wiki

These are some of my reviews.

Do note that these are just my personal thoughts and are heavily informed by my own experience and by my general tastes in terms of genre, tone, tropes, etc. A positive review doesn't mean it's perfect piece of media or that I'm not aware of its flaws, and a negative review doesn't mean the piece of media is inherently bad or that other people won't like it.

¿Conoces a Tomás? (Tomás)

Title: ¿Conoces a Tomás? Character(s): Tomás Release year: 2019 Date of review: 13 September 2023

It's a Spanish movie and there were no subtitles, which made it a challenge since I don't speak a lick of Spanish. The body language is one of the most on-point portrayals I've ever seen. They did a lot of research and the director has an autistic brother, so that's presumably why. I'm a bit bummed that many interviews mention the hardships of loved ones of autistic people, but not the struggles of autistic people themselves. No doubt that giving care to an autistic person isn't easy but neither is being autistic. In terms of tone it remains light-hearted throughout and the moments of crisis aren't particularly grave. There is a moment where Tomás slips away and wanders the streets, which I felt wasn't really conveyed with enough gravity (since elopement is a genuine issue and there are many incidents of autistic people getting seriously hurt because they don't understand the danger of situations like traffic or bodies of water). But as said, I have to base that judgement solely on the characters' body language and tone of voice since I couldn't understand what they were saying. Tad cliché in terms of "chaotic person who doesn't understand autism suddenly has to deal with an autistic person", but as far as I can ascertain an overall inoffensive movie with a message of inclusion and acceptance.

A Challenge for Brittany (Parker)

Title: A Challenge for Brittany Character(s): Parker Release year: 1999 Date of review: 18 September 2023

Between being a book for middle schoolers and based around the Mormon church, this definitely isn't aimed at my demographic. Very much a book for the allistic reader, focuses a lot on the main character's feelings about interacting with an autistic person. There's not really any insight into Parker himself. Some of the information about autism is really weird (like suggesting that you constantly change the routine so the autistic person doesn't get a chance to become attached to a specific routine) and I can't tell if 1999 was just like that or if that was bad advice even for that era.

Yaan (Nawaz Iqbal)

Title: Yaan Character(s): Nawaz Iqbal Release year: 2014 Date of review: 26 September 2023

Iqbal has quite a minor role, not really worth the 2.5 hours if you're only looking for the autism representation. He doesn't really have a personality and anything happening to him only serves to further the main character's plot. I'm not super into action flicks so the movie as a whole didn't really do it for me either. The portrayal of the fictional Muslim country felt kind of xenophobic but I don't know enough about the status of Muslims in India to really comment on that.

The Regulators (Seth Garin)

Title: The Regulators Character(s): Seth Garin Release year: 1996 Date of review: 7 October 2023

Normally I'm quite a fan of King's work, but this one was unexpectedly difficult to sit through. The beginning felt messy and the story only really starts to pick up pace about halfway through. After that it was a breeze though, which was also the point where Seth (and Audrey) started to become the focal point. As for autism specifically...I'm not a huge fan of the Magical Autism trope. I worried he was going down the "evil scary autistic kid" road, but luckily it was made clear that Seth and the demon that possess him are separate entities. On the other hand, there is the "intact mind" thing where Seth is a completely normal boy in his inner world (for example when he communicates telepathically with Audrey, he is fully verbal). Not the worst but very much a product of its time.

Clay (Tommy McGee)

Title: Clay Character(s): Tommy McGee Release year: 2001 Date of review: 8 October 2023

Middle grade novel so I'm not the target audience. Smooth read. I don't really see anything overtly wrong with it, but the autism described in this novel is very different from my own so I'm not really qualified to comment on that. Not as "allistic gaze" centered as I thought it would have been, despite the story being told from the perspective of Tommy's sister.

The Coffin Trail (Barrie Gilpin)

Title: The Coffin Trail Character(s): Barrie Gilpin Release year: 2004 Date of review: 2 November 2023

Not a terrible thriller I suppose. Different twist on the "autistic suspect trope". Barrie is dead for the entirety of the novel so there's not a whole lot of direct display of his autism.

Final Theory (Michael Gupta)

Title:Final Theory Character(s): Michael Gupta Release year: 2008 Date of review: 6 November 2023

Overall quite a fun thriller novel. Lots of hijinks, barely believable escapades and saved-at-the-last-moment stuff, but you gotta suspend your disbelief to have some fun, eh? Very gripping, I had trouble putting it down. As for the autism....well. Michael is mostly a passive character, getting dragged around by the main characters. He's a savant because this was written in 2008 so of course he was. At some points his grandfather explains some stuff about autism which is not necessarily false, but is also not the whole truth—generalizations. From a 2023 perspective, it feels incredibly dated—but even in 2008, it wasn't new. Mercury Rising comes to mind in terms of "people dragging around autistic kid while shooting and shit", as well as Philip K. Dick's A World of Talent in terms of "disabled savant at the center of a bigger plot". Word has it that Michael has a bit more of an active role in the sequel, which I'm excited for.

The Omega Theory (Michael Gupta)

Title: The Omega Theory Character(s): Michael Gupta Release year: 2011 Date of review: 15 November 2023

A bit of the same as the previous. I know I said "you gotta suspend your disbelief to have some fun" but that gets tiring after a while. It's fun, but not in too large doses. Michael does play a more active role, there are many scenes from his POV as well. Nothing really stands out—more of the same savant stuff as the previous novel. In hindsight the MC also seems like a bit of a Gary Stu/self-insert for the author (academic saves the world! his wife is super cool! he can outsmart the FBI and other crazy factions!). Part of me wants to ascribe the unconditional acceptance of Michael and his autism to that (look how cool my MC is, look how accepting he is!) but I don't want to be cynical about it, so I'm not going to be.

Keys to the Heart (Jayjay Hermano)

Title: Keys to the Heart Character(s): Jayjay Hermano Release year: 2023 Date of review: 24 November 2023

Remake of the 2018 South Korean movie, which I also wasn't too happy about. It's barely original anymore: estranged and cynical family member becomes soft after being forced to take care of an autistic person. Not saying it's always bad, I really liked Move to Heaven, but you gotta bring something more to the table than just that. There's also a bit of faux main character syndrome: the majority of the movie is actually about Joma and Sylvia. Jayjay mostly gets dragged around and has "moments" that allow Joma and Sylvia to have a development. One scene I found super icky was when Jayjay had to go to the toilet in public, and there's nothing nearby so he defecates behind a car, which then rides away and leaves him visible for everyone to point and gawk at. It just feels super insensitive to play toilet issues for laughs like that. Overall not a movie I enjoyed.

Hors Normes (Joseph)

Title: Hors Normes Character(s): Joseph Release year: 2019 Date of review: 6 December 2023

Quite liked it. The focus is more on the caregivers than the autistic people though. It's an honest look at the absolutely dismal state of support for autistic people who are rejected by institutions, but it is not despairing. Based on a true story too.

When Do We Eat? (Lionel Stuckman)

Title: When Do We Eat? Character(s): Lionel Stuckman Release year: 2005 Date of review: 15 December 2023

Okay so this strictly speaking isn't a movie with an autistic character, given that the character in question merely pretends to be autistic—I think? The character says he was late with talking, and that he seemed especially "off" compared to his family members, who are all big talkers. Plus the doctors and his family just wanted to find something wrong. Then, when he noticed that autism means his parents would not criticize him and he could stop fights by feigning an "episode", he kept up the charade. It feels kinda icky.

Eye Contact (Adam)

Title:Eye Contact Character(s): Adam Release year: 2006 Date of review: 11 January 2024

The "autistic kid witnessed something but can't tell us what" thing is a common trope, not sure if it was already overdone in 2006. Adam's autism is quite unlike my own so I can't comment on how accurate it is or anything. There were a couple of scenes from Adam's perspective too, the rest was from the perspective of other characters. Some things the mother says about autism did sound kind of iffy though, like that a specific diet helped with his autism (and that stopping the diet makes things worse again).

Stranger in Paradise (Randall Nowan)

Title: Stranger in Paradise Character(s): Randall Nowan Release year: 1974 Date of review: 19 January 2024

As with other old sci-fi stories, there is some amazing potential in this story if it were not for the horrible ideas and imagery surrounding autism. They're not inaccurate for the timeframe, just terribly outdated to a modern audience. Same as Ursula K. Le Guin's Vaster than Empires and More Slow, there is something there I think has the potential to resonate with many autistic people in terms of a sort of detachment from other people, whether that be in terms of a robot like Stranger in Paradise or plants like Vaster than Empires. There is absolutely an angle of dehumanization in these stories, one that specifically targets autistic people with high support needs (if only for the reason that that was the only type of autism known at the time)—we mustn't forget that in discussing these stories. Still, there is a decently long tradition of autistic people relating to characters that are robots, aliens, or otherwise not human (such as Data from Star Trek). I think that can be a worthwhile angle to approach these stories from.

Into the Drowning Deep (Olivia Sanderson)

Title: Into the Drowning Deep Character(s): Olivia Sanderson Release year: 2017 Date of review: 3 February 2024

I really, really disliked this author's writing style. I read both Into the Drowning Deep (ITDD) and the prequel Rolling in the Deep (which is not mandatory but I am a completionist). I seriously considered quitting about 100 pages into ITDD, which is a shame because the premise is genuinely interesting (bio-horror about mermaids). Monologues that are ill-placed and forced, making them sound preachy. Writing that tries to be snappy and profound but just falls flat. Plot points that go nowhere. The dialogue feels unnatural. The author is autistic and I have seen people say that her writing style is the way it is because of her autism, which I think sounds plausible (if only for the reason that it reminds me way too much of the way I try to write fiction). At the same time, I don't think we're doing autistic authors a favor by sweeping away all criticism under the guise of "it's because they're autistic". Another interesting note about the author's autism is that she was diagnosed with autism 3 years after ITDD came out (and she did not publicly identify as autistic at the time either). In discussions around whether allistic people can write or portray autistic characters, I have raised the point that we never discuss what it means when someone is diagnosed with autism after portraying an autistic character. But that's a discussion for another time. Anyways. Because I didn't like the writing style, I rushed through the novel and didn't take a whole lot of notes on the autistic character. I guess it's a fine character overall, goes off the beaten path in a lot of ways (an adult woman with a fairly social job, she's queer, it's a horror novel and she's not a creepy little kid). At the same time, I was a little bit disappointed that the character wasn't...more distinctly autistic? Going into the novel I knew there was an autistic character, but I didn't realize which one it was until they revealed Olivia's autism halfway about halfway through. Overall it was a weird experience. I'm used to reading well-written novels with bad autistic characters, not poorly-written novels with good autistic characters (yes this bad/good distinction is reductive, but I hope y'all can see what I'm getting at). It's a shame her publisher isn't letting her write a sequel though. (The author did say something on Twitter along the lines of "I am literally not allowed to kill the only autistic lesbian lead in mainstream SF" which sat really wrong with me because I refuse to believe that Olivia is the only autistic lesbian lead in mainstream SF. For one, there's Aster in An Unkindness of Ghosts.

All the Little Bird-Hearts Sunday Forrester)

Title: All the Little Bird-Hearts Character(s): Sunday Forrester Release year: 2023 Date of review: 5 February 2024

Go read this, it's amazing.

1000 - ഒരു നോട്ട് പറഞ്ഞ കഥ (Jikku)

Title: 1000 - ഒരു നോട്ട് പറഞ്ഞ കഥ (1000 - A Story Told by One Note) Character(s): Jikku Release year: 2015 Date of review: 1 March 2024

It's been a couple of months since I watched this, just got around to adding the page today. The English subtitles are not very clear, though I don't know if it's just because it's a dialect of English I don't know very well, or if the translation genuinely sucks. Regardless, it was difficult to follow along. The autistic character is kinda meh, I guess? Again, difficult to tel what was going on. Nothing about the character really particularly stood out to me. He doesn't get a whole lot of screen time. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for autistic character recommendations.

All My Stripes (Zane)

Title:All My Stripes Character(s): Zane Release year:2015 Date of review: 11 March 2024

Another picture book that I am clearly not the target audience of. I really thought there would be a twist at the end where they show that all the "stripes" that the mother is praising are actually part of the autism stripe. A lot of criticisms also point this out, that the traits Zane's mom praises can all be reasonably linked back to his autism. I don't really know what to think of the story overall. The ending is positive, I suppose: Zane loves every stripe that makes him who he is, including the autism stripe, though he concludes that the autism stripe is also just a small part of who he is. I genuinely don't know how to feel about this messaging. It's like, all the negative experiences Zane has are linked back to his autism stripe, and all his positive traits are different stripes. Obviously autism isn't rainbows and sunshine all day, but the underlying implications of the way this book presents things is that autism is a uniformly negative experience and that any positive traits a person has are separate from it.

The Uninvited (Hesketh Lock)

Title:The Uninvited Character(s): Hesketh Lock Release year: 2012 Date of review: 26 March 2024

Quite liked this one. I think this novel really pulled off the difficult balance between having the character be consistently autistic, without laying it on too thick. With "consistently autistic" I mean that in every scene, you can sense the autism (as opposed to what some writers do, which is having specific "autism moments"). Idk if that makes sense, but that's the type of framing I like.

Mater amatísima (Juan)

Title:Mater amatísima' Character(s): Juan Release year: 1980 Date of review: 14 April 2024

It's very slow burn, lots of long shots with little dialogue. The story itself couldn't really captivate me for some reason. The mom kills the autistic kid at the end of the movie while a scene from Disney's Pinocchio plays—the one where he turns into a real boy. Not sure what the implications of that are but it doesn't feel good.