[Continued from Asperger’s and Creativity Part 1]
A number of movies and TV shows have characters who show characteristics associated with autism – with varying degrees of accuracy, according to critics – including “Touch,” “Parenthood,” physicist Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” and forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan on “Bones.”
The photo is actor Thomas Horn in the powerful movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as Oskar, a “nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist who searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001” [imdb.com].
The photo is from the article “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Familiar” by Beth Arky, (Child Mind Institute), who noted “Autism advocates embrace the movie, and slam critics who disparage the hero.”
Arky wrote, “So what does Oskar do to elicit such rancor? To put it simply, spectrum-y things: He covers his ears to block out the noise of screeching subways and loud planes. He is always talking about what matters to him, whether we’re hearing his racing thoughts as narrative or out loud. He has trouble with social interactions.”
She adds, “When he believes a key found in an envelope with the name Black written on it will lead him to some concrete answers as to his father’s incomprehensible death, he sets off on an elaborate quest to find all the Blacks in New York City patterned on the ‘expeditions’ his father created for him…He becomes so single-minded, no one and nothing—not even his disabling phobias—will deter him. And when he’s unable to express his torment in any other way, he rages at both people and things around him and, in some of the most heartbreaking scenes, himself.”
[Another article on this topic is “How TV shows try (or choose not) to depict Asperger’s syndrome” by Alan Sepinwall, The Star-Ledger.]
One of the TV series that re-ignited my interest in exploring the qualities of people with Asperger’s syndrome, especially those characteristics that can enhance creative problem-solving, is the crime drama “The Bridge” with Diane Kruger as El Paso police detective Sonya Cross.
Kruger said the Asperger element of her character “is really what drew me initially also to the project, because, yes, she has this condition, and there are so many shortcomings in her personal life that appear because of it, yet she is so different in her job because she has this ability to focus and to really look at things from a different point of view.”
Here is a short video from the Facebook page for The Bridge.
One of the show’s producers comments in the video that Sonya is “very shut down emotionally, but very, very focused and dogged when it comes to her work.”
This quality of focus, even to the level of obsessive concentration on a problem or interest, is one of the characteristics of Asperger’s – and many artists – that I find fascinating.
In my article Creative Obsession I quote writer John Updike, about J. D. Salinger:
“The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.”
Of course, there are many different flavors of obsession and other behaviors, and some kinds and levels are harmful. Perseverance can turn into perseveration.
But just because a group of psychiatrists has declared in the DSM, the psychological symptom “bible,” that a collection of symptoms is, for example, OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, does not necessarily mean it is “really” pathological.
[In her article “Television on the Spectrum: The Best (and Worst) Depictions of Asperger Syndrome on TV” Sarah Kurchak (who notes she has Asperger’s) writes, “Asperger syndrome is no longer in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the DSM kids are calling it an autism spectrum disorder these days — but it’s still all over our television screens.”]
A number of mental health experts are questioning the validity of this diagnostic manual for acknowledging and respecting the wide ranges of human behavior that are not “disordered” or harmful, or in need of therapeutic intervention.
For example, in his article “Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children: Gifted and LD, ADHD, OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” psychologist James T. Webb writes that “common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”
Also see his related book Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults.
Concluded in Part 3 – with multiple links to books, articles and other resources.