Within the last few weeks a film called X + Y has been released in cinemas across the UK. X + Y is a story about a boy with Autism who is preparing for a Mathematics qualification. In the film Nathan, the autistic teenage Maths genius, travels to Taiwan in order to obtain the International Mathematics Olympiad Qualification leaving behind his doting Mother and inspiring Maths teacher. Guardian writer Leslie Felperin has drawn on her own experience as the Mother of a seven year old son with Autism to analyse how well living with Autism is portrayed on screen.
Felperin first acknowledges the ongoing debate on how able bodied actors, directors, and writers are utilized in creating films that feature living with a disability. This has again been highlighted this year by neurotypical actor Asa Butterfield (X + Y) and able bodied and Oscar winning actor Eddie Redmayne playing roles that could have been played by someone with the disability themselves. However, the question for Felperin regarding X + Y focuses on whether it offers another stereotypical view on Autism in film.
This can be suggested by comparing X + Y to Rain Man and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Felperin believes stereotyping in the way cause people to believe that those on the spectrum are Savant in some way. This contradicts “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” showing the full abilities, interests, and behaviours of people on the spectrum are too broad to stereotype. Nevertheless, Felperin points out that X + Y handles the subject of Autism with greater nuance, empathy, and honesty than previous films have. Felperin goes on to detail all the aspects of live with Autism experienced in X + Y which you can read in her blog here.
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