Posted in Reviews

Autism on the big screen – part one

After reviewing Jessie Hewitsons book and BBC’s The A Word it got us thinking about how autism is depicted in movies and I couldn’t immediately think of a single movie I had seen in which depicted an autistic character.
So after a quick google search (what did we do before google eh?) I came up with a list of movies we want to work through and review or in some cases pick apart 🤔

So our first choice was on all the lists of movies we found and it was the first to come to my head and Dave kindly agreed we could watch it (not that he has a choice, I don’t think he even knows how to use our smart remote 🤣)

Forrest Gump

Author Winston Groom, star Tom Hanks nor director Robert Zemeckis have ever commented on if Gump was intended to be portrayed as autistic but there are so many traits scattered throughout the movie that it would make it too much of a coincidence however the novel was written in the mid 80’s and autism at that time was not widely recognised or understood so I highly doubt that the character was written with autism in mind but realistically in the mid 80’s did anyone have autism in mind?

Don’t let anybody tell you they’re better than you Forrest… If god had have wanted us all to be the same he would have given us all braces on our legs

Mrs Gump

That journey to school is excruciating to watch, his little face as he walks down the bus. Kids can be awful. This is what terrifies me if we can’t get him into a special school. Kids are not easily accepting of any one different to them especially as they get to high school age.

Young Jenny: Are you stupid or something?
Young Forrest : Mama says, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Their first meeting is so iconic but what really jumped out for us was that Jenny just accepts Forrest for the way he is. She asks the question and that is it. She wasn’t malicious about it and didn’t push the question.
Will that be what it is like for William? Will we have to warn every parent & child that William is special, that he has autism or that he is different? Or will he be able to handle it on his own?

Oh god the bullies 😭 I would personally climb into that TV screen and knock those little bastards off those bikes!! 🥊
Poor Forrest bleeding from his head but he ran those braces right off! My heart immediately thinks ‘yes, go on Forrest! you outrun the bastards’ but my parent brain is saying ‘his mother should be asking that Orthopaedic doctor for a refund. Those braces didn’t last long enough to straighten his back!’

One of the main stand out traits is that he is lacking of social understanding, he doesn’t understand the etiquette of social situations.
He meets two presidents, he tells one of them he has to pee and when the second one jokes about seeing his bullet wound he thinks its a serious question and reveals his buttocks.

He is a very literal in everything he does as shown with his facial expression and rigid response during this iconic exchange.

Watching Forrest put his rifle together with such sheer determination is like watching William play with his Mega-blocks. The process is almost mechanical, they know how it came apart and they know how it goes together so could happily and easily repeat it numerous times.

That look of love and admiration in Forrest’s eyes whenever he see’s Jenny is magical although if William ever brought home a girl like Jenny then she would be buried under the patio à la Brookside.

Tom Hanks is hands down the only actor I feel could have played Forrest, nor because he is the actor that does play him but because he does it with such an innocence about him that I feel many men of Hanks age would struggle to pull off.

I know we are purely speculating but if Forrest does have autism it make perfect sense as to why he would do so well in the army, not that I would ever let William join but think about it…

  • A strict and immovable routine
  • Constant clear instruction
  • Uniform

Every thing has a structure, your bed is made in a certain way. Your uniform has to be cleaned and worn in a specific way. Its ideal for those who relish a routine.
Its no surprise Forrest made it to sergeant during his enlistment. In one scene he is seen to be wearing several medals.

  • Purple Heart – awarded to those wounded in battle.
  • The army good conduct medal – awarded after 1 year of faithful service during times of war (3 years if no current war)
  • National defence service medal – awarded for service during time of conflict.
  • Vietnam service medal – for service within that specific war.
  • Republic of Vietnam medal – awarded by the Vietnamese to foreign troops.
    FYI – it is engraved with a start date but no end date as they were made before the war was over.
  • Medal of honour – given to those who have performed distinguished acts of valour.

💕Bubba💕
He is such a brilliant friend, he immediately accepts Forrest for who he is, he helps him and genuinely cares for him. He plans to be friends forever. I hope William has a friend like Bubba when he’s older. Hell I wish I had a friend like that now.
After the explosions in Vietnam Forrest tell himself that he needs to go back and save Bubba and despite stopping and saving his entire platoon he keeps going back oblivious to the danger because all he needed to do was get Bubba and he was locked on that mission so everything else didn’t matter. I know its not no where near the same but William has no sense of danger at all would walk through fire to get to his hearts desire… usually food related, highly likely a biscuit🍪

Another thing that stands out throughout the movie is how literal Forrest is and his lack of inner monologue.

Forrest shows many of the common traits of obsessive behaviour but the biggest stand out obsession is ping pong.
He plays when no one will play with him.
He sleeps with his paddle and ball.
He didn’t want to change his paddle despite being offered a lot of money.

Some nights I have to pry my egg poacher out of Williams tiny death grip whilst he’s asleep.

He then becomes obsessive about running, he didn’t think about it and just kept going. Every dead end he reached he turned around and went in the other direction. In the film he was running after Jenny left and it could be that he was running away from the pain of her leaving but it seems that in my opinion he was running to fill the obsession gap that jenny had created. Filling the void so to speak.
3 years
2 months
14 days
& 16 hours
that is beyond obsessive! It’s not neurotypical behaviour.

I had never realised before but as Haley Joel Osment gets on the school bus and Forrest sits down he was keeping the promise he had just made to his son. He told him he would be waiting right there when he got back and that is exactly what he is doing.
He is sitting there until the bus comes back. 😢