Monday, August 30, 2010

I love that movie...

I watched the Emmy Awards today (like I do every year, TV nerd that I am) and became increasingly proud of what I get to do for a living. I know making TV here in Australia is hardly Hollywood, but it's a hell of a way to make a living. To be able to string words and ideas together and then watch other clever people bring them to life on screen... it's a bit silly that I get paid for it.

Watching the Emmys, I kept a keen eye (as always) on my heroes, on the people who write the sorts of things that I dream about... but today there was something special to witness. Something that hit closer to home - the standout triumph of the Temple Grandin movie.

I've recorded most of the ceremony so Billy can see in his future that people were clapping and cheering and genuinely celebrating a story about an autistic person. I wanted him to hear the respect in the voices of seasoned (hardened) Hollywood professionals as they talked to and about Temple. I wanted him to see the joy in people's faces. I wanted him to understand how seriously they were taking autism. I wanted him to know that people made a movie that mirrored the way they understood Temple Grandin - they didn't try to turn her into something 'hollywood'. I wanted him to hear David Strathairn when he referred to autism as a 'mysterious and special thing'.

Now I'm well aware that autism can be far from a special thing for many people. It's a lot of struggle and hardship and impossibilities.  Having accepted that, though, hopefully those of us with the (good) fortune to find ourselves paddling about on the higher functioning end of the spectrum can use our experience to better understand the more profound challenges.

The Temple Grandin movie takes the opportunity (as Temple herself does) to explore autism on a bunch of levels. It shows sensory challenges. It shows intense focus. It shows a unique brain. It shows the ability to see a detail or link that the NT are too busy chatting to each other to see. It shows the disdain of peers. It shows the strength of a loving yet bemused mother.

I honestly gulped my way through viewing this film. It hit me hard, especially watching the twitching jaw of Temple's mother (played by Julia Ormond) struggling with trying to work out which to follow - the instincts that worked with her other children, or the ones that helped her not give up on Temple (despite the pressures of the time). I'm well aware that women like Eustacia Cutler blazed a trail direct to this space where I can blog my random thoughts about being Billy's mother.

I loved the fact that the movie wasn't just about Temple's immense intellect. It was about her uniqueness - the 'good' and the 'bad'. I loved that they showed how her mind worked, in graphics and screen shots as well as in the content of the story. I loved that a person with autism got to be the hero, not the freak.

Well, OK, she would have looked like a freak to many, but not to me. To me, she looked like hope.

I know I'm sugar coating a whole lot of serious life struggle and difficulty. But seriously, how cool is it to have a real life, still living autistic hero. How great for our kids to have a role model who made a brilliant life out of the very thing that made her different. How exciting is it to be able to say to our kids, you can be who you want to be... just like any other kids.

OK, so you might want to be a cheetah ranger or a video game developer or a train designer, and the other kids are heading for lawyer or astronaut... but hey... you can do it.

Because Temple Grandin did.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to write. No-one told me I couldn't. I'm not entirely sure of the grown-ups in my life thought I was serious, but they gave me books, introduced me to authors and encouraged me nonetheless.

Today, I truly feel like I can do the same for Billy.

I freaking love Hollywood.


fiona2107 said...

I can't WAIT to see this movie..
Is it out in Australia???

carriemumof2withasd said...

Thank you for sharing this with us Val :) I can see the hope, excitement and love you have not only for Billy but for all people with Autism and Autism its self.

I too feel this way and I can't wait to see this movie. Fabulous pst Val, thanks :D

K- floortime lite mama said...

Oh gosh how I loved that movie

Felt so sad for the mother and also proud - it was such a difficult time - and you are right she blazed a path right to this moment

It seems to me that in Autism land you get to see the best in people and sometimes the worst

trydefyinggravity said...

This was one of the best movies I've seen in a while (granted, I'm mostly seeing Curious George and Pixar movies these days). I cried from the hug machine all the way to the end.
I love that you recorded the Emmys so you could show it to your son. I recorded it too (and now I have a reason to keep it). thank you!