My Problems with: The Predator, and Magical Autism

I feel like I’m the only one who actually didn’t passionately loathe the new Predator movie. Don’t get me wrong-I get why people don’t like it. it’s not some overly maligned, unappreciated masterpiece or anything. It’s messy as hell, with reshoots, miscasting and baffling creative decisions plaguing it. At the same time, it does carry some of Black’s charm, there are some creative effects (practical-CG looks naff as hell), and individual moments I do really like. There is a Predator movie in this hodgepodge stew of ideas that is great, and unlike other films like this, it came through just enough for me to be enjoyed in parts. I’m now going to undo all this baffling goodwill by lumping on it something I hated.

The plot, if you can actually follow it at all, is that there are two Predators at odds with each other. The ‘good’ Predator comes to Earth to warn people. The ‘bad’ Predator wants to take something special from human beings, as they now remove the best attributes from the beings they kill in their hunt to make them better hunters, that’s a thing now. What they are choosing to extract is our protagonist’s son, who is autistic. Because his autism is a valuable asset to the Predator.

Yep. This hulking beast wants the incredible power of autism to make it stronger. Better still, it’s going off the idea that autism is the next stage in human evolution, something rather bluntly stated in this film, which is not the most…scientifically enlightened claim to make. Let’s talk about this.

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“I’m going to hunt you down by mindlessly explaining the minutiae of Doctor Who to you.”

I’ve made no attempts at hiding on this blog that I have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). While I was diagnosed since 2004, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of media coverage on the condition. It was still more or less the same when I did a short video essay on it for college 4 years ago. This has changed recently, with the advent of shows like Atypical and movies that make a character with ASD a prominent fixture like 2017’s Power Rangers. Also films like The Accountant, which I talked about here. This is great! More, please. I want more ASD representations on the old TV box and movie…bigger….box.

…but while we’re here, can we talk about Magical Autism for a second? Okay, TVTropes calls it Hollywood Autism, but I like my term better. So there.

With the increased visibility of those on the spectrum, there seems to be this weird overcompensation to make them, well, impossibly gifted at whatever random thing. This mostly started with Rain Man, though thankfully portrayals aren’t that over the top anymore. No, instead we see them be almost superheroes in their field while, but now they can somewhat take care of themselves even if they’re a little odd. It’s kind of ridiculous and condescending, especially when your understanding of this complex neurological condition can be summed up as easily as a Facebook Mom’s meme.

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Ben Affleck can break a man’s spine wit his hands while working out complex calculus. But don’t worry, we didn’t make him *too* perfect! He’s also an awkward dick to a cute woman he had lunch with. CHARACTER WRITING!!!

And I’m not saying making the attempt to depict someone with ASD is bad because you’re not a 100% expert in the field. I think that kind of purism is really limiting to filmmakers, and gets less characters on the spectrum introduced if all they’re going to hear is unfair criticisms towards their attempts. But come on, guys-the 10 year old can activate alien tech written in a language completely separate from human beings because his autism makes him an advanced person?!

You know what my favourite depiction of ASD is? Max from Mary and Max. Maybe I’m biased as it’s one of my favourite movies…like ever, but what I think works about Max is that he’s kind of a loser. He’s overweight, he’s bad tempered, he’s incredibly isolated and can’t hold down a job, his one friend is a girl who is several decades younger than him who he converses via letters. And yet he’s sweet, surprisingly introspective, good-natured and really considerate. He’s so unremarkable it makes him remarkable, and a lot of people can relate to that sense of humanity.

And no, they don’t all need to be losers to be relatable. I think Billy from Power Rangers was a great depiction of ASD; he’s smart and tech savvy as well as being a superhero. It’s just that we’re a myriad of different people, so don’t be afraid of writing us as human instead of having these amazing abilities that make us super human. Like being able to see ghosts because our neurology is different. That’s an actual thing in an actual movie that actually exists.

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Anyway, not much else to add here. Just some thoughts I wanted to jot down.

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