Review of Autism & Aspergers in Popular Australian Cinema from Disability Studies Quarterly
Autism & Aspergers in Popular Australian Cinema Post 2000
Reviewed by Katie Ellis, Murdoch University
Australian Cinema is known for its tendency to feature bizarre and extraordinary characters that exist on the margins of mainstream society (O’Regan 1996, 261). While several theorists have noted the prevalence of disability within this national cinema (Ellis 2008; Duncan, Goggin & Newell 2005; Ferrier 2001), an investigation of characters that have autism is largely absent. Although characters may have displayed autistic tendencies or perpetuated misinformed media representations of this condition, it was unusual for Australian films to outright label a character as having autism until recent years. Somersault, The Black Balloon, and Mary & Max are three recent Australian films that explicitly introduce characters with autism or Asperger syndrome. Of the three, the last two depict autism with sensitivity, neither exploiting it for the purposes of the main character’s development nor turning it into a spectacle of compensatory super ability. The Black Balloon, in particular, demonstrates the importance of the intentions of the filmmaker in including disability among notions of a diverse Australian community.
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