Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Perhaps the salmon, out of place in the warm Yemeni waters and battling its way upstream, is a metaphor for disability in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Dr. Alfred Jones, fisheries expert has a very dry sense of humor and trouble expressing his emotions, but were it not for an interview with scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy in which he definitively states that Fred is on the autistic spectrum, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was just a scientist and therefore occasionally prone to walking into glass windows. Hired by Yemeni Sheikh Muhammed to introduce salmon to the rivers of Yemen in hopes that fishing will bring peace and economic prosperity to his people, Fred initially disparages the idea until the research done by his liaison with the sheikh, Harriet, convinces him that it just might be possible… and that Harriet just might be a better mate for him than his distant wife.

Unfortunately, Harriet’s hunky soldier boyfriend has just gone missing in action when Fred decides to show up at her apartment. Harriet, sure he’s about to urge her to get back to work, is just about to unleash her fury at him when Fred redeems himself by showing that he followed the social protocol of bringing food to the bereaved.

It is a mistake to think that autistic people do not have emotions or that their feelings cannot be hurt; they just have trouble recognizing emotions in others and expressing their own. They do prefer directness in communication, which a neurotypical person may consider excessively blunt and perhaps unfeeling. Witness the following exchange between Fred and the newly returned-from-the-dead boyfriend:

Dr. Alfred Jones: I love her.
Capt. Robert Mayers: Does she love you?
Dr. Alfred Jones: I don’t know now. Yesterday, you weren’t alive.
Capt. Robert Mayers: Well, I apologize for not being dead in a ditch.
Dr. Alfred Jones: I don’t think I can accept your apology.

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