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StarTrekker
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02 Jan 2017, 1:46 am

*A few minor movie details relayed, no major spoilers*

I recently saw The Accountant, Hollywood's latest attempt at taking a tour of the autism spectrum, and I have to admit that, despite a few details, I actually enjoyed it a lot.

I was pleased with the fact that they made a concerted effort to portray autism sensitively and with more nuance than in previous films (less pleased with the fact that their test audience for determining authenticity was Autism Speaks. I would have preferred a screening panel of actual autistic people).

I found Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) to be quite charming in his own way (at least when he wasn't busy assassinating people), and felt like I could connect with his experiences realistically, especially his anxiety and sensory-overload-induced meltdown. It actually wound me up watching it because I knew exactly what he was feeling physically and emotionally in that moment.

I was THRILLED that they actually came out and (more than once!) used the word "autism", and didn't try to side step the term or shy away from it. At the beginning of the film, when Christian's mother asked the doctor what her son's condition was called, and the doctor responded with, "We don't like labels", I thought it was going to be another Criminal Minds or Bones or The Bridge or The Big Bang Theory where the character is blatantly autistic, but the writers refuse to come out and actually say that the character is autistic, for convoluted, ableist reasons I can never quite ascertain. So to hear both Christian and the characters around him refer to him directly as "having autism" made me very happy.

A couple of things I didn't like about the film:

I would love, just once, to see an autistic character who wasn't a math wizard, or even any kind of spectacular savant. I know it's a way of trying to find some "redeeming qualities" to make the NT audience think the character is interesting or worthwhile, but it just plays up the annoying and innacurate stereotype that we're all Albert Einstein or Daniel Tammett. I want people like us to be liked for who we are, not for the gifts we possess.

I didn't like how hard Ben Affleck tried to keep a rigid an emotionless affect (he even said in an interview that keeping such a straight face all the time was very difficult). We have facial expressions, and we use them. I smile and laugh quite a lot, and when I'm anxious or angry, you can tell by my face, it's not a rigid mask.

I also didn't like how they tried to play up Christian's social awkwardness for laughs, like when the woman asked if he liked her necklace, and he said, "Not especially". I guess a lot of NTs find that funny, but I don't know why. I just cringed with embarrassment for Christian because I know what it feels like to accidentally insult someone, and it's not a funny feeling. I also didn't appreciate it when Christian's brother referred to him as a "weird f***", and the fact that it was apparently meant to be a humorous line. I hate it when people call me weird, it strikes right at the heart of all my feelings of "otherness" and alienation, and I hate watching people laugh when we on the spectrum get called names, especially when they laugh because they think we deserve it for being so "cocky" or "arrogant" or "aloof" or what have you.

Anyway, that's just my two cents on the movie. I'm very interested to hear what you all thought of it!


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slw1990
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02 Jan 2017, 4:57 pm

I saw it a couple of months ago and thought that it was pretty good. I felt like I could really relate to the part in the movie where he was emotionally unstable and struggled to do simple routine activities. I also liked how the movie seemed to encourage acceptance towards autistics instead of seeing them as something to pity and make fun of.

When I looked at some of the reviews I was expecting a lot of criticism and prejudice towards autistics, but it seems like a lot of the reviews were more positive, from what I saw. Most of the ones I read that were critical also didn't seem very prejudice either. There was only one I can think of that of that sounded prejudice. Some of them actually seemed concerned about things like the negative stereotypes between autism and violence or how they thought the father was cruel.



StarTrekker
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02 Jan 2017, 5:14 pm

Yeah, I read some of the reviews that were concerned with the apparent autism/violence connection too. They seemed to worry that making an autistic person an assassin would be treading too close to the damaging "autistics are emotionless killers" stereotype that people like Adam Lanza create. I didn't see it that way at all, I just saw it as an autistic man doing his job, which happened to involve killing bad guys. When I watch super hero movies or James Bond films, I don't jump to the conclusion that all NTs are soulless killers just because the main characters in those films are NT and also have jobs that involve killing people.


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voidnull
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02 Jan 2017, 5:15 pm

I enjoyed some of the things that I felt were accurate, such as his need to finish his investigation into the company and the representations of sensory overload.

I want to dismiss it as "urgh. Terrible film.", but I have to admit I enjoyed it. Affleck has grown on me over the last decade or so.


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slw1990
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02 Jan 2017, 5:27 pm

StarTrekker wrote:
Yeah, I read some of the reviews that were concerned with the apparent autism/violence connection too. They seemed to worry that making an autistic person an assassin would be treading too close to the damaging "autistics are emotionless killers" stereotype that people like Adam Lanza create. I didn't see it that way at all, I just saw it as an autistic man doing his job, which happened to involve killing bad guys. When I watch super hero movies or James Bond films, I don't jump to the conclusion that all NTs are soulless killers just because the main characters in those films are NT and also have jobs that involve killing people.


I get tired of seeing that stereotype, but I didn't see it that way either. It wasn't like he was an angry with everyone and he was actually doing it for a good cause. There were also NTs in the movie who were just as violent as Christian and I think him becoming an assassin had a lot to do with the way he was raised.



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02 Jan 2017, 10:48 pm

voidnull wrote:
I enjoyed some of the things that I felt were accurate, such as his need to finish his investigation into the company and the representations of sensory overload.


I liked the sensory overload bit too. A lot of the reviews from NTs that I read misunderstood what he was doing and thought it was some bizarre form of self-punishment, but I've been where he was in that moment more times than I can count, and it was kind of nice to have it demonstrated and "validated" for lack of a better term.


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03 Jan 2017, 10:45 pm

I have not seen this film (so potentially don't qualify here), but I would just like to add that I can be completely expressionless at times. This is mainly if I am stressed, upset, confused, or want to escape being caused damage by my family, and can go on for days. I divorce myself from my body (reject most auditory, tactile, and visual input), and also seem robotic, with stiff movements and no non-verbal expression. Other times, I am content and calm, but just cannot engage my face to express emotion.


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21 Feb 2024, 4:35 pm

I have seen The Accountant three times over the years now. I find Christian Wolff's autistic traits very relatable. Then of course some of his action-hero skills are a little over the top. An inspiring movie. I look forward to the sequel.


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Benjamin the Donkey
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22 Feb 2024, 7:28 am

I thought the overall film was rather formulaic, but the depiction of an autistic charcter was much better than most.


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22 Feb 2024, 8:09 am

Hilarious. Good enough action.


Still do not resonate or relate though.


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22 Feb 2024, 12:38 pm

About the depiction of an autistic fictional character. Usually it's a physically weak, highly sensitive to sensory stimulus and rather squeamish, socially awkward nerdish person. Pretty much somebody like Sheldon Cooper. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of autistic people can relate to that. But that's not the whole picture. While Christian Wolff is clearly autistic he has a lot of grit and is pushing his limits. In a way he reminds me of someone like Greta Thunberg. Whatever what, you dig in and do what is needed to get the job done. When she travelled from Europe to the US she didn't do it the easy way, a couple of hours on an air plane. Instead she crossed the Atlantic in a small racing sailing boat. She described it as two weeks in hell. After she had finished her business in the US she took the sailing boat back to Europe again. She's not a sailor, a physically fit daredevil or even a ordinary sports person. Very few NT:s in her situation would have what it takes or have the determination to do something like that.


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