On Newt Scamander And Autistic Representation

On Newt Scamander And Autistic Representation

Newt Scamander is a hero for neurodivergent viewers -- so how come it's easier for other viewers to accept magic exists than that fact?
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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I went to go see "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them". In truth, I had accepted that the Harry Potter franchise was over years ago; I thought it seemed silly to create a whole new series within the same universe. However, when it came out I felt a bit more excited about it, and a week later I finally went with my mother to go see it.

Newt Scamander, the main character of the movie, is odd. Most people seem to agree that his first appearance is jarring. He gets off a boat in New York City and is ushered through customs, where a gruff worker begins to question him about the suitcase he had brought with him. Newt won’t meet the worker’s eyes. He’s a bit distant, voice soft and mannerisms peculiar. For a moment, I wondered how any director would possibly allow that sort of acting to pass through. But by the time the next scene rolled around, it hit me -- oh! Newt’s autistic!

Autistic representation in media is not discussed, even though it is quite a pertinent issue. When it comes to autistic characters, the only one that personally springs to mind is Raymond Babbit from the 1988 movie "Rain Man". There’s already been plenty of discourse about that movie, with the main criticism being that it relies on stereotypes, including autistic savantism, which is a rather rare occurrence.

It’s estimated that 1% of the world population has autism, which ends up being about 74,000,000 people worldwide. Despite that staggeringly large number, general education on autism is absent. Autistic people remain terrifyingly isolated, starting in childhood, where teachers lack proper training on how to help autistic students succeed to the best of their abilities and children bully them for something out of their control. Few people speak out on the abuse directed towards autistic individuals and how their autism manifests in themselves. Instead, autism is seen as behavioral issue, or a disability that causes many allistic* people to view those with it as subhuman, or as an insult (and if you’ve never seen it used as an insult, I’m so, so glad you’ve never had to experience the misery that is scrolling through a YouTube comment section).

I bring all this up only to mention that joy that I felt when I realized that Newt, whether intentionally or not, behaved very much like a person on the autism spectrum would. In a world where people are constantly punished for their autism, or tendencies from other things that might mirror autism (whether that be anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, giftedness, related conditions and disorders, or just personality quirks), it was quite refreshing to see a main character who embodied that and was not shamed for it.

I feel this is particularly highlighted near the beginning of the film, where one of the characters try to reassure Newt that someone out there probably likes him. “No, not really, I’m annoying,” Newt responds. It was a sentiment that hit me hard, a mindset that I had been stuck in since childhood after multiple kids made it very well known to me that they didn’t like my obsessive, nerdy, awkward nature, which only kept me trapped in my own bubble with very few friends. However, despite Newt saying that about himself, the other characters of the movie didn’t find him annoying or generally unlikable. They befriended him with ease. The fact that he functioned so differently didn’t push them away. Instead, it ended up drawing them together.

Leaving the theater, an image of a child like Newt going to see that movie popped into my mind. If I, a college student, could feel a bit better about myself after seeing Newt, I couldn’t imagine what Newt would do for an autistic child obsessed with animals and the Harry Potter universe.

Critics and reviews, to me at least, don’t quite understand that Newt is a champion for neurodivergent* viewers. They’re quick to blame it on bad writing or bad acting, and even quicker to accept a universe where magic and fantastic beasts are real but a person that mirrors the hallmark symptoms of autism is not. And that’s really what troubles me: if a character with a condition, disorder, or disability does not have their condition, disorder, or disability blatantly named and they’re not visibly suffering from it, they go from being an acceptable and intriguing character to a bad one. This, in turn, only reflects the fetishization of disabled and neurodivergent people in media, and reinforces the idea that people with these things are a spectacle to be observed and cured of, rather than a normal human being that has something a bit different about them. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a disabled and/or neurodivergent character that was the focus of a story that wasn’t about their condition?

Whether Newt actually has autism or some other neurodivergent condition or is just a bit peculiar, whether you love the movie or hate it, whether you love Eddie Redmayne or hate him, one thing is very clear: there needs to be more representation of people like Newt. Many people, including myself, fell in love with him instantly when they saw themselves reflected in Newt. The backlash for characters who behave oddly, when not in a charming, whimsical way, or a rogue, antisocial way, needs to end. I, for one, am quite ready for a world full of Newt Scamanders. When will everyone else be?

*Explanation on the terms "allistic" and "neurodivergent"

Cover Image Credit: NJ

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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10 Places From Movies And TV You Can Visit In Real Life

It's like stepping into Hollywood!

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I am constantly so enamored by the world of Hollywood and by going to visit places I have seen on screen. It's always such an unreal feeling to see where my favorite pieces of entertainment were shot. Here are 10 places from some of our favorite movies to see and visit in the real world!

The High School from "10 Things I Hate About You"

If you have ever wanted to dance on the same stairs as Heath Ledger or just stand in the same courtyard as Julia Stiles then you're in luck! Along the water in Tacoma, Washington, Stadium High School is located which was used both inside and out as the high school from one of the greatest teen movies of all time. This school is massive and so beautiful it's almost Hogwarts level stunning.

Pacific Coast Academy from  "Zoey 101"

Growing up I always dreamed about going to Pacific Coast Academy and being best friends with Jamie Lynn Spears and one of those things can (kinda) become a reality! Located in Malibu is a beautiful campus called Pepperdine University and it is the school they used to shoot scenes of Zoey and the gang at PCA. It is a christian based college and is prestigious in it's own right so if unlike me you are smart enough you can live out my dreams.

Central City Police Department from "The Flash"

Have you ever wanted to show up to Detective Joe West's place of work? Well head to the Vancouver City Hall in Vancouver, Canada and you will recognize your surroundings as the Central City Police Department! If you are lucky enough to show up on a filming day, you might even seen the man himself — Barry Allen.

Forks High School from The Twilight Saga

Personally, I am more invested in Bella and Jacob but for all my Team Edward ladies (and gentleman) you can visit the real-life school where Bella and Edward first met and their love blossomed into whatever obsessive weird thing it was. They also used the parking lot at this school to film the infamous scene where Edward saves Bella from getting crushed by a car. The school is called Kalama High School and is located in Kalama, Washington

Max And Dani's House from "Hocus Pocus"

Anyone with taste loves the movie Hocus Pocus — that's just facts! And I have some good news for fans of the film...you can visit the infamous Denison house! Located in none other than Salem, Massachusetts you will find this beautiful home where my favorite siblings once lived.

Silent Hill from "Silent Hill"

I will say before talking about this place that visiting it is EXTREMELY dangerous as just like in the movie the town as been burning from below for years and years. This small town is called Centralia and is located Pennsylvania and has a roaring population of about four people.

Hobbiton from "Lord Of The Rings"

I am personally not a fan of Lord of the Rings but I know a lot of people are so I wanted to include this super cool place on the list. If you ever find yourself in New Zealand you can visit Hobbinton from the movies and spend a day living like your favorite characters.

Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter Series

Now this place will unfortunately be packed with muggles of course but you can find it at King's Cross Station in London! If you are anything like me and are obsessed with these magical movies this is a dream destination just don't run too hard at the wall if you're a muggle it will probably end in a concussion.

East High from the High School Musical Saga

Located in Salt Lake City Utah is the real life East High that was used in the filming of all three High School Musical movies. It is my absolute dream to attend this high school and walk the halls of the greatest high school of all time. They used both the outside and inside and the school so every inch of the school will remind you of these great teen movies.

Gus and Hazel's Bench from "The Fault in Our Stars" 

If you ever wanted to visit the site of this kiss between star crossed lovers you're in luck! Located along a canal in Amsterdam is a bench that is clearly marked by all the fault in our stars graffiti. Recreate this cute picture with your significant other and use a quote from the movie — then you'll just win in life.

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