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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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Things To Do When You're So Bored All You Want To Do Is Cry

Do something artsy

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Everyone has times when they have nothing to do and boredom strikes way too hard. From experience, I have found some top things to do when you literally have nothing else to do!

1. Clean

Not super fun, but will keep you busy.

2. Netflix

Find a new show to binge watch. Watched them all? Rewatch something you haven't seen in a while!

3. Shopping

Retail therapy can always keep you busy.

4. Make a home cooked meal

Spend some time in the kitchen and make something yummy! Even invite some friends.

5. Visit friends/ family

Pop in on some people you care about that you haven't seen in a while!

6. Write

Writing is something we all do and is a great way to express ourselves!

7. Exercise

Hit the gym or go for walk, do something to keep you nice and fit.

8. Volunteer

Go to an animal shelter, food bank, museums, or anywhere in your area that needs help.

9. Look for a job

If you're bored, maybe getting a part time job will keep you a little occupied. Plus it's extra money in your pocket.

10. Draw/ do something artsy

Even if you think you're a bad artist, drawing is something fun to do! You'll get better in time.

11. Join an Odyssey Team!

Writing articles through the Odyssey is an amazing experience and can always keep you busy!

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