Saturday, August 16, 2008

Autism in the movies: Rainman

Not too long ago, dh and I were flipping channels and came across the movie "Rainman." I hadn't seen that movie in a looong time. When I saw it the first time, it was long before we had kids and I knew absolutely nothing about autism. I remember thinking that Ray's situation was very sad and ironically, I remember thinking I wouldn't know what to do if I had a family member with autism (guess I found out, huh?).

It was interesting to watch parts of it again (we didn't watch the whole thing) from the perspective of a parent of autistic children. This movie tends to get a bad rap among the autism community because we get tired of people comparing our children to Rainman and assuming that every person with autism is just like him (and if they happen to be not just like him, how can they possibly be autistic?) Ugh. I totally get that. The issue goes back to the saying, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." So true, as people with autism are individuals just like anyone else.

Having said that though, if you've seen the movie Rainman, you have in a sense, met one person with autism. Dustin Hoffman's character is patterned after a real person, a man named Kim Peek (if you have a few minutes, it's definitely worth following the link to read more about him, he's an impressive guy!).

As I watched with dh, I saw more humor than I remembered (in an "I've totally been there!" kind of way) and there were sad parts too (seeing how easy it was for others to try to take advantage of Ray made my heart ache, as did the part where he was lost in the intersection). The parts we found funny were the ones that reminded us of our sons and some of the "frustrating at the time but funny now" incidents we have had with them. Like when Ray refuses to get on a plane, won't stay in the car when they get stuck at a wreck, and insists on taking the backroads from that point on. And after all that, he gets worked up about buying his underwear at a particular K-mart and Tom Cruise stops the car, gets out and just starts screaming. Dh and I were ROFL, we know that frustration all too well - with a stubbornness that just can't be reasoned with about things that most people would find to be completely irrelevant.

The insistence on a particular routine (has to watch Wapner, needs 8 fish sticks, not 4) and the lengths to which Tom Cruise's character would go to try to keep his brother happy all hit home for us. So, no our kids aren't Rainman, but yes, they have their moments when there are definite similarities there.


Bonnie sayers on August 17, 2008 at 3:04 AM said...

I caught the movie late one night years ago after the dx and then got it on ebay. I was surprised at the number of times the f word was used. This is a movie to view when kids are in bed.

It was good to see what went into a 24 hour period with Raymond.

Nice review

danette on August 17, 2008 at 7:24 AM said...

I think we caught an edited version on regular tv, thanks for the warning!

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie a couple of months ago. I loved it for all the reasons you stated! Some people just have a gift of saying all the things I want to say, but don't seem to be able to!! Anyway, we saw the R-rated version. I don't remember specifics, but I do remember thinking that I wasn't going to recommend it to my parents as a movie about Autism even though I liked it!

In case you're wondering, I'm kind of randomly reading past posts trying to get to know you better. :)


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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