Bumblebee

Since the trailers for Bumblebee last year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this movie’s release at the cinema. One, because I love the Transformer movies and two because Bumblebee has been my main man bot from the start and now they’ve made a movie about him! Yay!

Can I say yay at 48?

The Autobots and Decepticons have been around since the 1980s, so most of us have heard of them, but for those who have been living under rocks for the last 32 years here’s some info..

Transformers

Transformers came into being in 1984 as an American/Japanese transforming toy with the good guys (Autobots) against the bad guys (Decepticons). Later the franchise expanded to include comics, animation, video games and movies – of which Bumblebee is the sixth (and best) installment.

Transformers the movie was more successful for its fantastic effects than the acting, but subsequent movies haven’t been able to equal or better the original – until now.

Bumblebee – The Plot (ish)

On Cybertron, the Autobot resistence, led by magnificent Optimus Prime, are having their bots kicked by the Decepticons in the civil war. As Optimus and Co prepare to leave the planet, a Decepticon force led by Soundwave, Shockwave and Starscream, intercept them leaving Optimus no choice but to send B-127 (aka Bumblebee) alone to Earth in order to find a base where the Autobots can regroup.

B-127 crash lands in California where he unfortunately disrupts a training exercise by Sector 27 who believe him to be hostile and so they attack – driving him into a forest where Decepticon, Blitzwing, gives him a bot-whooping when he refuses to reveal Optimus Prime’s location. Things look bad for B-127 and seconds before his circuits fizzle out, he scans a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle and transforms accordingly – ending up in a scrap-yard.

The scrap-yard belongs to 18 year old Charlie Watson’s uncle who gives her the car as a birthday present and she takes the battered old Beetle back home and goes to work on fixing him, but not before she unknowingly activates a homing signal (oops) that is then detected by Decepticons, Shatter and Dropkick, who head to Earth and dupe highly intelligent Sector 27 into helping them find and capture B-127 who they claim is a fugitive. Sector 27 decide that the Decepticons (clue is in the name) are to be trusted? Needless to say that, once again, Earth is in danger.

Charlie

Female protagonist, Charlie, is a tomboy who spends her spare time lying under cars. She’s moody. She hates her family and her shit job. She’s a teenager, innit? Tinkering with cars and playing music keeps her sane as she struggles to find her way in a world without her beloved father in it. I can identify with Charlie, except that I lost my dad when I was 26. Then again, I’m 30 years older than Charlie and I can’t change my own tyre, let alone fix cars. But I do love The Smiths.

B-127 (aka Bumblebee)

When it comes to Bumblebee, where do I start? I’ve had a crush on that bot since the original Transformers movie and the last time I felt genuine feelings like this was for Shredder from the Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the 80s. Yes, it’s a little weird, but I know I’m not alone as a lot of autistic people connect better with animations etc than humans. Note: I am not one of those people who get off on car exhausts or want to marry lamp-posts. That’s a whole different level of weird. But just to put things into perspective – Charlie (human) has feelings for Bumblebee (Autonomous Robotic Organism)

You get me?

Bumblebee communicates through music, so he’s definitely my kind of bot. He’s cute. He’s lovable. And he’s fookin’ badass when his battle helmet flips down and he flames the living shit out of everything! Also, he’s yellow so he’s less likely to be nicked. Not that Bumblebee would remain nicked for long – him being a transforming arse-kicking robot, right?

Bumblebee has definitely saved the Transformers floundering franchise and maybe that’s something to do with new director, Travis Knight, breathing some fresh air into the story? But for me, it’s because all the elements work. The likable (and identifiable) protagonist. The most lovable Autobot of them all. The mind-blowing special effects in surround sound. I mean, DAMN!! And shit loads of nostalgia – especially if you like The Smiths. What’s not to love? I can’t see them being able to better this film, unless they want to write a storyline about a slightly deranged middle-aged autistic housewife and her transforming Toyota Yaris?

Charlie Watson: Is the Beetle for sale?
Uncle Hank: It’s yours kid. Happy Birthday.

 

 

More Than a Movie..

My fascination with movies started in 1978 when I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a film about aliens, aptly enough. I remember feeling scared, not about the movie, but of everything around me. The crowds. The smells. The cacophony of voices. The familiar feeling of wanting to be sick. The fear of vomiting in public.

I also remember the feeling in my chest as the lights dimmed and the cinema screen flickered into life for the first time in my life..

Cinema was very different in those days and for the young (and undiagnosed) autistic me it made for a conflicting experience because of the queuing, crowds, uncomfortable seating and divs using the back of my chair as a foot-rest. Not to mention the aroma of hot dogs and cigarette smoke! That said, once the film started I was able to lose myself in the fantasy – providing my bladder wasn’t too full, that is.

In contrast, last week I went to see The Crimes of Grindleward – a completely different experience because all of the above (aside hot dogs) has been eliminated. Even crowds, if you choose the earlier showing times.

I’d imagine that a lot of autists love watching movies, either at the cinema or at home. That’s because being able to lose ourselves in fantasy helps to make existence on this confusing planet a little more bearable, no? And when it comes to the wizarding world, I’d guess many autists identify with the ‘non-magical’ versus wizards’ concept because it’s not dissimilar to the NT versus autistic one.That’s not to suggest that we have magical powers, because we don’t. Unless you consider photographic memory a superpower? Or that there is a war between autistic and non-autistic. It’s just that ‘No Maj’s’ don’t understand the wizarding world and vice versa.

There are many autistic traits to be found in the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts films. I mean, Newt Scamander has many Asperger traits, despite no affirmation from J.K Rowling. Then again, the film is set in the 1920s so Newt wouldn’t have been diagnosed anyway. And while it can be said that Harry Potter himself isn’t an autistic character, one can empathise with the range of emotions he goes through when Hagrid informs him that, actually, he’s a shit-hot wizard and those things about himself that he never understood – such as his hair growing back overnight – suddenly make sense which is not dissimilar to receiving an autism diagnosis.

Aside the film itself, I consider the credits to be an important part of the experience, but time and time again I find that I am the only person remaining in my seat as the last credits scroll up. It’s always the same. The end of the film comes, the soundtrack kicks in and there’s a flurry of activity with people standing up, coats being put on and a general mass exodus towards the exits. Some people hang on for the crowds to disperse and then they get up and leave which just leaves me..

I always watch the credits. One reason is that I like to see the names of the people who made the film possible. Another is that I’m a music fan and there are often several pieces of music of soundtrack played during the credits. Also, there is often something extra mid-credits or at the very end. Some movies use bloopers and in others the post credit scenes are a crucial part because it ties the movie up or leaves the audience (or who ever is left) in a state of anticipation.

*SPOILERS WARNING* At this point I’m going to use UP and Christopher Robin as examples so if you haven’t seen those films and would like to, please scroll down beyond the italics.

In the case of the animated film, UP, the credit scenes flip through Carl’s photo album and we get to see the adventures he has with Russell and Dug. As we see in the film, this is what Ellie wanted him to do after she was gone. Blended with the beautiful (and award-winning) score by Michael Giacchino these scenes brings this movie to a pleasing end. Everything is tied up and you leave the cinema feeling happy.

A more recent example is Christopher Robin where, after a few minutes of credits, there is a little sequence where all the characters are having a dance and a sing-song on the beach where there is an old man playing a piano. The old man is no other than Richard Sherman, a nine time Oscar nominee and writer of some of the most memorable songs Disney ever made. It’s a sweet touch and one that many people never got to see because they left the cinema as soon as the credits started to roll.

If I hadn’t stayed for the Fantastic Beasts credits, I wouldn’t have heard the fantastic soundtrack. Or learned that Mr Depp had a small army of people pandering to his every need. Or that his scary contact lens had its very own technician.

Then, there’s the flip from fantasy to reality..

I would happily sit in the empty cinema long after the credits have finished because I need time to adjust from fantasy to reality. But that’s not possible when the cleaners are giving you the evils because they can’t start cleaning up until you’ve shifted your arse.

In my younger days, I would go home and reenact everything I saw and then I would work the characters into my world using their phrases, mannerisms and style. I know now that it was part of masking – of being somebody I wasn’t because I couldn’t be myself. In those days, I was more out of this world than I was in it – something which my mother would testify to, if she were alive. She always said that I never seemed to be here. She was right. I was far, far away..

I wish I could take the credit for this quote, but it comes from a fellow autist in response to an online post I made about staying until the very end of the credits. I think that many of us will identify with it.

Earth is simply where my body is tethered…

These days, I don’t go home, shut myself away and reenact. Those days ended when I realised that nobody else I knew did such a thing – not on their own anyway. Drama was never an option for me due to my social and communication problems. Not to mention, crippling anxiety. Any enjoyment of being able to become different characters would have been lost in the discomfort of everything else. And so it’s down to music, literature and the movies to take me away from life.

In the cinema, the endorphins flood my body. The feel good hormones. The ‘I can fucking do this‘ hormones!

Then the experience ends. I push open the exit door and reality slaps me in the face with atomic force.

The anxiety. The weariness. The disconnection.

I’d give anything to turn around and walk back into that darkened room because that room is my wardrobe into Narnia. It’s a portal to another world – a world that understands me.

Racing The Bumblebee

 

After 46 years of not knowing who I was, you’d probably imagine that when I finally got the answer I would be happy?

Maybe, for other autists this is the case?

The truth is that I’m not a happy person. I feel happy occasionally, but mostly all the nice stuff is weighed down by anxiety, pain, and sadness.

It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve known happiness. Real happiness.

Until the age of five, I was happy. The world was a magical place. I was in-tune to the oneness of the universe and while I’m aware that some might consider that a bit ‘wanky’, everything is connected. The problem is that we grow older and become disconnected.

Children are open to most things because they are new. They accept what they see and feel because they’ve yet to be brainwashed with jaded and narrow-minded opinions of their elders who tell them:

1. There’s no such thing as ghosts!

2. Santa doesn’t exist!

3. There is no heaven!

However, none of these statements are fact.

1. There are such things as ghosts if you’ve seen one and I have, twice, and if you understand that we are energy and energy can’t be destroyed ( it can only change form) then ghosts are completely viable, no?

2. Santa existed in human form. His name was St Nicholas and as Santa Claus he lives on in every parent/guardian who ever put a present under a Christmas tree in his name.

3. People who have been clinically dead who come back to life with stories of heaven or a place beyond normal consciousness.

‘If heaven existed, then everybody would experience the same thing!’

Says who?

It depends how you think of heaven. Maybe my heaven will be a massive library? Maybe yours will be that special beach you visited once? Or do you associate heaven with clouds and a bearded bloke wearing sandals? The point is that many people experience another state of consciousness during cardiac arrest (even brain death) which suggests that our consciousness does not die with our bodies.

Children are open to the unseen and the mysterious, this is partly what makes childhood so magical, but childhood is brief and there comes a day when it ends and my childhood’s end came when I was 11 years old. Bonfire night. Talk about ‘out with a bang’? The stomach cramps I’d been experiencing for weeks turned out to be the onset of my periods. I wasn’t ready, but is anybody ever adequately prepared for puberty? Not us and certainly not our parents who have to put up with their sweet little children turning into argumentative arseholes!

The big P coincided with a house move and a new school where I was bullied from word go. Here is where the sadness became a constant emotion. Magic struggles to thrive in such conditions and a few years later I discovered the numbing effects of alcohol and it all but vanished into the vaults of my mind. But there have been moments where the universe has reminded me that there is more to this life than what people think. I’ve always known it, but sometimes I forget it because mental illness clouds the mind. This is when the universe has to work harder to get me to notice but when I do, it lifts me enough to keep my head from going under.

Recently I was having one of those days.

I was on an old fashined steam train and I was alone in the carriage. The track was only about a mile long so we were going slow enough to be able to appreciate the countryside. Something told me to look to my left and when I did so, I noticed that a massive bumblebee was flying level with my window. It flew in a straight line with my window for about fifteen seconds, though it felt like hours. This tends to be the case when a connection is made. Time as we know it, changes. It slows down. The movies depict this by freezing everything around the subject (s).

A thought crossed my mind..

I was racing a bumblebee!

Not THAT Bumblebee!

There was this connection. The bee and I were one and, no, I hadn’t been at the cider!

It was magical.

It was funny and uplifting and amazing and all those wonderful feelings that had been covered up with the haze of mental illness.

We forget that everything is connected, but the universe has a habit of reminding us and often at the exact moment that we need the reminder the most.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint

This was one of those moments.

This was the magic of my childhood. I noticed this kind of stuff all the time and I couldn’t understand why other people couldn’t see it too? But growing up does that to a person. Those spaces in our mind where the magic is recieved are gradually replaced by worries, sadness and useless information.

Enchantment gives way to stress.

Mental illness is an enchantment killer. Catastrophic thoughts are like weeds that strangle the life out of every beautiful thought you’ve ever had, You stop feeling the magic. Sometimes you stop feeling full stop. You become disconnected from the universe and eventually, yourself. It’s at this point that you struggle to know what the point of it all is. The years of suffering yet to come stretch out in front of you and you feel a sadness of such depth that you cannot begin to describe it. It scares you. You don’t want to feel this way, so you fight, but it’s like quicksand; the more you struggle, the quicker you go under. It’s only when we stop struggling that we get chance to breathe and in that moment we can see that the universe has sent us a life line. All this time, we thought we were alone, but we were not. We never are.

The only issue I’ve ever had with that is when I’m having private time on the loo. Do the unseen respectfully float off elsewhere? I hope so because there ain’t nobody, alive or dead, who needs to witness me having a tricky bowel movement, you get me?

To you, the bumblebee race might seem insignificant. Fanciful? I can see why you would. But this was something you had to experience.

Of course, you can choose to ignore such things or write them off as coincidences, but you will never know magic or enchantment if you continually slam the door on it.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it ~ Roald Dahl

Then there’s the sea.

A lot of humans have a connection to the sea. This could be because we’re mostly made up of water, but there is also this spiritual connection to water. Except for boys who develop an aversion to it until they discover start fancying girls (or boys).

Or it’s simply the desire to try and conquer the sea because it’s bigger and stronger us? Despite having nearly drowned, I love to look at the sea. It calms me. It always has. The way the waves crash when it’s stormy or gently roll when it’s calm. It’s moody, like me. The sea has the capacity to kill me, but it also has the capacity to calm my anxious thoughts in a way that no drug ever has or ever will.

“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Then again, I am the Cancer water sign so maybe that’s another reason why I’m connected to it? It would certainly explain why I walk sideways. Or is it to do with being deaf in one ear? You know, balance? Either way, my walking is very crab-like!

So, in one week I got to race a bumblebee and stare at the sea and it provided a lull in the chaos within my tired middle-aged brain.

More importantly, it gave me hope.

I know that enchantment exists. It’s never not been here. I just lost sight of it because anxiety and illness clouds the mind. It’s like when a radio loses it’s signal. The capability is still there, you just have to re-tune the station.

 

 

 

 

 

Autism: Fantasy Versus Reality

For the majority of my 9 year old autistic son’s life, he’s lived in a fantasy world made up of fictional characters. He becomes those characters. He believes in them. To him, they’re real.

It’s escapism. A way of coping with a confusing world and I understand it because I’ve lived in a fantasy world of my own, particularly as a child. One thing my mother picked up on was how I was never ‘here’. The reason for that was that ‘here’ was (and still is) overwhelming and causes me a great deal of anxiety.

As I grew older, I escaped into music and books. Music conjures up vivid imagery to me and my mood changes with tempo. It would seem that I am wired to physically and emotionally react to music.

Music provides me with the protection that my imaginary world once did with fictional characters. With music, I’m physically here, but mentally (spiritually) I’m elsewhere. Walking down the street becomes a tolerable experience with my ear buds in. I know that people can see me, but I am anesthetized to them and the environmental noises that make me anxious.

I need escapism. While it’s not the same world I inhabited as a child – my need for an alternate universe remains the same. The difference is that I understand what is acceptable (and what is not) of me as an adult. But make no mistake – when I listen to music or lose myself in a book, I am as far away as I ever was.

Being autistic, I don’t have interests, I have obsessions and one of mine is death and true to my autistic self, if I can find a way to weave my obsession with mortality into a conversation, I will, but don’t worry, I haven’t gone off on a tangent. It’s relative, so bear with me.

I don’t see my interest in death as being morbid. It’s something that is going to happen to me, so I need to familiarse myself with it because – the fear of the unknown, right? I’ve already planned my funeral and one of the songs I have chosen is David Bowie’s Life on Mars.

You see, Bowie knew a thing or two about misfits. He knew that they would identify with his style – visually and musically – thus making him a very rich man. Arguably, one of his best tracks is Life on Mars – a song which Bowie labelled, “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media” and added, “I think she finds herself disappointed with reality… that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.” For me, it’s reminiscent of own crushing disappointment with reality. I was the ‘girl with the mousey hair’ watching movies over and over (and over) again – wondering why reality could never live up to them. I know that my family will struggle to understand the song’s meaning, but if ever a song existed that was my song – it’s this one.

In fact, in my fantasy world – Bowie wrote it for me, innit?

A lot of autistics live (or have lived) in a fantasy world and if you understood how hard it is to live on a planet that’s not compatible with your needs, you would understand why this happens. The bottom line is this: Our imaginary worlds are where we have complete control over ever single thing that happens.

Control is something that we have little of in the ‘real’ world. It’s the reason we flounder through life – succumbing to mental illness. Some of us will take our own lives. Many of us will die prematurely from stress related conditions and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The rest of us will struggle with chronic health conditions that won’t kill us, but which will impact our already limited lives. But inside our mind is a place where we can be ourselves. A place where we don’t have to fight to be heard or accepted. A place where we can be ourselves, without fear.

How sad that this is the stuff of fantasy, instead of reality?

This is our reality.

I know how crap this world can be. I know how unkind human beings can be, so I indulge my son’s need for fantasy because I understand his need for escapism. The real world disappoints. It hurts. It makes us anxious. I wish that I could spare him all of this, but I know that one day his imaginary world will no longer protect him. I dread that day, but I know that it will because this isn’t our world. It isn’t autism friendly. Not yet. Not by a long way. This is why so many of us describe feeling as if we are from a different planet. We’re aliens having to work exceptionally hard to try and fit in here.

In our fantasy worlds, we live, rather than exist.

In reality, we exist, rather than live.

Whether escapism is being a fictional character, or losing ourselves in the lyrics of a song or the pages of a book – it’s important that we do it and it’s important that people, especially parents, understand why.

“For a child with Asperger’s, especially a fantasy subtype, fantasy can become an obsession. If fantasy becomes an obsession, it may take therapy or perhaps medication to correct the situation. Do not hesitate to contact a psychologist for help if your efforts are unsuccessful. A child locked in fantasy is a child lost to reality.”

I came across this on a website specifically for parents of children who have Aspergers.  The last sentence in particular suggests ignorance of the importance of escapism and it’s function. Is intervention really in the child’s best interests? Or is it another example of autistic children being forced to adapt so that non-autistic people can feel more comfortable in their presence?

Our autistic lives revolve around escapism and obsessions. If a child’s obsession involves wearing a Jason mask AND nicking your kitchen knives, it’s probably best that professional help is sought – pronto. Otherwise, leave them be. Escapism is serving a purpose. It’s keeping them sane. The important stuff is going in. Nobody was more ‘locked in a fantasy world’ than I was as a child, but I do understand the difference between fantasy and reality. It’s just that reality overwhelms me, so I need to intersperse it with frequent visits to my fantasy world – medication not needed.

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” ~ J.R.R Tolkien