Sunday, December 15, 2013

Temple Grandin: A Review

Yesterday I finally brought myself to watch Temple Grandin. It’s a biographical TV-movie about Temple Grandin, a noted autistic who is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a bestselling author, an activist and a consultant to the livestock industry. The movie itself casts Claire Danes as Temple Grandin, who does a really good job although she’s probably too pretty to be Grandin. She’s too pretty to be anyone actually. The movie itself is pretty ordinary for a biographical movie, nothing of the sort of A Beautiful Mind. It’s understandable since this is a TV movie, not for the big screen. 

This movie really opens my mind about autism and the struggle of autistic people. Sure, we all heard about autism, some of us even has them as friend, but probably not a lot of use know what it is like for them back then when Psychology weren’t as developed as today. For the record, Mrs. Grandin grew up in the US at the 60’s, back when black people were still trying to earn their equality, homosexuality was still classified as mental disorder, and fight for LGBT was just begun. Autism was also classified as mental disorder. Autistic kids back then were not expected to develop speech, let alone social life. Have an autistic kid? Well, no other choice than putting your kid in an institution.

Mrs. Grandin (or should I say Miss?) herself is diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. She couldn’t speak until the age of 4 and every psychiatrist her mother took her to offered nothing than life as a mentally disabled. Yet now, she is 66, an accomplished author, a professor, and an activist. Once, she turned up in an autism meet-up with her mother and shocked everyone there with the fact that not only she is able to speak and be aware of her surroundings; she has a B.A, a M.Sc. and was currently studying for her doctorate. 

I also learn a lot about what it is like to be autistic, at least from Mrs. Grandin perspective. As an autistic, she is very sensitive to noise, afraid to be touched by people (her mother was very depressed because Temple refused to be hugged) and unable to understand any form of social interactions (joke, etc.).

But she got one very, very beautiful mind. Boy, and they really know how to present it in the movie. She describes herself as a visual thinker – she thinks in pictures and words are just second language for her. Her mind is like a full-length movie that she can play at will, pausing here and there to notice small details. This, she says, is her number one asset in working with animal. Her incredible alertness to detail eases her to understand how an animal mentally process everything. And you know what else she could do? She only needs a second to look at a French passage, a language she hates the most, and she is able to recite everything, every word, perfectly. She didn't memorize it, she 'read' the book she already copied to her mind. She is also really good in science and math, but only limited to geometry and other branch of Math that needs good visualization. Stuff like Algebra is practically grumbles to her.

This sounds a lot like eidetic memory to me, I don’t understand what the difference and why she doesn’t just say it so if they are actually the same. She talks about this mind too, and other kind, on TED. I got really disappointed that she does not actually talk like Claire does in movie. Sure, she has distinct accent and body language but I think Claire overdoes it. 

She is also very distant emotionally, which in turn makes her very pragmatic. That’s why even though she loves animal and believes that they have to be treated with respect, she is not vegetarian and fully understand the benefit of animal as food. No death ever make her sad, too. She is like very genious, very cold robot.

All in all, I think some credits definitely has to be given to Temple’s mother, for her persistence in proving that her daughter is not less than everyone else, and to Temple’s science teacher. Yes, Temple’s is very interested in science; rocket, planets, planes, etc. She did not do well in school though because her autism got in her way. Her science teacher was the very first person who noticed her talent, her brilliance, her beautiful mind, and nurtured her. 

I know this movie is very old and probably very boring since its biographical and all, but it is definitely recommended, especially if you want something to watch that make your cold soul a little warmer.

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