So Firstly I will say happy autism awareness month. Sorry, I don’t celebrate the autism week. That is down to everyone celebrates a week then forgets us, so If you remind people that it is autism awareness month, it seems a bigger problem.
Aside from that as it is Autism awareness month I thought I would watch some autism movies, as I normally do, I was hoping to watch Music, but that happened…. So I thought everyone in the autism community keeps talking about Loop and well I’m bored why not. So then I watched it.
For context Loop is a Disney Pixar SparkShorts, this is what usually shows in front of a Pixar movie, like Cars, Toy Story or Inside out. It is about a non-verbal autistic girl, called Renee, going on a ‘canoe trip’ with another child who is neurotypical called Marcus.
This is the lens I am looking through: I am an Autistic person, with Asperger’s. If I wasn’t taught to speak I would have been labelled as non-verbal, I still have a few of my vocal chords missing, hence why when I do podcasts my cadence is a bit off. I have been paddling for 11 years. I am 3* canoeist, A level 1 coach and race in canoes. Canoeing is pretty much my life. So this should be right up my street.
So why do I think it is dangerous. Its only 11 minutes, how much could go wrong in 11 minutes? Apparently a lot. So to start of with the camper leader/ worker who is meant to be with the autistic person decides to let another child go in the canoe with Renee. To us the audience we don’t know if Marcus knows if she even has autism. The change here is subtle for neurotypicals but is big for us. It’s a line ‘I’m putting you with someone new’. That should have triggered something, its new, different but it didn’t. So either they are portraying Renee as someone who can cope with change or somewhat not aware of her surroundings, for autistic standards that’s not the best start…. It carries on, Marcus is paddling the canoe, which is odd because even though Renee has autism, she still should be able to paddle the canoe, or why else is she on the water. The ways Renee communicates is an app on her phone, REMEMBER THAT, so she somewhat tricks Marcus to paddle more to the reeds so she can feel them whilst the canoe is moving. So if you aren’t aware of why Renee is doing this then you are at a complete loss. So allow me to help, this is a form of stimming this form is where an outside object in this case a reed creates a stimulating feeling for Renee this can help concentration, be a way of calming down or just because they want to feel something that isn’t skin. This counts as stimming, before anyone argues with me, as it is self-stimulation so like tap the tip of my fingers, Renee uses the reeds to do exact same thing. Marcus decides to go with it as he feels out towards the reeds, Renee has used her phone the play another stimulus, a noise of a dog barking, Marcus notices that she enjoys the sound. So they paddle to a bridge or a tunnel of some kind so Renee can experience the noise echoing. Renee is either not letting on that she understands how echoes work, considering it is a sensory stimulus, or at this point she is just labelled as dumb and didn’t know that there was anywhere that could echo, but she has been out before and if that is the case then surely it would have been catalogued as a place to check out or was known to be good or bad. So something there doesn’t add up. Then a powerboat, a motorise boat, you hear it before you see it, although it also makes an echo which Renee doesn’t like Marcus doesn’t understand Renee paddles out of the tunnel; finally she can paddle. Then Marcus has to stop the canoe running into the powerboat. This somehow causes a meltdown. Marcus in avoiding the dangers crashes the canoe then he shouts at her not understanding that she is having a meltdown. Then she throws her phone in the water and tips the canoe on top of her and hides. So now the way she has been communicating can no longer works. Then we see Marcus waiting the time is staggered so we don’t actually know if Marcus picks up the phone or if has been waiting for 5 minutes or 5 hours. Guessing I would say hours as the sun was setting. So for people who maybe a little lost no adult has seen an autistic girl with no way of getting help for hours. Anyway Marcus somehow gets wise at this point although it feels more like false smarts, as he says that he is just going to waited, where they have crashed there is no way of getting help so of course he is going to have to wait the only of way is if he starts swimming leaving her alone with a canoe. Eventually Renee calms down and her and Marcus get back in the canoe and its ends with them headed back to camp.
So here are my feelings about this. Let’s be honest they aren’t good at the minimum in the real world that would be child endangerment. This isn’t the real world so is it good for people who are autistic? In my opinion, no. Just no. I can’t help but wonder if Renee’s level of autism, where she is on the spectrum, kept changing to fit the story. The only thing that was the same was that she was non-verbal, yes non-verbal’s can speak, they can’t speak full sentences, or their words are limited so saying woof woof is fine. The issues are that the exposition around this was sorely lacking, so what we didn’t know as audience was a lot. They never mention that Renee was autistic either. So she could have been labelled as just someone who is to dumb to speak. To me that hurtful. Pixar should at least given time to mention Renee was autistic. Also they never went near the group of children on the water already, so again why not? Pixar had a chance and somehow the animated canoe holds more water than Loop. Also do we even get an idea why it was called loop? As most shorts or SparkShorts you can see why they have their name one man band, Purl and Lava to name a few.
Pixar claim its ground breaking as it features there first non-verbal autistic character, well where is there first autistic. I have watch all the Pixar movies and shorts. There is no mention of autism anywhere in them. So what is the chance they have done this to score extra brownie points with the autism community. I would call it ground breaking if it was a full feature length movie, but it was less then 11 minutes with no mention of autism and all they shown was that if a girl has autism they can’t speak, and they can be manipulating to get people to do things for them. If Renee was non-verbal and Marcus was high-functioning or had Asperger’s I could understand it being ground breaking, but all movies or shorts that feature autism focus on one person one view people.
So the positives, yes there are some. If you stuck around to the end then you would have found out that Renee now has a friend to paddle with. That is a big plus, although they should this by her phone turning on, which you last see being chucked in the river. It shows someone who isn’t white with autism, which I will admit is new. Then it shows someone autistic doing a sport, which is always good to see.
The issues I have with this far outweigh the good things. It somehow just feels as too convenient at times. Plus the issues around autism are a pain, but if they are done correctly autism communities could have used it as a way of showing that they aren’t dumb and [ insert stereotype here] instead we are left with something that is in my opinion just misses music, but Rainman holds better expectations then some that is 30 odd years newer then this. Its worrying as so far any film with autism can’t even get basics right. Now Pixar had a shot, and they did SparkShort.
If you like any of this type of blog please like, share, and comment below. What is your opinion on loop?