By Trevor Pacelli
It’s been a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme… Beauty and the Beast. It was one of the animated instant classics to trigger the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, defined an entire generation of Disney fans, set off some of the most iconic songs ever to grace the screen, was honored in several lists by the American Film Institute, was preserved in the National Film Registry the second year it was eligible (which is a huge deal), and was the first animated film in history to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
Here are my autism lessons from the film: “This is the first Disney film to feature an exclusively gay moment!” “If Emma Watson wants women to have equal choice, freedom, and liberation, why is she wearing barely any clothes in Vanity Fair Magazine?” We all know of the controversy that Disney triggered to get more people talking about this movie, which if you ask me, is unnecessary when you’re the most successful family entertainment industry in the world. So why do so many businesses and companies want to stir up attention based on sexuality?
Well, one thing’s for certain: In today’s age of mobile technology, information can circulate faster than you can take a breath, so talking about something that attracts a plethora of mixed heated opinions guarantees greater attention given to the source. However, just because a business can generate revenue that way doesn’t mean they should.
To prove my point, I’ll explain it from the perspective of autism.
I have seen plenty of news stories that circulated because somebody with a disability was discriminated against. Now, at this point, it’s no longer a heated debate from two sides, most everyone agrees that poor treatment towards somebody with autism or another disability is publicly unacceptable. Yet people still do it to generate greater attention.
You all remember when Donald Trump appeared to mock a man with a limb disability; I don’t know what his specific motives were in doing so, but the attention certainly helped him “trump” over the other Republican candidates, right? On a smaller scale, I recall a story when a boy with autism was beaten by neighbors in their house, and the video was posted online. Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact motives in posting the video online, but my guess would be because they wanted to show the world how stupid mentally disabled people are.
People with autism and other disabilities are used as substances of drawing attention all the time in the media, and it’s not always in forms of bullying that is commonly expected. At times, a publication could post an article about how they’ve hired somebody with a disability. Although their intentions are good, they ultimately (in several cases, not all) are using it to improve their own public branding. This is not okay.
Yes, we should always celebrate whenever somebody on the autism spectrum gets a high-paying job or is honored for their unique skills. But we should also be aware that these are people with thoughts and opinions as strong as anybody else’s. They do not want to be used as a marketing ploy or attention grabber. If a headline came up saying, “Person with autism hired by big business,” wouldn’t you think that it demeans the identity of the person a bit, diminishing them to a label?
While Beauty and the Beast may have received more public attention by its controversial marketing, at the end of the day, the way it’s marketed doesn’t matter: once people actually go see the movie, all that matters is whether or not they had a good time. In the same way, using autism as a means to draw attention to yourself is not going to always make your own productivity any better, all that matters is the services that people receive from what a business has to offer.
To read the full review of Beauty and the Beast, go to TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.