Guest blog: A Disney Journey


Today Rowena Preston analyses some classic Disney cartoon characters from a personal perspective.

1937: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”

Grumpy: Now, I’m warnin’ ya. Don’t let nobody or nothin’ in the house.

Snow White: Why, Grumpy, you do care.

[Kisses the reluctant Grumpy on the head]

I love Grumpy best of all the dwarves! He is initially suspicious of the stranger in the house, but gradually warms up to her. She offends him by laughing at him occasionally, but she mainly shows him kindness. She even makes him a special pie with his name on. When Snow White is threatened, Grumpy leaps into action.

1940: “Pinocchio”

Jiminy Cricket: Now, you see, the world is full of temptations.

Pinocchio: Temptations?

Jiminy Cricket: Yep, temptations. They’re the wrong things that seem right at the time… but… uh… even though the right things may seem wrong sometimes, or sometimes the wrong things…

[chuckles]

Jiminy Cricket: may be right at the wrong time, or visa versa.

Jiminy Cricket: [clears throat] Understand?

Pinocchio: [Shakes his head] Uh-uh. But I’m gonna do right.

Jiminy Cricket: Atta boy, Pinoke! And I’m gonna help ya.

The world could be a better place if we all listened to that small voice inside us. Jiminy finds that his best efforts aren’t always appreciated and sometimes thinks that Pinocchio is not worth the trouble, but his loyalty always wins out. He saves Pinocchio from being turned into a donkey. (Assume makes an ass of you and me.) “Pinocchio” is one of my favourite animated films, although it carries the dreadful message that justice is not always done. That is true of life though and everybody has to learn that lesson. Life is not always fair or kind, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t try to change that.

1941: Dumbo

[the elephants think that Dumbo with his big ears is the reason Mrs. Jumbo has been locked up]

Timothy Q. Mouse: What’s the matter with his ears? I don’t see nothin’ wrong with ’em. I think they’re cute.

“Dumbo” is a difficult film to watch, especially in modern times, but the character is adorable! While most of the cast jeer, Timothy and Mrs. Jumbo are his stout defenders. After Timothy shames them, the crows also become useful allies, supplying the magic feather. Timothy aids Dumbo to realise that he can fly on his own. It is a worrying sign of the times that some people would censor this film and while I can empathise with their reasons, I, personally, am not offended. The past remains the past and we should learn from it; not keep apologising. If we’re not careful, book burning will come back and that will be terrible. (Don’t get me started on electronic books!)

1942: Bambi

Thumper: He doesn’t walk very good, does he?

Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!

Thumper: Yes, mama?

Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?

Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

Out of the mouths of young rabbits, children and autistics! I often remember this lesson. Honesty is a minefield. Autistics value it and I am certain it ought to be one of our strengths. However, we learn the hard way that honesty is not always valued by the rest of humanity. Non-autistics have a complex code of conduct, so sometimes it is wiser just to keep one’s thoughts to oneself. I am uncertain why I find it so difficult to speak. The fact that I can speak, but not necessarily all the time, if a source of vexation to everybody, including me. Anxiety is the root cause, but could I have “selective mutism” or is it a “shield” to protect myself? I seem to get into trouble for speaking and also for not speaking. I really don’t understand why the proof of someone’s intelligence or worth seems to rest on them speaking. I can express myself well by writing. I can identify writing as a strength. People compliment me on my writing. If you have the good fortune (or misfortune) to meet me in person though, you will be baffled by the extreme “awkwardness” that will soon arise. It can be like trying to “squeeze blood from a stone”; although my mum can confirm that I do have the ability to “talk the hindleg off a donkey”, but only to her. I have not mastered the skills of two-way conversation, which is why you need to display patience. Being on the autistic spectrum means that I have a “communication disability”, so expecting me to communicate at your level is surely too big an ask? Autistics need allies. You can be an ally by listening to me and to other autistics. I am convinced that bridges can be built, but it requires both sides to be responsible. Communication requires a minimum of TWO participants. It is not MY problem; it is OUR solution. Accept that we are both going to be uncomfortable and we shall go from there. I’ll BELIEVE in you; you’ll BELIEVE in me. Let’s solve this together.

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