I am very excited about the upcoming Pixar short-film called “Loop.” So excited that I can’t think about it without bouncing and skipping around. It makes me want to shed a tear or joy. It’s another sign we might be turning the corner towards good autism representation in the media.
“But wait…” you’re probably wondering. “What is this ‘Loop’ film you just mentioned?” I shall tell you, dear readers. “Loop” is an upcoming animated short film by the animation studio Pixar. According to the IMDB synopsis and the Pixar website’s synopsis, the animated film is about two kids trying to cross a lake on a canoe, but can only do so after learning how the other experiences the world and how to communicate with each other. The important part of this whole production though, is that one of the characters is non-speaking autistic. In fact, she’ll be the first non-speaking autistic person ever portrayed in a Pixar production. Here’s the release poster:
“Loop” will be released in January 2020 on the Disney+ video streaming service. Normally, I would be concerned when hearing about upcoming representation of autistic people in mainstream media, mostly because mainstream media tends to be atrocious at accurately and positively portraying autistic people in any shape or form. However, there are a few things that immediately stand out as massively positive about “Loop.”
First, notice the name of the film and the way that it’s stylized on the poster. This is an obvious and blatant reference to the rainbow-colored neurodiversity infinity symbol (itself being a rainbow loop, and the title is stylized as literally a rainbow loop). The rainbow neurodiversity loop is used as a symbol of autism acceptance, autistic pride, and autism positivity. Thus, simply in its title, the film sets itself up to be pro-neurodiversity.
Secondly, there’s the portrayal of a non-speaking autistic person, which even among the autistic population is a demographic that is seriously lacking positive media portrayal. I’d like to take a moment and make a minor critique though and say that the promotional material for the film mentions that the character is “non-verbal.” I learned only recently that some non-speaking people have a strong preference for being referred to as “non-speaking” rather than “non-verbal,” because to the highest technicality “non-verbal” means “not using words” and many non-speaking people do use words, they just don’t use them by talking of their mouths. This is only a minor technicality, and up until recently I wasn’t aware there was a difference between the two terms and I have in the past used even on this blog the term “non-verbal” to refer to non-speaking people. This was my mistake, and one I bet many others are prone to accidentally make, so I thought I’d mention it to perhaps raise some awareness about terms.
While we’re on the topic of words, the girl appears to be holding a tablet in the poster, which hints to me that she’s likely going to be using it as an AAC device. If this is the case, this is also fantastic, because I think society in general needs to be more aware of and accepting of different AAC methods that people use to communicate. Many autistic people, even autistic people that can speak, rely on AAC devices to communicate. AAC representation would be a fantastic thing to see in “Loop.”
There’s also the fact that the synopsis mentions the fact that the plot revolves around both the autistic and non-autistic character learning to understand each other in order to work together to cross the lake. This works with the idea that myself and many other autistic people have been pushing that autistic communication styles are not inherently flawed, they are just different. Rather than sticking with the traditional paradigm of “force the broken autistic to adapt to a neurotypical communication style” we have the pro-neurodiversity message of working to understand an autistic person from their perspective and their terms in order to better communicate with and accommodate them. I love this!
Lastly, another point on demographics. The main character also pushes back against the stereotype and mental image that most people have of an autistic person as “8-year-old white male.” The autistic character isn’t white and appears not to be a male, and as such helps reinforce the idea that all people of all demographics can be autistic. Unfortunately, the “white male” stereotype has caused a lot of under-diagnosis of autism in people who don’t fall into that demographic, so hopefully “Loop” will help to break this harmful stereotype.
So, as you can see, there are many things I’m excited about regarding this upcoming short-film. “Loop” will be the second pro-neurodiversity short-film that Pixar will release within a year. The first was a film called “float” about a father who learns to accept his son that has the special ability of being able to levitate. While kind of a silly plot, the director of “float” has confirmed that the film was an allegory for his journey as he learned to accept his autistic son for who he is. So, I’m glad to see Pixar on this streak, and hopefully there will be more to come.
The only major concern I have is that I’m not sure if any autistic people were involved in the creation of “Loop,” and if not that is absolutely unacceptable, because there is absolutely no reason not to involve the real autism experts – autistic people – in the creation of something regarding autism. Nothing about us without us. I don’t know for sure whether or not any autistic people were involved, and if the were that’s fantastic, but overall I think “Loop” is a major step forward for autism acceptance and positive autism portrayal in the media which itself will hopefully help to break down a lot of the societal stigma that autistic people face on a daily basis.
What do you think of the upcoming film “Loop?”