"I see autistic people."
A list of autistic coded characters made by an autistic horror movie fan.
As an autistic person, I'd have to say that Hollywood's collection of autistic characters is a real-life horror movie. They are almost all the same and come across as caricatures rather than actual human beings. It also doesn't help that these characters are normally created by neurotypical (non-autistic) writers and performed by neurotypical actors, making the whole thing feel a bit too staged. Because nearly all of these depictions are pure crap, we autistics often look for other characters to compare ourselves to. These are known as "autistic coded characters", or characters that come across as autistic despite not being confirmed by their creators as being on the spectrum. Ironically, they are often seen as a better representation of the spectrum compared to the characters that are actually written to be that way. Some of the most well-known autistic coded characters include Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Temperance Brennan from Bones, and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. Since I'm so obsessed with horror movies and it's my birthday (it's on March 7th, but this probably won't get published in time), I created a list of characters in horror movies that could be on the spectrum.
For this list, the characters need to show a fair amount of symptoms and must have never been confirmed to be autistic, which means that I sadly have to omit Oliver from Come Play despite the film's AMAZING depiction of autism. Since this is only for movie characters, I apologize to anyone who was expecting Will Graham from Hannibal. By the way, please don't be offended by my picks. I'm not saying that these people have to be autistic; I'm just saying that it's possible for them to be on the spectrum. Oh, and one last thing: SPOILER ALERT!
1.) Samuel Vanek- The Babadook (2014)
I could write a whole essay on why y'all need to stop saying that this child is the true villain of the movie, but I'll keep it short. Sam is clearly on the spectrum given how he's described as having "significant behavioral problems" and the fact that his mother asks why he can't be normal. His fear of the Babadook clearly gives him sensory overload, which is why he screams a lot. I'm sure that he was meant to be autistic, but writer and director Jennifer Kent never bothered to mention it in the script and didn't really handle it well. If you're looking for a version of the movie that actually confirms that the boy is autistic and handles the topic well, check out Come Play, which gives one of the best depictions of autism that I have ever seen.
2.) Tommy Jarvis and Tina Shepard- The Friday the 13th franchise
I couldn't pick between the two, so I'm including both of them. Tommy is undeniably the best protagonist in the whole series given how he's survived all three movies that he's appeared in. Looking back at The Final Chapter (1984), it doesn't surprise me that he comes across as autistic with his special interest in video games and puppets. Oh, and don't forget that he tricked Jason by pretending to be a younger version of the iconic killer. We autistics tend to hang onto random facts, and Tommy rightfully hung onto his knowledge of Jason's backstory to save himself and his sister. As for Tina from The New Blood (1988), the telekinesis could clearly be seen as a stand-in for autism given how she usually uses her powers when she's feeling very emotional or threaten and that she sees a doctor who wishes to exploit her.
3.) Nearly all of the Dream Warriors- A Nightmare on Elm Street3: Dream Warriors (1987)
I couldn't decide who I thought was the most autistic of the bunch, so I'm going to highlight a few. You've got Phillip the sleepwalking puppeteer, Will the wheelchairbound Wizard Master, and Joey the nonverbal teen. You've also got Patricia Arquette in her film debut as Kristen Parker, who opens the film by trying to stay awake while working on an art project that she's determined to finish. That project is a small replica of the Elm Street house, which she is obsessed with. Sounds neurotypical to me.
4.) Richie Tozier- It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019)
I mean, come on. I really shouldn't have to explain this one. Richie doesn't pick up on social cues at all and feels the need to say what's on his mind all the time. He's always cracking jokes when he feels uncomfortable and insecure, which is why it's no surprise that he continues to do so in adulthood as a comedian.
5.) Franklin Hardesty- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This is another one that I shouldn't have to explain. Franklin won't shut up, he doesn't pick up on social cues, and he likes to talk about slaughterhouses as if he's giving a presentation.
6.) Randy Meeks- Scream (1996)
He's passionate about his obsession with horror movies and he's pretty awkward. Enough said.
7.) Jason Wilson- Us (2019)
Given how Hollywood always depicts white autistic people, it's nice seeing a black autistic coded character for a change. I understand that Jason's name and preference to wear a mask are references to Jason Voorhees, but the mask could also refer to masking, which is the practice of pretending to be neurotypical in order to be accepted by society. Jason is really into magic tricks and carries around a lighter to use for a trick, and his continuous use of the lighter could be seen as a form of stimming, which is the repetition of movements and sayings that autistic people rely on when they are experiencing sensory overload. At one point he wanders off and causes his mother to panic, which is something nearly all mothers of autistic children are familiar with. He is also a bit more observant than his family, especially when he silently realizes the truth about his mother at the end of the movie.
8.) Micahel Myers- Halloween (2007)
I was hesitant to include this character because some readers might take it the wrong way. Yes, some autistic people can be dangerous, but it's important to keep in mind that most autistic people-and just disabled people in general- are often victims of violence rather than perpetrators. I can still acknowledge the fact that some autistics have done some truly unspeakable things, and it was hard for me to ignore the obvious symptoms in Rob Zombie's reimagining of the Shape. For one, Michael has always been uncomfortable around other people since childhood and only feels a deep connection with his mother and baby sister. He also likes to collect masks, which plays into him wearing one as a killer. As long as it doesn't come across as fear-mongering, I don't see why we can't have autistic villains.
9.) Seth Brundle aka Brundlefly- The Fly (1986)
Other than the fact that he's overly passionate about his experiment and doesn't notice when he comes across as frightening or annoying to other people, we see Brundlefly displaying an autistic trait that is not often discussed in the media: a good connection with animals. We autistics usually prefer the company of animals because we don't feel the pressure to socialize and be normal when we're around them. Brundlefly has no issue drinking and venting out his frustration to a baboon, and he even apologizes to his little friend for accidentally killing another baboon earlier in the film while testing his teleporting pod.
10.) Carrie White- Carrie (1976)
This is my favorite horror movie of all time, and part of the reason is due to how much I relate to the telekinetic prom queen. Carrie feels so out of place at school, and her mother shames her for not being the person she wants her to be. Like Tina in The New Blood, the telekinetic powers could be seen as a metaphor for sensory overload as Carrie uses it when she feels overwhelmed or threaten. She does some truly horrifying things when she's pushed over the edge, but the film neither dehumanizes her nor over-sympathizes with her. We rarely get autistic female characters in movies, so the way I related to Carrie growing up as a bullied outcast really means a lot to me.
Which autistic character do you think is on the spectrum?