#LGBTHM17

That’s so me! The importance of identity in film and TV characters

“Hi! My name is Hayley, and I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

Sound familiar? It’s the opening line from the 2016 film Finding Dory (and if you’ve been living under a shell, the sequel to 2003 Pixar hit Finding Nemo), but it seems to be the explanation I’ve had to offer when someone reminds me I’ve already told them something five times. Forgetfulness is just one of the fantastic traits which are part and parcel of having dyspraxia.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) as it is medically known, is exactly what it says on the tin: a condition which affects memory, hand-eye coordination and organisation to name a few. To quote an Irish Times article, messages “take the scenic route” instead of going straight to my brain, which often leads to a repetition of instructions.

When I first saw Finding Dory in the cinema, it didn’t hit me straight away (as who thinks they’ll identify with an animated fish?), even if she is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres.

It was just one of those days when I had it on in the background and I happened to look up when Dory’s father helps her move a shell and says “You see Kelpcake – there’s always another way.”

I wasn’t sure what it was about those words, but something made me restart the film and watch it more closely.

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I saw that Dory was always bumping into other fish, and was easily distracted, forgetful, and having to find creative ways around problems because her brain doesn’t function in the same way as someone like Marlin. She was just like me.

As DCD is still a relatively unfamiliar condition compared to dyslexia, there was something reassuring about seeing the traits I struggle with on a day-to-day basis on the big screen, and seeing the fish around her love her for exactly who she is.

In January this year, actor Cole Sprouse (formally Ross’s son Ben from Friends) spoke openly about the importance of keeping his Archie comics character Jughead Jones asexual in the new live-action Netflix series Riverdale.

The Archie comics have been around for 75 years, but it was only when the comics were rebooted by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson did it confirm that after long-term speculation, the character Jughead was indeed asexual.

First year Film and Media student Abby Ferguson, who identifies as asexual, believes that seeing a Netflix television character will appeal to a teenage audience, and offers some reassurance for young people who are still questioning their sexuality, and perhaps have not considered themselves as asexual.

She says: “Before this show, I certainly wasn’t aware of any asexual characters who were confirmed as such in any work of fiction, and while that’s not, necessarily, to say they’re not out there, I’d take a guess and say there are very few.

“But I think it’s important to keep this character asexual because there is so little discussion about asexuality that sometimes it’s almost treated like a rare medical condition rather than a sexual identity.”

Whilst Abby can appreciate a good rom-com, she says there are so many excellent ensemble comedies and dramas on air now that have the scope to focus on at least one asexual character.

“I think it’s important as well to explore the complexities of asexual people as well because like every other sexuality, there are such a wide range of identities that don’t fit into a single stereotype, and often stand against it.”

 

If you are experiencing some symptoms of DCD, more information can be found on the NHS website and Dyspraxia Foundation (UK):

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dyspraxia-(childhood)/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
http://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/

 

If you need any support dealing with asexuality or generally want to learn more see the useful links below:

http://www.asexuality.org/en/
http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/01/supporting-asexual-youth/

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