Decoding the world, through Disney movies
At the age of three, Owen Suskind stopped talking. He “watched and rewatched every animated Disney movie ever made,” writes Moore. One day, after three years of silence, Owen said: “Walter (his brother) doesn’t want to grow up. Like Mowgli or Peter Pan.”
Owen used Disney cartoons to “make sense of the world,” his parents came to believe. They acted as cartoon characters to communicate with him. He rejoined the world.
There’s a scene in the movie where he shows a group of other autistic young adults part of The Lion King. It’s the scene where Mufasa, Simba’s father, comes back as a ghost to tell Simba, “Remember who you are!” . . . “What was Mufasa teaching Simba?” Owen asks his friends. They discuss it for a few moments and then Owen summarizes: “It’s important that when our parents no longer can help us, that we have to figure things out by ourselves.”
Disney movies “offer a kind of sparkling clarity that doesn’t exist in real life,” writes Moore, who’s a big fan.
But, while the movies are simple, they’re not simplistic. They deal with real feelings and real dilemmas that children face as they grow into adults. They show us that growing up is hard, but necessary and, ultimately, desirable. Our parents won’t always be there, but the things they taught us will. Love is worth fighting for. Your dreams are worth reaching for. . . . Which is exactly what Owen needed in order to reconnect with reality. A kind of cipher through which to run the messy and confusing experiences of real life.
To “reconnect with reality,” Owen needed “a kind of cipher through which to run the messy and confusing experiences of real life,” Moore concludes.
The movie is based on a book by Owen’s father, Ron Suskind, a journalist.