Friday, March 11, 2016

Dear Brenda Chapman

Dear Brenda Chapman,

This is a letter from one mother to another.

One of my daughters is on the autism spectrum. Individuals on the autism spectrum are known for having intense special interests. This child (she would argue that she is not a child; she is a teenager!) is a movie and musical expert and can recite facts that would blow your mind. Watching the Oscars or Golden Globes with her is always interesting because she can tell you odd facts about the nominees and the winners. "He directed _______________ in 19__!" or "He voiced ______________ in the animated movie ______________ in 19__!" Her memory is incredible.

My teen who has an autism spectrum disorder was so frightened by one of the scenes in "Brave" that you wrote and directed that she continues to be upset about it. I wonder if and how we could reach out to you to ask if you'd talk to my kid about it. Sometimes, my girl expresses the desire to tell you exactly how deeply that scene frightened her. The scenes intrude and repeat when she is sick. It is sign of pain and or illness. (PANDAS sucks, btw.) I hate it for her. She hates it.

She wants to tell you, and I quote her directly,

"I wish you'd never made 'Brave' in the first place!!"

(Interestingly, she adores "Prince of Egypt". Thank you for that.)

My girl says she hates Emma Thompson, too, for voicing Elinor, but she hates you more for writing the scary scene. She'd like to talk to Emma Thompson, too, about why she chose to voice the character. My girl with autism thinks that writers and directors and actors and actresses are easy to reach on the phone or internet. I haven't been able to convince her otherwise.

Yes, I've talked about how 'brave' Elinor was to break the tradition for her daughter. Yes, I've talked about how the mother and daughter made up in the end. And about how 'brave' Merida was to stand up to her parents and to tradition. The story is about Elinor's journey as well as Merida's. And it was meant to make money, sell tickets, sell DVDs, not to scare viewers. We destroyed the DVD we owned. I have tried every angle I can think of. Yes, I have. Endlessly. Over-analyzed and over-explained the whole thing. Your writing and directing combined with the animation and voice are too real. Doesn't help that my friends say Elinor resembles an animated version of me. Strep and PANDAS and pain and illness still bring up the scene and the feelings with it, though, and no amount of rationalization has helped. She thinks talking to the author may help. *shrug* I don't know.

I continue to try. Keep reading:

My teenager, homeschooler, who has autism and a long list of developmental and academic delays and co-occurring conditions, the one who regressed and lost words and interaction, recently came up with the idea that something must have happened in Elinor's childhood. If you know anything about autism, this is a very big deal. Individuals with autism often have difficulty perspective taking. So for her to suggest that Elinor had an experience from her past that affected the way she behaved as a mother - well, that's a huge amount of perspective taking.

I suggested to my girl that she write a prequel to "Brave" that reveals why Elinor behaved the way she did. (I try to sneak in homeschooling wherever I can. *smile*) We've been discussing different possibilities of what might have happened when Elinor was a girl that made her so rigid and out of control in the ugly, frightening moment in "Brave". And today, Miss A wrote her first story line. Today is the first time that she put anything on paper. It doesn't seemed to have stopped the intrusive thoughts. But she is broadening her thinking process. And that is a positive. Brenda Chapman, do you have google alerts set for your name? That's the only way you'd ever see this. And if you see this and if you should ever write and direct a prequel to "Brave", I can connect you with a young lady with some good ideas to get you started. She'd be thrilled to collaborate. That same young lady sometimes thinks she'd like to be a voice actress, so she might be able to help you out in that capacity as well.

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