“Ben Affleck’s new thriller The Accountant plays up the positives in portraying an adult with autism: His character Christian Wolff is a math savant and genius bookkeeper with movie-star looks to boot, despite that dorky pocket protector,” usatoday.com opines. “But Wolff’s line of work, combing through the books for powerful crime families, and his use of multiple military-style firearms, required filmmakers to walk a careful line in the action film, which opens Friday in theaters nationwide.”
Apparently making a movie with an autistic hero who “kills with unblinking lethalness” wasn’t a problem.
Autism has been inaccurately implicated in the media as a cause of extreme violence, says Laurie Stephens, director of clinical services for Education Spectrum, an Altadena, Calif., therapeutic center for autism, and a liaison on the film. She cites reports about the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, which focused on perpetrator Adam Lanza’s Asperger’s diagnosis.
I’m confused. What part of those reports was inaccurate?
It’s certainly true that people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. And socio- and psychopaths are Hollywood staples. And the accountant in question is a hero. But is this character really OK in Tinsel Town — an enclave whose residents are OK with guns in movies but not in real-life Americans’ hands?
The fine line Director Gavin O’Connor has to walk: placating Hollywood anti-gunners while exploiting autism for commercial gain. This is how he does it:
“There’s absolutely no relationship between violence like this and having an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s,” says Stephens. But “it’s definitely going to be a concern” when a movie presents a character with autism who has guns “and who engages in this kind of aggression/violence.”
Affleck’s accountant takes out sinister figures with kill shots to the head, but “what I think was well done was that there was an explanation here,” says Stephens. To protect him from bullying, Wolff’s father instills a fighting mindset that evolves into a strong sense of self-preservation in adulthood.
“He’s not out there randomly killing people,” Stephens says . . .
“I took great sensitivity making sure the script was bulletproof so that the audience would understand what’s motivating the violence. To me, in telling the story, the violence had nothing to do with Asperger’s syndrome.” . . .
Bulletproof. Heh. Despite the prevarication and spin doctoring, I’m sure there’s only one real concern for the movies’ creators: ticket sales.