05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Spectrum of Disability #ASD #autism #PowerRangers

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and supernatural stories to engage your emotions. When this month's topic came up, I have to admit my first thought on an other-abled character was Professor Xavier from X-Men, closely followed by Chirrut Imwe, the blind Force believer from Star Wars: Rogue One (my latest Blu-ray purchase). But another more recent film took me elsewhere because it was much more personal and closer to home.

Over the Easter holidays I took my three monsters and a friend to see Power Rangers. I've never been a huge fan, but endured the different series when my kids were younger because one thing I always admired about them was their diversity (even if the lead Power Ranger was generally a white guy). When the film came up, I figured it might be a bit of fun for my monsters and something to take up a day of spring break, as well as some social time for my 12yo. Because there lay another reason I wanted to see it and take them. As well as a gay character (although that aspect was oddly played down in the film to the point I'm not sure anyone who didn't know beforehand or on the younger side would actually get it), the blue Ranger was supposed to be on the autistic is my 12yo and his best friend. My son is only just on the spectrum - it affects his social skills and interaction though fortunately not his learning - but he loathes the fact that he is technically disabled and yet it's an unseen disability because it has little or no physical signs and too many children are simply seen as difficult or acting up. I was hoping the character had been well researched and would maybe, in some small way, allow my son to see himself in the role of hero more intensely than anything else he had seen.

ASD can have so many aspects to it - no two children on the spectrum are exactly the same - but I found the character of Billy, the blue Ranger, to be brilliantly portrayed. I could see elements of my son and his friend in him. The way the black and blue Rangers meet was also beautifully apt, since my son and his friend met in the same way. Said friend was being teased by another child, and my son stepped in and told the tormentor that he wasn't being very nice and should go away, and so their friendship began. Both boys enjoyed the film though were characteristically non-chatty about it. Personally I adored Billy, and for me both the character and the actor were the heroes of the film. It's rare and wonderful to see ASD being portrayed in such a hugely positive light. In the interview below, the actor RJ Cyler talks about how important it was to him to play the character right and there's more about the research he did in an article HERE.
Years before he was diagnosed, my 12yo had certain habits and behaviours not shared by his two siblings and that I saw reflected in the blue Ranger's character. I never considered that he might be autistic because even though my nephew and niece both are, they were more obviously affected. In my eyes, my son just had some funny habits. When they caused issues, like his fretting over journeys on unfamiliar routes, we just found ways to work around it. But his slightly different view of the world and the ways we had to find to help him deal with it inspired me to write a scifi story about a young man at odds with the universe and his adventures as he learned to find his place. A story I dedicated to my son (and yes, he read it and said it was quite good. Good enough that he even willingly dressed up as the main character for one World Book Day a few years back and without me badgering him. ^-^ )

A Scifi Adventure Novel
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Abandoned. Hunted. Out of control.

Gethyon Rees had always felt at odds with the universe, and hoped for an escape among the stars. But discovering he has the ability to cross time and space with just a thought brings more problems than it solves: a deadly bounty hunter who can follow him anywhere, the unwelcome return of Tarquin Secker--the mother who abandoned him--and an ancient darkness that seeks him and all those with his talents. 

When an unforgivable act sets him on the run, it'll take more than his unearthly powers to save his skin and the lives of those he cares about. It'll take a sacrifice he never expected to have to make.

A science fiction adventure novel previously published by BURST (Champagne Books), and part of the Travellers Universe. A 2014 SFR Galaxy Award Winner for Most Awesome Psychic Talent and a 2015 EPIC eBook Awards finalist in the Science Fiction category. Also now includes the SF short story The Bones of the Sea.


Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing your family story, Pippa. I know it is a challenge to our creativity to support our children (in my case grandchildren) through school (in particular) when they have something that makes them different. That is so fantastic that he was the inspiration for a character/hero in your book. And I love that you figured out another way to support him through a fun day at the movies. Kudos to you!!!

Diana McCollum said...

Yay Power Rangers! That is awesome, your story about the movies and your son and his friend. Thanks for sharing your story!

Pippa Jay said...

Thank you.