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About Me

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  1. Copied from my blog. This blog post takes us back in time and shows how psychological disorders may be presented in the media. BRAINCHILD: The Incredible Hulk season 2 Part one "I decided to do a lighter feature on the topic of autism, as it was approached in the media by Kenneth Johnson, more specifically in the 1970s television series The Incredible Hulk. The episode in particular we will look at was called “Brain Child”. Kenneth Johnson had always been involved in the action-adventure-fantasy aspect of television production and was connected to other hugely popular shows, such as The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman. We might ask the question, why did the issue of autism arise, more than once, in The Incredible Hulk? Who can say? The actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who played The Hulk, certainly experienced a traumatic childhood as a result of being diagnosed too belatedly for deafness. This led to learning disability and social isolation. All in all, we have as many as three storylines in The Hulk that address autism. This term “autism”, of course, has various aspects. In psychology it denotes either intellectual, cognitive delay, or uneven development of various processing functions. It can likewise be a symptom of depression or a by-product of disassociation of the psyche. The first episode to draw attention to autism was titled “Ricky”. Ricky Detter has a mental age of a 10 year old and is the adult brother of a successful racing-car driver. This storyline focuses on one brother’s difficulties over caring for his special needs sibling. Another episode called “The Confession” features a very stereotyped Asperger character called Harold Milburn. Asperger Syndrome is never referred to in any way but what’s interesting is Harold very much represents a diagnosis that wasn’t due to be publicized for another 8 years. Harold works in I.T. by himself, has no girlfriend, is ignored by others and has a flat personality. To try and get himself noticed, Harold contacts The National Register and claims he is the man who changes into The Hulk. As evidence, he produces a ripped shirt. As the story progresses, the fact people finally ridicule his claim, drives him to threaten to jump off a high-rise building. The third storyline “Brainchild” also focuses on autism but especially in the way it is perceived to relate to giftedness. Joline Collins is a highly gifted, teenage girl whose mother abandoned her at an early age. Joline was placed in the custody of The Kirkland Institute, where an experiment was initiated. She is subjected to intensive educational therapy in music, mathematics, biology, languages and other subjects. She becomes a “classified project”. We could be excused for thinking that Collins isn’t autistic at all but, as the episode unfolds, there are references to Joline’s limited social interaction and the rift with her mother. The episode “Brainchild” is fascinating as an example of the way popular opinion perceives autism, or giftedness. A great deal of fact is distorted – due to stereotyping – so we shall address some of these details in this feature. However, as a whole, this episode tells a moving story and is really worth watching. Especially from the perspective of nostalgia. At the beginning of the episode, we can see it was produced by Kenneth Johnson and written by Nicholas Corea. Joline is shown in a class playing classical piano at virtuoso level, after which a psychologist in a white coat invites her to solve a complex, mathematical equation on the blackboard. The staff at the Kirkland Institute are delighted by the results of their project but Collins communicates her desire to find her mother. Collins only has one actual friend – a computer referred to as Max. Unknown to the psychologists at Kirkland, she rewired Max in such a way as to give him a “personality”. She uses her connection with this computer to escape from the institution, with the aim of finding her mother. After escaping from the institution, Collins meets Dr. David Banner, where the first slip of the script becomes evident. She offers to fix his car. Most high-functioning autistic people tend to be quite limited in the area of mechanical work or manual skills. The second point to draw attention to is that Robin Dearden (who plays Collins) acts the role with no deficits in mimicry or vocal intonation. Motor movements and overall interaction of the character are all quite normal. Despite that, Collins is represented in this episode as mostly “gifted” and we have to just accept it is simply the way the script developed. David Banner agrees to give the young girl a lift if she can repair his car. This she accomplishes, and the two of them drive off. Meantime The Kirkland Institute staff notify the police that their patient has been kidnapped. "
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