This is a blog written on the the very insightful musings of my autistic 9 year old who I call Monkey. Out of respect to her privacy she is referred to as such in my blogs. I have also been diagnosed myself this year as autistic at the age of 40 and so I found her depth of thought driving me to write a blog, owing to my passion for giving people new routes to understand autism and similarly neurodiverse conditions.
Some time back during a period of family illness we were all at varying stages of a stomach bug. To stave off cabin fever I decided to settle down with Monkey, while Mr J and my other daughter worked out a toilet rota. We decided to watch a film. Usually I would choose go for a U or a PG, but I was also sick of princesses who need singing animals to get the housework done and fall for the first male with a heartbeat who wanders past. And so so I upped it to a 12 and found the 2008 Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton in it. Monkey just LOVES Hulk – her favourite Avengers quote is “Hulk… smash”, and her favourite scene involves Loki being treated like a rag doll in a child’s paddy courtesy of the big, green guy. I didn’t think she would settle and watch it as she doesn’t always have the concentration for a full film, but she did, albeit glued to my side with her blanket and me making very light of some of the more violent scenes.
We had a couple of comedy moments. The first was when Monkey asked whether, if a human being’s pulse went over 200 like Bruce Banner’s, would they turn green. Luckily the answer is no or I would have had some very surprised personal trainers. She also decided Abomination is part dinosaur as he has spikes on his back, and christened him Abominosaurus, (which, let’s face it is much less menacing), until Jellyfish opened her Pokedex and pointed out he looked like Tyrannitar. That nailed it for me. Stan Lee must be a Pokemon fan. But Monkey did surprise me, as she often does, with a startling observation. Bruce Banner was travelling in a beaten up pickup truck with Betty Ross, following her witnessing him Hulk out. She naturally asks him about what he can remember, and he says mostly not being able to deal with the noise and feeling angry (or words to that effect). Monkey had been doodling for a second, and it would have been easy to imagine her concentration was elsewhere, but instead she looked up and said “Hulk doesn’t like noise either?”.
I was interested to see where this was going so I asked “What does that mean to you?” and she replied “Hulk is like me”. I said yes he probably was like her and what did this mean when she got angry. She thought and said “I don’t like noise or getting angry so when I get angry it’s a bit like Bruce Banner turning into Hulk…” Then added “But I don’t turn green!” I was really quite taken aback and agreed she was totally right -especially about the green skin thing. And so, now if she’s having a melt down we say she’s Hulking out. This makes it our task to figure out how to turn her back to Bruce Banner so we can help with what caused the Hulk out. In turn, during the calm moments, we can think about her triggers. With the age Monkey is at she is much more aware of the effect her autism can sometimes cause her to have towards different triggering things. It helps us work with her to find new coping mechanisms, something she is trying very hard to do. We are very proud of our little Hulk and the person she is becoming.
Going back to our conversation, at this point in the film she went back to her doodling and probably didn’t give it much more thought but it lingered with me. I can see how she would have drawn the parallels between herself and Bruce Banner, a kind, gentle and intelligent man, who’s brain and body have a dysfunctional reaction to extremes of stress and emotion. I didn’t think Marvel would ever have given me an insight into autism, in truth maybe it wouldn’t have, without Monkey seeming to have much more understanding of her own ‘special brain’ than most people have, or would attribute to a 9yo. And so I do not, and neither should anybody else, ever underestimate my little Bruce Banner and her endless potential ❤
Is Hulk autistic? Or can we at least learn more about neurodiversity from many things in life, including Marvel and their popular big, green guy? I leave that thought in your hands.