Learning to be ordinary

Last night I was immediately hooked by the 2007 Belgian movie, Ben X.  In a nutshell, it’s about a game-savvy teenager, Ben, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, his experience of bullying and his revenge.  Throughout the film, the audience is led to believe that he committed suicide.

I really liked the film; film-making was good and visual effects really effective. It left me moved and bothered. BUT, this post is not a film review . I really just want to note some of the most memorable lines/moments in the film (spoiler alert). It has raised many points for me as an adult, a teacher, a parent, a person.

(headmaster) Ben is an extraordinary boy who tries to be ordinary.

How many  students have been shaped to behave or think in an ordinary way – or industrial world thinking?

(teacher) As always, we did too little or too late.

How many teachers feel powerless to effect change?

(teacher) He (Ben) asked me how many reasons he needs to die…2, 5?

(newscaster) 10% of Flemish 15-18 year olds attempt suicide

How many kids out there experience such depths?

(Scarlite/Healer) Someone who’s got to level 80 needs a creative endgame…..You need to build an army.

Kids on a downward spiral need people around them who know and understand their strengths as well as the depths of their despair.

(mother) Someone needed to die.

It is unfortunate that sometimes someone needs to die (or close to) before authorities step in or for institutional change to happen.

(Ben) I learned to lie.

He lied (faked his death) in order to expose the bullies. Honesty is best for me but for this kid, it was either that or kill himself – his limited communication and social skills (and lifetime of bullying and exclusion) limited his options in a way that is not necessarily true for someone who doesn’t have the same condition.

(Scarlite) You have to learn to feel before you can learn to feel good.

So basic, so true.

One of the most powerful scenes for me was at the train station when Ben was looking for Scarlite.  The film vividly showed the visual and aural noise that those with Asperger’s syndrome might sense. And then, when Ben spotted Scarlite, everything and everyone froze (and sort of visually faded as in faded colours) except for Scarlite who was in red and still moving. For me, this was such a powerful representation of what I’ve read and heard about Asperger’s.

This post has more questions than answers. But that’s life, isn’t it?

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