Around the turn of the millennium, there was an outpouring of autistic representation in literature, film, and television. These resulted in a multitude of new cultural texts that reinforced damaging metaphors about autism that had previously emerged in medical discourse. In film and television, autistic people are portrayed through a variety of metaphors: as impenetrable fortress, missing puzzle pieces, confusing aliens, and as malfunctioning robots or supercomputers. In this paper, I examine the role of film and television sound in reinforcing the metaphor of autistic people as “unfeeling machines.” The unfeeling machine metaphor is personified through sound tracks that deploy a number of mechanical sound effects, including vintage typewriter or calculator sounds, binary code sound effects, as well as sound mixing techniques that evoke the supposedly mechanical, and computational nature of autistic behaviour and thought processes. It is also through the autistic voice and nondiegetic music that machine metaphor are exemplified; which I argue both consciously and unconsciously influence the audience’s perception about autism. In this paper I examine films and television programs including Rain Man, Mercury Rising, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Doctor, Touch, and Atypical to reveal how the sound tracks of each film reinforces the harmful autism machine metaphor.
"Autism-as-Machine Metaphors in Film and Television Sound,"
Ought: The Journal of Autistic Culture: Vol. 2
, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/ought/vol2/iss2/9