It’s no secret that I love Harry Potter and all the magical world has to offer. I’ve taken every quiz out there; of course, I’m on Pottermore. I’ve even rejoined to be sorted again when the new quiz came out. [Side note: I used to be a Ravenclaw, but once the new sorting quiz was released, I was sorted into Gryffindor. I’m still dealing with this shift.] One thing I love about the series is J.K. Rowling’s ability to find heros in the most unlikely of places. Whether it’s the introvert, the outcast or the know-it-all, she’s able to take their qualities and show how ordinary or even the most unlikely person can make a difference. And she’s done this again in her newest creation, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
While it didn’t have the same “magic” as Harry Potter, I still felt this was highly enjoyable, and like many, I fell in love with our hero Newt Scamander. He’s quiet, reserved and definitely what can be described as an unlikely hero, but what I walked away with something a bit more. Yes, he is the hero of this film, but based on the way he was acted, I truly believe that Newt lies on the spectrum. This made my love for the film simply grow.
In one of the first scenes of the films, we seem Newt displaying some characteristics individuals look out for as signs of high-functioning. He has a clear unease with eye contact. He looks towards the ground when specifically asked questions or to the side of an individual he’s talking to. He doesn’t actually look at them directly in many of his scenes.
He specifically mentions he has issues with maintaining friendships and his ability in social situations. In fact, he tells his partner in crime, Kowalski, that most people find him annoying, and he doesn’t really have friends. He was often on his own at Hogwarts and has difficulty creating relationships with other students. He also doesn’t share many experiences with other students, except for one. While Scamander responds to social interactions, but he does not actually initiate them. Other individuals are required to begin conversations with him while he remains silent until asked an actual question unless it’s about magical beasts. At times he appears unaware or disinterested in what is happening around him.
There was only one true exception to this in the movie, and that is when he interacts with Credence, an abused and misunderstood boy who also has issues fitting in with the world. We come to find later that Credence is not what he appears, but it plays into Newt’s love of magical beasts. I don’t want to go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil the movie any who have not seen it.
Scamander also has a hard time reading the expressions and understanding the feelings of others. This particularly comes to play with the bank scene when he’s after one of his many beasts and leaves Kowalski confused, scared and most likely feeling he is insane. He doesn’t seem to recognize Kowlaski’s clear unsteadiness with what he is experiencing. Scamander does appear to know that what he is doing is wrong by his initial hesitation, but his creature is more important than another human’s emotional state.
Newt is fixated on magical beasts and is able to connect with these animals on a more deep level than any human. They are his number one priority, and he will create dangerous situations to ensure they are safe. He seems unaware of these situations and will put others at risk to do so.
Newt is extremely soft spoken and quiet, but we see one outburst from him in the entire movie, when is case of magical beasts is taken and he is fearful for them. It’s the only time we truly see him have an extreme emotional reaction, and he seems unable to contain himself. His has an emotional outburst in front of some of the most esteemed members of the magical world from across the world.
While none of this may have been done on purpose, and others have mentioned that this is simply how Eddie Redmayne acts in his roles, all of the above are signs of a high functioning individual on the autism spectrum. Whether it be Asperger’s or something else, having a hero like Newt Scamander is truly one of a kind and something we do not often see portrayed in films and TV. Seeing a character that portrays many of the classic traits of those on the spectrum should be applauded. J.K. Rowling has astounded me once again with her abilities.