The Captain has become quite enamored of Forrest Gump.
He read the book, then watched the movie, and even had his hair cut the same way as Forrest this weekend. (Just what I would have picked for a seventh-grader. Just.)
Of course, as always, he’s dropping bits of the script: “Stupid is as stupid does, sir!” “From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!” “My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump.” “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”
Actually, between the two boys, the fact he just “went” and the fact that Forrest got shot “in the butt-tocks” and mooned LBJ were just the best parts ever.
Part of me is wishing like hell he’d picked a different new hero. But another part of me is cheering him on. After all, though Forrest has little to no social skills (though he is very polite), though he takes everything people say literally, though he does things his way, sometimes very impulsively, though he doesn’t understand nuances and subtext and many other things– he succeeds!
He survives Vietnam. He becomes a millionaire in the shrimp business. He finds love, has a child, travels the world playing Ping Pong, has a beautiful house and all the things we expect to have.
Why wouldn’t the Captain relate to such a person?
I remember reading several columns back when we first got his diagnosis about the Star Trek character Data, an android, and how many people with Asperger’s related to his constant struggle to understand the social side of humans. He tried to learn humor by programming himself to tell jokes–but he didn’t understand why they were funny. He found it difficult to relate to members of the opposite sex. He tried to teach himself small talk, as it was something that was expected of humans, and they seemed to do so naturally.
Here’s an example, from the Internet Movie Database:
Lt. Commander Data: [voice-over] Friendly insults and jibes – another form of human speech that I am attempting to master. In this case with the help of Commander Geordi La Forge.
[he walks into the hairdresser salon where La Forge is having his hair trimmed]
Lt. Commander Data: [voice-over] I consider Geordi my best friend.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Here for a trim?
Lt. Commander Data: My hair does not require trimming, you lunkhead.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: What?
Lt. Commander Data: My hair does not require trimming…
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Lunkhead?
Lt. Commander Data: I am experimenting with friendly jibes and insults. It was not meant as a serious disparagement.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well – just don’t try it on the captain.
Later examples of the same sort of character are Odo, on Deep Space Nine, and the holographic Doctor, on Star Trek:Voyager. Both were outsiders who attempted to fit in with the humans around them, though ill-equipped to do so. I find these characters more like our children than the officially Asperger’s diagnosed Jerry Espenson on Boston Legal.
Do I want the Captain to believe that despite the drawbacks of his diagnosis, he can fully succeed, even excel, in life? Of course. So bring it on, Forrest. Just remember that smart is as smart does, as well.