Mirror Image: Please Stand By (2017)

Harriet Shaw examines the Dakota Fanning flick Please Stand By and the representation of autism in cinema.

Harriet Shaw
9th October 2019
Dakota Fanning, Star of Please Stand By
There is a lack of representation of autism on the big screen; then there is an even greater lack of autistic women.

There are a lot of misconceptions about autism, especially regarding females with the condition, because most of the research is based off male-only studies. This is why I would like to shine a light on the film "Please Stand By", and in particular its main character Wendy, as portrayed by Dakota Fanning.

Wendy is shown to be living in semi supported accomodation with other neurodivergents. She is given daily occupational therapy there, however she also struggles accepting having to keep to someone else's routine. Wendy struggles getting a hold of her emotions at times, and has to be calmed down after being told that she wasn't ready to go home with her sister. Wendy would love nothing more than to spend her days writing about her special interest: Star Trek. She identifies with Spock as his emotional responses are also atypical.

Wendy struggles to navigate public transport, and is an easy target for those who want to make some quick money. Both of these can be real issues for people with autism. I really admire how the film captures her difficulties navigating the World, whilst making it abundantly clear just how intelligent, talented and resourceful she is.

The film shows some of the techniques used by professionals when dealing with autistic people; whilst celebrating Wendy's growth over the film as she steps outside her comfort zone. What I think is also important to note is that the film depicts one person with autism, as pointed out by Fanning herself in interviews. Every person with autism is different. The film industry still has a long way to go in properly representing the broad spectrum of autistic people, especially females.

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