Why Lisa Simpson is probably autistic… and so, says best-selling author, are Amelie, chess genius Beth in The Queen’s Gambit — and even Daryl Hannah’s mermaid
Millions of television viewers know her as the quirky eight-year-old who is passionate about the environment and jazz music.
But Lisa Simpson may just be an undiagnosed autistic girl, according to a British author whose best-selling Geek Girl books will be adapted for a Netflix series.
Holly Smale, herself diagnosed as autistic two years ago, only realized after publishing her books about a clumsy, unpopular and socially awkward teenager that she had written about someone who had the condition.
And she believes that books, television and movies are full of undiagnosed characters whose autistic traits have gone unrecognized for decades.
The 41-year-old said: ‘Lisa Simpson is a very smart girl with a rigid sense of right and wrong, social difficulties, no friends and an extreme hyperfocus on her interests and hobbies.
Lisa Simpson may be an undiagnosed autistic girl, according to a British author whose best-selling Geek Girl books are being adapted for a Netflix series
‘The main character of the French film Amelie could be autistic, from the sensory way she experiences the world to her focus on collecting pictures of a leprechaun in different locations around the world.
“Even Daryl Hannah’s mermaid character in Splash, in her isolation and the way she feels separate and different from everyone else, looks very much like an autistic woman.”
She also cited the example of the heroine of the same name from L. M. Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, saying that (she) “has a strong sense of justice, which is a very autistic trait, and she is hyperlexic, which means that she is precocious and speaks very maturely at a young age.’
Ms Smale added: ‘It’s great that these women, or other characters like Amy from the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, exist in fiction and on television so we can see ourselves reflected. But we need more characters who are openly autistic and not just ‘coded’ as autistic.”
Other fictional characters thought to be autistic include Sherlock Holmes, Boo Radley – the reclusive protagonist of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird – and Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’ character.
Holly Smale (pictured) said: ‘Lisa Simpson is a very smart girl with a rigid sense of right and wrong, social difficulties, no friends and an extreme hyperfocus on her interests and hobbies’
Lili Reinhart played Beth Harmon on the hit Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit
The suggestion has also been made of Maurice Moss, Richard Ayoade’s character in the sitcom The IT Crowd, the orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon played by Anya Taylor-Joy in the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit, and Lisbeth Salander, The Girl’s computer hacker With The Dragon Tattoo.
Ms. Smale was particularly keen to identify female characters who may be autistic, as women are often better able to “mask” these traits and are therefore less likely to be diagnosed.
She has described her own attempts at “masking” – including making “painful” eye contact and trying to appear less “aloof” – as “acting out.”
The author, whose adult novel The Cassandra Complex comes out next month, said, “The more overtly autistic female characters we see and read, the less alone autistic girls and women will feel.”