There are films where you switch off your brain and enjoy the ride. For me, the films that really stay with me are the ones which can teach us something about us, society and by extension the workplace.

Don’t treat Inclusion as a Token Exercise

There are countless films which explore issues of prejudice and in doing so, emphasise that difference is not something to be afraid of. This includes David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), based on the true story of Joseph Merrick.

One of my favourite films is Bride of Frankenstein (1935), where the ‘monster’ is taken in by a lonely blind hermit.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is perhaps one of the most memorable films I watched in 2021. It may seem shocking now, but Inter-racial marriage was a taboo subject in 1960’s America. In this film the parents are concerned of the implications of their white daughter marrying an African American man. It is also made clear via their character’s dialogue they support civil rights and equality. Yet, when they see what this equality looks like, they aren’t so sure about their daughter’s future. Equally, the African American parents of Sidney Poitier’s character are scared what future he will have with his wife and the reaction from their older African American generation. Yet, at the conclusion of the film, Spencer Tracy manages to overdone his personal fears and delivers one of the best speeches in American cinema history.

The main lesson here is that diversity cannot be a box ticking or PR exercise. To achieve real change you have to stand by your beliefs, even if the reaction may not be entirely positive.

Form Your Own Identity

One of the most notable films of post war Italian expressionist cinema, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) explores themes of identity, isolation and Freudian psychology. It is also a film which resonates with the deep political divisions and rise of populism which contemporary society is facing today.

One of the major themes in The Conformist is Marcello being singled out and isolated. His identity essentially becomes the fascist state, or it’s apparatus if you will, as Marcelo conforms to its will, and that of the society he has found himself in. He does not not join the Italian fascist state because he believes in fascism. But rather, because he is running away from his own insecurities. He has no real identity of his own and in his loneliness, conforms to what he sees as normal in 1930’s Italy. The social and political context informs this antitheses of personal will.

Even the most confident of people have felt at times that they needed conform to ‘the herd’ or the majority in society to fit in and feel normal. In fact it is a perfectly human feeling. As an individual in the neurodiverse community, I can’t help but wish I was sometimes more like someone who was neurotypical.

It is true that following certain norms and sharing common values is important in succeeding at work and in life. In doing so it is equally important you hold onto values that are important to you and value your uniqueness. Without it, you will lose you own identity.

This emotional journey has been something I have always struggled with.

Don’t Make Hasty Decisions

Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is one of the classics of American cinema. Alongside the moral questions it raises, it also teaches us about how our personal experiences can cloud our judgement, how to use leadership, how to argue effectively and how to stand up for what you believe. One noteworthy character is played by one of my favourite actors; L.Jee Cobbs. Cobbs plays one of 12 jurors with the life of a young Puerto Rican defendant in their hands. But he wants to follow the majority of jurors, deliver a guilty verdict and continue with his own life. His character perception’s of the young defendant is intrinsically tied to his broken relationship with his son.

Henry Fonda plays the only juror who is initially willing to look closer at the evidence and scrutinise it. He does this by putting himself in the shoes of the boy. In contrast to Juror number 3, Fonda remains calm and factual in his arguments, while Juror 3 argues with anyone who questions his opinion, even when he is shown to get crucial details wrong.

He admits when he is uncertain about small details and concedes that he could be wrong. But then again.he might be correct In doing this he encourages the other jurors to question their own views. h

Decisions may not always cost lives, but reputations can be hard to revive.

Create Shared Values

What would you do if you stuck with your co-workers inside an underground bunker while billions of zombies shuffled overhead.

In Day of the Dead (1985) a group of scientists and soldiers just happen to be in that same situation. Their downfall is not the zombies but their inability to recognise each other’s views, compromise and work together as a team to come up with a solution. The authoritarian Captain Rhodes doesn’t listen to the scientists because he doesn’t want to, not because he can’t. And while you can emphasise with is concern for the men under his command, his desire to be the most powerful person in the room supersedes everything else.

Within the dark corridors of the underground mine, you will find Romero’s signature cut-throat analysis of humanity and our foibles. While it is true that the geopolitical context of the Cold War may have informed his analysis, its lessons are still very much relevant to society today, and indeed, business.

Compromising doesn’t mean you have to abandon your values, but not recognising other perspectives isn’t a good idea either.

Creating and agreeing on shared values is also very important in any team’s success.

They say that no man is an island and I would agree. But is the only thing that is stopping me from escaping my own island; self doubt?

I have learned to accept who I am in many ways and in some ways I have a long way to go. 

I have a job where I am accepted for what I can do and have connected with some amazing people who are also fighting for a more accepting society and workplaces. Since writing my autistic rebel blog, I have met some wonderful people who are also fighting to change the narrative around employment, inclusion and neorodiversity. One of these is Lucy Hobbs at The Future is ND (Neurodiverse), Amy Walker at GroupM, Grace Nicola. More recently I have connected with the inspiring Ellie Middleton.

The fact remains, however, that too many people on the autistic spectrum are isolated in society and this includes within employment. Though I still am eager to progress further in my career, I am lucky that I have already been able to overcome a number of challenges. 

An aspect of my journey which is still a work in progress is my social confidence. One of the ways I built up my confidence was starting salsa dancing lessons before COVID brought them to a pause. Though this did slightly help, I don’t expect to win Strictly Come Dancing anytime soon! I still sometimes feel out of place in social situations and might take a little more time to understand how social cues work, which can be very frustrating. This doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say and it still hurts when I don’t quite have the social confidence to do what other people may take for granted. Incidentally, one of the few places I do feel I can express my personality is in work, where I have taken time to get to know people.

The COV-19 lockdown was tough for me. It has at times made me feel more isolated, impacted my routine, caused me to over-think sometimes and as, I am sure many will sympathise with,  it hasn’t exactly helped my sleeping pattern. But reflecting on the broader impact in a positive way, it has at least illustrated the negative mental health effects that social isolation can have on communities and individuals. 

Though I have continued with some salsa dancing post lockdown, one of the things that still impacts my self-esteem is dating apps. I am sure I am not the only person that gets ghosted, but for someone who can get lost in their head it is hard not to let it get to you. I sometimes think, am I weird that I have never had a relationship, casual or serious at 31 years old? Am I not attractive enough? How do I get the confidence that I have been told is so attractive?

You might say the solution is easy; just delete the apps. 

When it is one of the only ways you can feel confident starting a conversation with women you haven’t met before, it isn’t that easy.

On a more positive note, I have recently become part of a social group, made some new friends and tried out some new activities such as Yoga. I hope that by continuing to push myself out if my comfort zone bit by bit, my self doubt won’t be such a barrier. If there is one thing that I also have spades of, it is determination. It is certainly not a coincidence that 2 of my last job interviews have been perhaps my best ever.

Since my last blog I have also started counselling and I feel that I am beginning to overcome some of my mental health challenges. I strongly feel that no-one should be ashamed that they go to counselling; having recently also attended a CBT course, I realise that anxiety can still be a stigma for many people and the need for supportive environments is even greater given our current climate.  

One of the things that hasn’t changed is my interest in horror films, but my tastes have expanded to many other films too. This hasn’t stopped my mother from trying to dissuade me from my interest in horror cinema, however! 

To sum up my journey so far, I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go. 

To end I would like to share a few words of my favourite musician, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy’s Song Renegade;

He’s just a boy that his lost his way

He’s a rebel that has fallen down

He’s a fool been blown away

To you and me he’s a renegade

He’s a clown that we put down

He’s a man that doesn’t fit

He’s a king but not in this town

To you and me he’s a renegade

But he is a king when he’s on his own

He’s got a bike and that’s his throne

And when he rides he’s like the wind

To you and me he’s a renegade