Biopic Temple Grandin to air February 6 on HBO; vegans sharpen their knives in anticipation.*

February 5th, 2010 by

Temple Grandin

For once, I’m actually happy that I don’t get HBO – otherwise, I’d feel obligated to watch and report on Temple Grandin, a new biopic starring Claire Danes that’s premiering on the cable channel this weekend. (Spared by own cheapness!) As if the title alone isn’t enough to turn all the vegans and vegetarians in the audience off (what’s that? you’ve never heard of Temple Grandin, you say?), behold American Humane’s gag-worthy marketing materials:

Movie Tells Inspirational Life Story of American Humane Advisor
‘Temple Grandin’ Airs Feb. 6 on HBO

HBO will premiere an original film based on the inspirational, true story of Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, on Feb. 6, 2010. (Check your local listing for the broadcast time in your area.)

Temple Grandin paints a picture of a young woman’s perseverance and determination while struggling with the isolating challenges of autism. Grandin became a successful doctor in animal science through her unique connection to animals and is now a world-renowned consultant in the field. She is widely recognized within the animal welfare and livestock-handling industries as a pioneer in the ethical treatment of animals.

If by “ethical” you mean “killing more efficiently.” Similarly, Grandin’s “unique connection” to “food” animals is akin to that of a serial killer to her victims. Tomato, tomahto.

Grandin is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the American Humane® Certified farm animal program. American Humane Certified, originated by the American Humane Association, is the nation’s pre-eminent and fastest-growing monitoring, auditing and labeling program that attests to the humane care and handling of animals raised for food. Find out more about the American Humane Certified program at www.thehumanetouch.org.

Or just bypass the “happy meat” propaganda and go straight to http://humanemyth.org.

Grandin is also the best-selling author of Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation and Humane Livestock Handling. She recently authored an article titled “The Importance of Farm Animal Welfare” for The National Humane Review.

Vegans the internets over remain unimpressed.

In producing the film, HBO also engaged the services of American Humane’s Film & Television Unit, which is the exclusive monitoring and granting agency to award the coveted “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit disclaimer. The production followed American Humane’s strict Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media, had an American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ on set to ensure animal safety and welfare, and earned the famous assurance to viewers that “no animals were harmed” in the making of the movie. Learn more about American Humane’s Film & Television Unit.

Wherein “accidental” deaths don’t qualify as “harmful,” and the AHA has about as much authority (or will) to enforce its guidelines on film sets as the USDA does to uphold its own animal “welfare” and worker safety regulations in slaughterhouses.

Clearly, the American Humane Association and its Film and Television Unit merit a whole series of posts, well beyond the group’s dubious support of a woman who’s dedicated her life to slaughtering sentient beings in the name of “welfare.” But let’s save that for another day.

Returning to Temple Grandin, here’s a trailer for the film:

My initial thoughts:

– My ‘tween girl crush on Claire Danes (hello, My So-Called Life! Romeo + Juliet, holla!) notwithstanding, I hate, hate, hate her in this movie. Marble mouth, anyone? And what’s with the forced quirkiness? She’s autistic, ferchrissakes, not British. Or a CAPS TALKER!

– Worse still, I hate Danes for making this movie – for thinking that Grandin is a worthy/inspiring/interesting enough individual to dedicate several months of one’s life to telling and even celebrating her life story. The woman facilitates murder for a living. Get a clue, feminists and dis/ability advocates!

– The association of disability (specifically, autism) with deep spirituality and an innate connection to nature is patronizing and insulting. Seriously, people, stereotypes are stereotypes, whether superficially positive or not. Knock it the fuck off already.

– [Updated to add:] Casting an actor without a disability to portray an individual with a disability is arguably similar to casting a white actor to play a person of color, blackface and all. Differently abled actors are ready, willing and able to appear on screen – and need the work more than their non-disabled counterparts, y’all. If autistic people are so magical, hire one.

– Are those cows actual “livestock” or “acting” animals? Perhaps they were slaughtered, dismembered and processed into meatstuffs on-site, so that Danes could better understand her subject’s career accomplishments? In all seriousness, I wonder if she visited a slaughterhouse as part of her “research”? (Asks the blogger who’s too lazy to research her own question.) Because, if so, her willingness to go through with the film after witnessing Grandin’s “good deeds” up close and personal would make her all the more whacked.

– If being processed into hamburgers is so awesome and noble and meaningful, why isn’t Grandin lining up?

– Methinks we need to hire Echo (RIP, Dollhouse) to liberate those cows before Grandin leads them all to their “happy,” “humane” deaths. That, I’d watch.

* Feeling stabby yet?

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18 Responses to “Biopic Temple Grandin to air February 6 on HBO; vegans sharpen their knives in anticipation.*”

  1. nonjudgemental Says:

    Maybe you should watch the film before you judge it. This is a film about the courage, support and warmth that someone who is DIFFERENT BUT NOT LESS recieved from those around her. Until you have any knowledge or expirience with those who understand or have lived with autism, you have no right to make those judgements. That is the epitomy of ignorance. Also, all cattle used in the filming of this movie are living on ranches. happily.

  2. Kelly G. Says:

    nonjudgemental – I’m not criticizing Grandin for her disability, but for her hypocrisy (e.g., there is nothing “humane” about exploitation culminating in an unnecessary death). I don’t need to have a token autistic friend to recognize Grandin’s (and the AHA’s) Orwellian doublespeak.

    In fact, if you read my entire post, I actually criticize the producers for their decision to cast a non-autistic actor to portray an autistic individual. The film would have been more inspiring – and consistent in its message of “DIFFERENT BUT NOT LESS” – if it had cast an autistic actor in the lead.

    And please note that I will not debate animal rights 101 here; this is a pop culture blog for vegans, not omnis. Y’all already inhabit every mainstream pop culture blog out there; no need to hijack this space as well.

  3. Harold Brown Says:

    I agree with you Kelly G. I would take this a little further. I have read her books and listened to Temple’s lectures and in one breath she will admit that as a person with autism she is not capable of experiencing true emotions such as love, yet she will say that she loves animals. The real reason that her work has been so embraced by the livestock industry is that by creating “handling systems” that calm the cows it makes the machine more efficient. In my opinion her handling systems only trick and fool the cows into a false sense of security. The end result is an increase in line speeds so that more cows can be killed and slaughter per hour. In my opinion her research is extremely flawed because while she will argue that the cows can be proven to be less stressed through looking at cortisone levels in blood samples, the fight or flight response only takes a millisecond to kick in on the kill floor. There will be less stress hormones in the flesh of the cows but it is nonetheless there. The cows do experience fear and terror as they are stunned and dismembered. End result? Lower levels of stressor hormones means better meat quality. So…the value in Temple’s work is not creating a gentle death for cows but rather faster processing speeds and better meat quality. This is a breaking of a sacred trust at every level.

  4. Sugar Says:

    I’ve been incensed and repulsed by Temple Grandin ever since I first heard about her (and have taken a fair amount of static from AR/W activists because of my opinion).

    IMO, she’s no better than the engineer who constructed the ‘shower’ gas chambers in concentration camps.

    Further, this widespread acceptance that because she is autistic, she must be some kind of authority on (other) animal consciousness is simply preposterous.

    She has no true empathy for her victims.

    It’s time the AR/W community sees her for the insidious, agribusiness ‘company woman’ she truly is.

  5. Because the world needs more vegan superheroes, » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] blogged about Bones, Lost (no Season Six spoilers, please! lalalalala I can’t hear you!), the Temple Grandin biopic premiering on HBO this weekend, and the Anthony Weiner interview on last night’s The […]

  6. glorybug Says:

    I saw this movie tonight with my fiance. Totally underwhelmed. It was produced like some cheesy Hallmark Lifetime movie. Ok, we get that she thinks in pix. We get that she’s Autistic. Stop yelling already. Why did she sound like Julia Child? It’s insulting to animals that she claims she has a better insight into how they want to be killed just because she’s Autistic. I have Epstein Barr, and it’s led me to believe they don’t want to be killed at all! Ridiculous. But I’m not getting paid by the meat industry to claim unscientific things like that. The only thing she has done is help kill more animals, by making it supposedly more efficient and reduce loss before slaughter. Illegal immigrant workers claim her ‘improvements’ have speeded up the slaughter process so much that they can’t deadbolt them properly, and many more animals are ending up skinned and slaughtered while fully alive. I found it by Googling, so can you- if you care. People who deal with Autism should do everything they can to separate themselves from slaughterhouse issues.

  7. Bryan Says:

    It must be nice to pretend to not live in reality and judge others so easily. Temple has done more for these animals than the average vegetarian. Simply choosing to not eat meat doesn’t lessen the pain they have to go through in the slaughterhouses. You may feel better about yourself, but they obviously are still being slaughtered. I see this type of smugness in vegans and vegetarians who fail to see the world as it is. To point the finger at a woman who has lessened their pain and suffering says a lot about your own morals. Wake up. The world will never be 100% vegan. At least feel relieved that there are people like Temple who try to help them before they move on.

  8. Kelly G. Says:

    @ Bryan – Choosing not to eat meat (and eggs and dairy, etc.) means that 50+ nonhuman animals a year do not need to die for my convenience. That’s something; that something adds up. (And that something also leads me to donate my time and money to other vegan causes, such as supporting sanctuaries for the victims of animal exploitation industries.)

    Do I think that sparing the lives of these animals is a loftier goal than Grandin’s, which includes making slaughter more efficient and profitable for the animal ag. industry? Hells yes. As Colbert noted, Temple Grandin is primarily a pro-business movie.

    Orwellian doublespeak. Oy.

  9. Stephen Colbert on Temple Grandin : “It’s really a pro-business story.” » POP! goes The Vegan. Says:

    […] as Danes was making the rounds in support of her new biopic, Temple Grandin, I expected to come away from this interview with a knot of frustration and anger in my stomach. In […]

  10. nothankyou Says:

    Wow, a whole article based on a preview. Nice.

    Do you have any knowledge on Autism? Just wondering. It makes you look really stupid to comment on her prosody and mannerisms. Funny how you mentioned looking Brittish. I get told that a lot about my son (age 4), who has a mild Asperger’s dx, and favors a very formal, direct talking style. Funnier still that we are a Spanish family!

    I find your arguments valid and understand your position on the subject given the context/purpose of the blog. But ALL your extra Autism related comments were just.plain.100% ignorant. Your argument could have been clearer without all of it. But then again, it’s just a silly blog, you don’t have to know what you are talking about, it’s just your opinion. Oh I love blogs that way, sign of the times!

  11. Kelly G. Says:

    @ nothankyou – Oh, how I love anonymous, drive-by comments, left by trolls on blogs that they don’t actually read; sign of the times!

    BTW, I love how everyone keeps calling me an ignorant bigot re: autism, even though I suggest that an actual autistic actor 1) could have benefited from the work more than non-disabled actor Claire Danes; 2) would have been a more honest choice for filmmakers who ostensibly want to demonstrate that autistic people are just as worthy, capable and valuable as their non-autistic counterparts; and 3) would have provided a more realistic portrayal of autism than someone who is not autistic.

    *snort*

  12. nothankyou Says:

    Kelly,

    A reader is a reader. 20 years ago I would have walked into my library with a key word written in an index card: “Temple Grandin”, I would have come across your entry in some sort of periodical or microfilmed magazine. A subject (in this case a person) is best learned about in all its lights, right? I would have gone on to read yours thanks to the freedom of publishing this country enjoys. Do not call me a troll as if reading different perspectives is some sort of exclusive club.

    The difference 20 years ago and the bulk of my point? Writers had more respect for the context their topics were written in. You would have looked into Autism for your preparation for writing (not to mention watched the actual film). Cross referencing, peer review, editors, the ignorant comments on her portrayal would be edited in order to clarify your purpose. But the public is now your second pair of eyes. It’s neat really, the thought of this collective knowledge and ability to reach everyone and share experience, but it looks like it’s discounted and met with defensiveness. It’s easier.

    I did not call you a bigot, I called you ignorant on a subject in which you contextualized a topic you are very well versed in. And I stand by that. You do not disproof your ignorance by your noble suggestion of casting a person with Autism with the role, you actually trivialize true acceptance. Do you know how difficult this is? It is the reason why her story IS unique and worthy in the realm of *Autism*…*for which it was created*. I think it’s ok to call on the ability of actors to do this so the story gets told. My knowledge of her is purely in this realm, so it was really interesting to read about her in your light. Never thought about her from that perspective and it’s important to do that. So please realize the bigger importance of everyone’s contribution to the collective, and realize that the comments on her acting were ignorant and discrediting. That is the reality of the symptoms and characteristics of this particular Autistic person, which are shared by many.

  13. Kelly G. Says:

    @nothankyou – On the topic of Danes’s acting and hiring a non-autistic vs. an autistic actor to portray an autistic individual: My knowledge of how Danes normally speaks, sounds and carries herself greatly influences how I view her portrayal of Grandin. (Ditto, for the record, other non-disabled actors who play physically and – especially – intellectually disabled individuals. See, e.g., Juliette Lewis in The Other Sister. Awful.) When actors assume the role of a differently abled person, I almost always come away with the feeling that it’s a parody; a well-intentioned parody, perhaps, but a parody nonetheless. Being individuals who (usually) have little-to-no experience with the disability in question (no, an afternoon spent with Grandin doesn’t count) – and certainly no intimate, personal experience since, after all, they are non-disabled – these performances just strike me as…disingenuous.

    Why not hire someone who has an intimate knowledge of the obstacles Grandin has faced, vs. someone who can only begin to imagine them? In an industry in which there are so few roles for autistic and otherwise disabled actors, why give one of the few roles literally written for an autistic individual to a non-autistic actor? As I said in the post, this is arguably akin to hiring a white actor to portray a person of color, and then outfitting her in blackface.

    Hence my criticism of Danes’s acting (which doesn’t actually begin and end with Danes; based on the clips I’ve seen, the forced quirkiness in the film is also par for the course when depicting someone w/an intellectual disability or mental illness; it’s patronizing, e.g., “Look how special she is!”). Danes’s “autism” is at best a pale imitation of what she thinks those w/autism think, feel and experience. I suppose you could say this of all acting, but I think it takes on a whole new meaning when you’re “faking membership” in a marginalized, misunderstood and oppressed sub-group, particularly when it’s one to which you can/will never belong.

    If this makes me “ignorant” and “stupid” in your eyes, so be it. I have more than explained myself, and anything further would be belaboring the point.

    (BTW, popping up on a stranger’s blog to call them “ignorant” and “stupid” – and to dismiss the blog and blogging itself as “silly” – counts as trolling in some circles. Doubly so when done anonymously. It also begs the question, if this blog is so “silly,” why waste your time posting multiple comments on it?)

  14. TeaEarlGrayHot Says:

    Actually, Dr. Grandin was very pleased with Ms. Danes’ perfomance and portrayal. Dr. Grandin even hugged the actress, which is somewhat rare because, if you are familiar with autism and Temple Grandin, you know that there is a touch sensitivity issue. Here is an excerpt from a review of the biopic, In Grandin’s view — which was the one most important to the actress — Danes succeeded.

    “I was like, I can’t believe this beautiful blond lady became me in the 1960s,” said the author and scientist, who originally envisioned Sigourney Weaver playing her. “And the thing that amazed me was that if you didn’t know that Claire was playing me and there was no credit, you’d never know it.”

    I enjoyed this film very much. I’m writing a research paper for psychology class on Dr. Grandin and this is what led me to this forum.

  15. veganbunny Says:

    Thanks for this refreshing article! I’m sick to death of Grandin being praised. I feel sorry for her autism problem, but even sorrier for the poor creatures she helps slaughter 🙁

    As a vegan I save many animal lives per year. Thousands of animals after 10 years of veganism. To be an animal raised for food is probably the worst type of existence ever imposed on a living creature. Non-vegans can be incredibly cruel and heartless. Grandin even kills animals herself, says she gets a “rush” from it -gag- she eats animals too. This is total detachment from feeling for others, as far from love as you can get. More like sadism.

  16. Amy Says:

    Kelly,

    I note you continue to refer to autism as a disability. Many on the spectrum find the term “disability” to be quite offensive as we believe autism is a fundamental part of who we are and is no different to the way that homosexuality was once classed as a mental illness. I appreciate this is not the place to get into a debate on pro and anti-autism cures, but I ask you to respect the feelings of those in the autistic community and choose your words with more care in future.

  17. Kelly Garbato Says:

    Amy, I apologize; I thought I was choosing my words carefully. Given your comments, I have a question (honest, with no sarcasm intended): what would you call discrimination against those with autism, if not ableism?

    (By the way, I apologize for the length of time it took me to approve and respond to your comment; as you can see, today is the first time I’ve updated the blog in more than three months.)

  18. Emmett Says:

    Look, I speak here as an autistic, a vegetarian (for ecological reasons), a [male] feminist, and a [hard core] freak rights advocate (disability is an asinine term), and I gotta say:

    Leave Grandin alone.

    Look, we get it. You don’t like that she works with the meat industry (even though the work she does makes that industry just a little less awful). You don’t like that they had a neurotypical actor playing her (which is a damn valid complaint- I wish we had more autistic actresses). You really don’t like that they exaggerated how she talks (she does sort of talk like that, from what I’ve seen of her, and they got her visual thinking down perfectly, by her own admission). So, you know, you’ve got some legitimate complaints.

    That said, this is Temple Grandin. The autistic community doesn’t have a lot of heroes. Amanda Baggs and the rest of the ND crowd are awesome, but the media doesn’t ever report on them. Grandin’s one of the only people we have who talks about autism and autism pride in public, and gets people to actually listen. I don’t think you understand how important that is, or how much it hurts us, as a community, when you tear her down and call her a murderer. We have less than 3% employment among adult autistics. We have quack doctors forcing harmful treatments on us. We have abusive therapies and institutionalization. We have a cure movement breathing down our necks not only trying to stop us from existing, but actively suing and censoring people who criticize them. We have a media that supports that curebie mentality. When we get someone who the media will listen to, who supports our right to exist, who champions our inclusion in the workforce, who provides a role model for autistic kids who’ve been told they can’t be anything, and you come along and knock her down because she does all these awesome things, these things that have a very real and important impact on our lives, by working with Cargill, that doesn’t help. Animal rights has enough advocates. We have one who the media listens to. One. It’d be really, really cool if you didn’t take that away from us.

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