The first thing I said to Dad as we left the movie theater was, “Wow, so he was autistic.” Dad said he had been thinking the exact same thing.
My autism-radar started beeping when I saw his lack of eye contact talking to the dock officer about the contents of his case, but I acknowledged that it could be just because he was being deceptive. But no, the difficulty with eye contact continued. And there were the awkward social interactions, the special bond with animals, the admission that he didn’t really have friends at school, the awkward goodbye of the end. That settled it. Newt Scamander could be on the autism spectrum.
I was excited to have a Hufflepuff featured in film, because Pottermore (v. 1.0) sorted me into that house and, after the initial revulsion, I read the welcome letter and I embraced it wholeheartedly. I was also excited to have a Harry Potter film that I wouldn’t ruin with constant comparisons to the book it was based on. Having the Hufflepuff hero show up with autistic traits absolutely delighted me.
As soon as we got out to the car, I began Googling “Newt Scamander Aspergers.” It was immediately apparent that I wasn’t the only one who picked up on his traits. The absolute best post I’ve read about Newt was written by a mom who has an autistic son, a boy who is a lot like Mr. Scamander. Instead of quoting it at length, I’ll point you to the original:
The True Magic of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, by Melanie R. Meadors
Like she said, whether or not Newt is “officially” or intentionally autistic really doesn’t matter. What’s awesome is that a person with autistic traits is presented in a positive light, the traits aren’t something he has to “overcome” in the film, and he makes friends who accept him as he is. I’m officially a fan of Newt Scamander, and I’m thankful to Rowling and the filmmakers for making a person like him a true hero.
Another piece about Newt that I really enjoyed was written by Emma Lord:
On Newt Scamander, Toxic Masculinity, & The Power Of Hufflepuff Heroes
Have you seen the film? I’d love to hear your thoughts!