Kyle and I have been saving up for a big trip, so we’ve been waiting for a lot of movies to hit the dollar theatre before seeing them. (Except Marvel movies. We budget to see those twice, right after they come out!) So we ended up waiting quite a bit to see “Ready Player One,” even though we both really liked the book.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book, which turned out to be a good thing, because the movie is very different. Maybe it would’ve bugged me more if the book had been fresher in my mind, but as it is now, I really liked the movie. I mean, I like Spielberg movies. I like the 80s. And some of my favorite films, like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “The Lego Movie,” revolve around this crossover or remixing idea that we see in RPO. Sure, maybe there are some people who are upset that the movie isn’t exactly like the book, but really, that’s not quite the point of an adaptation, and honestly, I got to see a fight between the Iron Giant and Mechagodzilla, which was definitely not in the book, so I think your argument is invalid.
(Just kidding, everyone. It’s still totally acceptable to discuss the art of movie adaptations!)
Also, by the way, Lena Waithe is my absolute favorite in everything she’s in. (Have you seen the Thanksgiving episode of “Master of None” that she co-wrote, based on her own experience of coming out to her family? It’s fantastic.)
I did have one minor quibble with the movie, in that they slightly changed one of the best lines from the book, by adding an awkward, stumbling bit about getting a good meal. But since the rest of the quote was delivered with such breathtaking and heartbreaking parlance by the amazing Mark Rylance, I’m willing to let that one slide.
I try not to be one of those people who declares every awkward character they see to be secretly autistic, but I gotta say, when Halliday started opening up to Wade about never feeling at home in the real world and not knowing how to connect with people, in that moment, I related to him so much, I almost cried.
Halliday is right, the world can be a terrifying and painful place, but man. When you do manage to connect with people, to not feel quite so alone for a little while, it can be magical. And honestly, for me, that’s where all this stuff comes into play: the pop culture, the movies, the video games, the books, the comics.
Ask me if I did anything last weekend and my mind draws a blank. Ask me if I’ve read any good books or seen any good movies lately, and my ability to form complete, coherent sentences starts to work a little bit better. Ask me what I think about the character of the Outsider from the “Dishonored” video game series, and if I’m comfortable geeking out in front of you, I will likely tell you his entire life story, how he compares to other deity figures in mythology and pop culture, and all the reasons why I just had to buy a Pop figure of the sarcastic little jerk.
And honestly, I’m beginning to think that that’s how it is for every autistic person. Small talk and polite conversations follow rules that either don’t make sense or don’t really interest us, but if you can get us talking about one of our preferred interests, then all the indifference and anxieties just kind of fade away. (You might find yourself being subjected to an “info dump” of fun facts and obscure knowledge, but you’ll definitely get us talking!)
This is getting to be quite a bit longer than my usual movie reviews, but I think it’s because this all just hit me a little harder than your usual movie.
To wrap things up, I’ll add that I really don’t like the idea of “gatekeeping,” which we briefly see in the movie when Wade meets Art3mis, and she grills him on his knowledge of Halliday. I don’t like for pop culture knowledge to be a competition or a dividing line between people. Stories, like this one, and all the other amazing stories referenced in RPO, aren’t about separating ourselves or keeping people apart. Stories are about connecting, relating to people, finding joy in shared interests, and sharing in all the little details of all the things you love.
And, additionally, RPO is also about using that knowledge, about Wade and Samantha and Aech and all the others using their unique brains to relate to Halliday’s unique brain, in order to find the deeper meaning in this huge thing that he wanted to share with the world. Every person, with a different life experience and a different set of pop culture pieces that they love, has a wholly different perspective on the world. And we share our perspectives with each other through stories. Stories help us to better understand the world, and the people, around us.
And every person has some kind of story worth telling. Everyone. Some people might be a bit better at storytelling than others. But whatever it is that moves you, whatever it is that you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid to share it. You never know who else might be a fan, or who else your story might reach. Your words might be the one thing that makes someone else feel a little less alone, in this big, scary world. So never be ashamed of the geeky things you love. Talk it up.
I’ll wrap this up with the original RPO quote, from Cline’s book, that Halliday imparted to Wade about his time in the OASIS. Because it’s something that I love.
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”