Anxiety in Animation Part Two: Snufkin

Snufkin standing in the middle of the night. His body is pulled inwards, and his hat obscures his face, in a defensive manner. His facial expression is difficult to determine, but he appears slightly uncomfortable

In the first part of this series, I examined and discussed how the character of Hitori Bocchi was a validating experience for me because it portrayed social anxiety in an empathetic and humanizing manner.  With this in mind, it is important to realize that Bocchi’s experiences are just one of the many ways in which people experience and manifest their social anxiety.  This second article will examine a character from a different animated series, and discuss how their portrayal showcases a different side to social anxiety, specifically how social anxiety can be connected with social exhaustion.

Snufkin is one of the main characters of Tove Jansson’s Moomins franchise, an iconic character who many people love across the globe (especially Europe and Japan).  He is a vagabond known for travelling the world, carrying very few personal possessions, enjoying his solitude within nature, and valuing his personal freedom.  As is the case of many fictional characters, these key traits have commonly been exaggerated to the point of creating a very specific image of Snufkin’s character.  In many adaptations Snufkin is depicted as an incredibly wise individual, who discovers solutions to the problems he and his friends encounter, and seldom, if ever, experiences anger or personal psychological conflicts.

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Anxiety in Animation Part One: Hitori Bocchi

Hitori Bocchi hiding behind her school bag. Her face is visibly uncomfortable and anxious, and she is gripping her bag enough to dent the fabric a little

While my experiences as an autistic woman primarily shape what I write on my blog, this is not the only form of neurodivergence I experience in my life.  I have also experienced both general and social anxiety in my life, and it is safe for me to say that the latter can be far more overwhelming than the former, especially since I am also on the autistic spectrum.  Social anxiety has made it difficult for me to try and open up and make connections with other people, as it negatively impacts the way I view myself and how I believe other people perceive me.  I will commonly find myself evaluating and re-evaluating how a specific social interaction took place, criticising myself at what I believed to be a poor job of communicating, and feeling embarrassed for myself afterwards.  While I am aware that the vast majority of people experience difficulties in communicating at some points in their lives, my social anxiety tricks me into believing I am the only person who is capable of messing up at social interactions, and that my socialization skills are among the absolute worst.

Finding a way to properly articulate these feelings is difficult enough, but to actually have these feelings be legitimized is especially challenging.  As many neurodivergent and mentally ill people can attest, describing our experiences to neurotypical people is extremely difficult.  This is probably because to neurotypicals our experiences are not “legitimate” concerns, because they are “all in the mind”, or we are “just over-exaggerating”, and if we just do a specific set of activities we’ll feel better in no time. So finding stories able to showcase our point of view, and present our experiences in a sympathetic light, is something extremely surprising and validating to find.

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Patricia Baxter's Autistic Observations