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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Autisitc Observation: Bullying and Special Interests

Image of a road with a lone white plush teddy bear, wearing a red ribbon, in the foreground. A group of people, doing other activities, are in the blurry background

I have found that the worst thing about being autistic is not about being on the spectrum, but rather how allistic (non-autistic) people treat you. I experienced awful forms of ableism, emotional abuse, and bullying directed towards me simply because I am an autistic person. Upon reading the experiences of my friends and peers on the autistic spectrum, this is unfortunately a common experience, making bullying and autistic childhood experiences go seemingly hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, bullies do not go away when you get older: their tactics just change into something more insidious and covert. The type of bullies that I encounter tend to be thoroughly aware that autistic people will not immediately pick up on subtler forms of bullying, and use this to their advantage. As a result, autistic people may leave a conversation feeling hurt but with no ‘justifiable’ reason to explain these emotions. After all, the person we were just talking to did not say anything really hurtful to us, and they were smiling and putting on the big ‘friendly’ face that means the person is nice and honest. But every time you talk to that person, you find yourself feeling crappier with each encounter, even though you cannot determine the cause for this feeling.

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Needs More Love: “The World Beyond My Shadow”

[Panel One: Schreiter’s left foot is shown walking into the panel. Her shadow is light and slightly noticeable Panel Two: The text box reads “And one I leave the door…” Schreiter stops walking, her shadow is visible in front of her. Panel Three: Schreiter’s antenna make a “Flopp” sound, as they disappear into her head. These are a visual cue that she uses to identify autistic people, emphasizing the metaphor that autistic people feel like aliens in the neurotypical world Panel Four: The text box reads “…I start.” Schreiter stands alone on the sidewalk in the center of the panel, which is a wide shot, emphasizing how small and insecure she feel when stepping ‘beyond her shadow’. Her eyes are wide and uncertain. Her shadow is at its darkest and most visible]
[Panel One: Daniela Schreiter’s left foot is shown walking into the panel. Her shadow is light and slightly noticeable Panel Two: The text box reads “And one I leave the door…” Both of Schreiter’s feet are present in the panel.  She has stopped walking, her shadow is visible in front of her. Panel Three: Schreiter’s antenna make a “Flopp” sound, as they disappear into her head. These are a visual cue that she uses to identify autistic people, emphasizing the metaphor that autistic people feel like aliens in the neurotypical world. Panel Four: The text box reads “…I start.” Schreiter stands alone on the sidewalk in the center of the panel, which is a wide shot, emphasizing how small and insecure she feel when stepping ‘beyond her shadow’. Her eyes are wide and uncertain. Her shadow is at its darkest and most visible]
Comic books are one of my greatest passions.  I read comics almost every day, and even if I am not reading them I am certainly thinking about them.  I love the versatility that the medium has to tell different types of stories, both fictional and personal, and how they showcase diverse ways of being to the audience before them.  I am especially happy to see more narratives, especially those which have previously been ignored or untold, gaining more interest and attention.  One example of this is the growing number of comics and graphic novels focused on examining and discussing the topic of neurodivergence and mental illness.

Among my favourite examples of a comic that has accomplished this is Daniela Schreiter’s The World Beyond My Shadow, a graphic novel discussing Schreiter’s experiences of being a woman on the autistic spectrum.  Originally published, in German, by Panini Comics Deutschland as Schattenspringer: Wie es ist anders zu sein in 2014, the comic received an official English translation by Panini Comics in 2016.  The book is a graphic memoir detailing Schreiter’s everyday life and childhood experiences as an autistic woman, specifically describing her experiences with sensory overload, navigating the confusing and contradictory social world of neurotypicals, and, most importantly, highlighting how much she loves being an autistic person.

Read moreNeeds More Love: “The World Beyond My Shadow”