“We have much to ponder regarding our own understanding–our understanding of neurodiversity, the professional art world, and, of course, the economics of living in a major US city without built in support systems.” – English Professor Jan Osborn.
In a Beat, written and directed by Natasha Mynhier, is a compelling insight to the life of Darrel, a young Black boy on the autism spectrum, and his highly-talented mother attempting to understand and support one another in the competitive
dance world of Los Angeles. During Wilkinson’s Engaging the World: Leading the Conversation on the Significance of Race discussion, members of the Chapman community were invited to explore the questions the film posed with Mynhier and lead actress, Chloe Arnold. As beautifully articulated by English Professor Jan Osborn, “we have much to ponder regarding our own understanding–our understanding of neurodiversity, the professional art world, and, of course, the economics of living in a major US city without built in support systems.”
This statement stuck with me throughout the discussion. It served as a reliable lens with which to analyze not only the film and the questions that arose from it, but also to analyze my own life experiences in relation.
To understand where we stand and how our built-in support systems shape our lived experiences is crucial in understanding the poignance of this film. In discussing her inspiration for the film, Mynhier explained that she was moved to create this piece because of the huge disparity in access to “healthcare…services…and privileges” that neurodiverse individuals in the black community have. This forces us to think critically about how the movie applies to our lives: how do the intersections of our identities affect how we go through the world? How does this affect how we consume social services? It is my privilege that the structure of social services was created to benefit people in my class position. I do not have to share the same deep fears and anxieties that Darrell and his mother face. Mynhier excellence shows in her ability to communicate the significance of these social forces through Darrel, in a way that we can all recognize and empathize. Overall, In a Beat requires us to reflect openly and empathetically on the social forces that intersect with our identities to shape our trajectories. It asks us to bravely challenge the stigmas and misconceptions of the neurodiverse experience, and instead embrace the reality of it.
Built-in support systems–what are those? The film made me aware of all of the privileges, the advantages of my identity, the conditions that have allowed me to get to where I am—the things that make me lucky. And I realized I have many built-in support systems—my parents are both college-educated successful professionals. I went to excellent schools throughout life that set me up to excel in college. I attend a private, liberal arts institution with multitudes of resources and professionals who want to see me succeed. I have the support and involvement of my family to cultivate my talents and offer help when I need it. My college experience has provided me with the tools and skills that will place me ahead of the curve when I enter the professional world. I have a stable home, my parents have a stable income, I have great health insurance. The world does not meet me with barriers at every opportunity. In fact, more often than not, the world encourages me along my path.
Would you like to hear more of the discussion? Watch the zoom recording here!