Welcome to the second installment of my Accidentally Autistic series, in which I discuss headcanoned autistic characters — characters not formally declared autistic by the creators, but heavily coded that way, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
I wanted to go with a well-known character for my second post, really I did. I’ve even got two Harry Potter characters lined up. But no, my brain has been on a nostalgia kick rewatching old favorites. Rrewatched Curdled the other night and said, “holy shit, there’s another one!”
For those of you who don’t know (I’m assuming all but two of you), Curdled was originally a short. Tarantino saw it and thought the concept was interesting (it involves a murder clean up service, which is one of those things you never think about but definitely exists), but what he really loved was Angela Jones as Gabriela. Tarantino’s studio remade Curdled as a full length movie, recasting Jones alongside William Baldwin. Jones makes another appearance as Gabriela in Pulp Fiction. She’s the cab driver who interrogates Bruce Willis about how it felt to kill a man. If you didn’t like her in the cab scene, don’t let you put that off Curdled. Gabriela is far more captivating when she’s in her element.
Curdled is basically a movie about an autistic woman taking her special interest in murder a bit too far. Gabriela latches onto this SI at a young age. The opening credits are a cool sequence in which you see images of her scrapbook — newspaper clippings alongside young Gabriela’s illustrations, which get more talented as the credits progress. Aside from the subject matter, it’s the kind of innocuous thing any kid might do.
Lots of people have things they’re interested in. What separates us autistics is the intensity of our interests. We don’t half ass this shit, and Gabriela is no exception. When she sees an ad for a post forensic cleaning service, she applies for a job . . . even though they’re not hiring. The owner is initially confused at her application, but decides to take a chance on her as “the busy season” is coming up. Did I mention how much I dig this movie?
Gabriela is aware enough to know that her SI is off-putting to most people. She smiles when talking about it and then immediately masks, though the mask frequently slips again. It’s enough to unnerve her co-worker Elena, who describes her as not taking the job seriously. “She’s weird. Like a little girl. She acts like a little girl.”
Autistics are often accused of being immature or childish, either because we’re considered socially delayed or because our SI is deemed inappropriate for our age. Gabriela’s mannerisms and dress are more childish than her peers. She continues to wear her long flowing dresses to work, even though they’re not practical for the work she has to do.
Gabriela misses social cues. When interviewing for the job, the owner asks, “You had a job like this before?” He’s trying to find out if she had a job dealing with death or another emotionally heavy topic before. Gabriela completely misses the point, thinking he wants to know about her cleaning experience. “Yes. I used to clean up in a bakery — the floors, the pans, the ovens.”
Another time, a coworker somberly talks about how much she hates the execution jobs. She finds it incredibly disturbing that these people knew they were going to die. Gabrielle chimes in with a brief infodump about beheadings during the French Revolution. She’s excited to tell everyone that sometimes the heads would talk.
Gabriela is worried when her love interest discovers the scrapbook. He’s kinda weirded out but tries his best to show support and interest. He even brings her a new clipping. Pro tip: this is definitely how you court an autistic.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Gabriela’s tendency to infodump and fixate gets her into trouble. She takes her love interest to see her latest cleaning job. Gabriela is excited finally share her passion with someone and doesn’t notice his clear discomfort.
When he leaves, she re-enacts the whole murder, trying to figure out every move and motivation. The killer sees and finds it intriguing. They bond for a time, her showing him what she knows and him correcting her with the facts. Gabriela is nervous, but interested to finally get answers.
Things come to a head (no pun intended) when they get to the body’s resting place. They have a moment of bonding, which Gabriela ruins by repeatedly asking if the severed heads talk. The killer is annoyed at her fixation and he decides to kill her. Gabriela is so engrossed in her analysis that she fails to notice when he takes her weapon. I won’t give away the full ending. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Is it great representation? No. But that doesn’t make it any less accidentally autistic.
By the way, the movie has a nod to the Gecko brothers (From Dusk Till Dawn), as well as a bonus scene after the credits.
© Val Neil All right reserved. Images belong to A Band Apart.