An idea, I’ve had for years (and I’m not the only one who has thought this) is that that the Michael Myers character from John Carpenter’s Halloween (and its sequels) was autistic. I realize it was not the film maker’s intention to make him autistic (autism was not well known in the 1970s) but characters take on a life of their own. Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired communication skills, repetitive ritualistic restricted behavior, obsessive interests, and poor physical coordination.
Myers clearly fit the criteria. His communication skills were so impaired he went completely non-verbal, and facial expressions displayed only what his psychiatrist Dr. Loomis called a “blank, pale, emotionless face” with no understanding of human concepts like “life or death, good or evil, right or wrong”. A key deficit in autism is impaired “Theory of Mind” (ToM). ToM is the ability to understand that other people have minds just like you do and to form theories about what they’re thinking and feeling; why they behave the way they do. Because of this, many autistic people are said to relate to other people more like objects than like living entities. If Myers lacked ToM, it would explain why he couldn’t grasp the difference between life and death, since he was oblivious to the mental states of living creatures. Also, the scene in Halloween (1978) where he pins the teenager Bob to the wall and then Myers tilts his head to the left and right looking at the hanging corpse, seems to suggest Myers was viewing a person as just another object. Autistic people also struggle to make eye contact and communicate with appropriate facial expressions, so it’s no wonder Myers avoided both by always wearing a mask.
Myers also had repetitive ritualistic restricted behavior and obsessive interests. He repetitively killed people over and over again in very much the same way, making a ritual of only killing them on Halloween while always wearing a mask. Indeed he spent his whole life doing nothing but obsessing about his childhood crime of killing his older sister Judith. Myers killed his older sister when she was 17 on Halloween and then spent 15 years planning to kill his younger sister when she too was 17 on Halloween and ritualistically brought along the big sister’s grave stone to make it more ceremonial. When he failed to kill the younger sister (Laurie) when she was 17 on Halloween, he then waited 20 years to try to kill her when her son was 17 on Halloween.
This kind of repetitive obsession with symmetry (both sisters, both 17, both Halloween), numbers (17) and calender dates (Halloween) seems classically autistic. Indeed some autistic people are so obsessed with numbers and calenders that despite being mentally disabled, can multiply huge numbers in their head or calculate the day of the week for almost any date you can throw at them.
Myers also lacked physical coordination. He seemed incapable of running, despite being physically fit, and had terrible aim and hand-eye coordination: In Halloween (1978) he tried to stab Laurie but ended up stabbing the couch.
Also, the fact that Laurie was his sister, also reveals autism. As I explained on my other blog, there seems to be a genetic link between autism and nerdiness, so many autistics tend to have nerdy family members. This happens because nerds and autistic people have certain overlapping traits: interest in numbers and systems, social and physical awkwardness etc. The main difference between nerds and autistic people is that the latter seem to have a mental disability called executive dysfunction which prevents them from living a normal life. By contrast, nerds can be extremely high functioning and successful (i.e. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg), however because nerdiness and autism are genetically linked, it’s not uncommon to see a hyper-successful silicon Valley millionaire, with a child so autistic he requires life-long supervision. This was clearly the pattern with Laurie and Michael. She was the successful high functioning nerd while he was too low functioning to live anything like a normal life. Despite being high functioning, Laurie’s nerdiness was revealed by the fact that despite being pretty, she couldn’t get a date because boys thought her too smart (she was probably better at nerdy subjects like math and science than they were) and was treated like a freak by her friend Annie. And like her brother Michael, she was a virgin.
However while Michael Myers seemed clearly autistic, in Rob Zombie’s remake, Myers was schizophrenic. Some horror fans hate Rob Zombie’s remake because they feel Rob Zombie turned Myers from a middle class person they could relate to (scary thought) to what these people call “white trash”. It’s fascinating that Myers went from seeming autistic in the original series when he was middle class, to being schizophrenic in the remakes, when he was lower class. As I’ve previously explained, autism is more common in the higher social classes, while schizophrenia is more common in the lower social classes.
What’s fascinating is that autism and schizophrenia appear, in my opinion, to be opposite sides of the same coin. When someone with a nerdy middle class or upper class personality has executive dysfunction, it tends to turn into autism. When someone with a cool lower class personality (like the long haired heavy metal fan Myers of Zombie’s versions) has executive dysfunction, it tends to turn into schizophrenia. Isn’t it interesting that the Halloween franchise so perfectly fits the pattern?