Lately, our 17-year-old son Danny with developmental disabilities is obsessed with evil. His new favorite game is to use his limited but growing vocabulary to talk about who the “evil” character is in each of his many movies in his much-viewed DVD collection. We think it started with Jafar, the “dark man” in “Aladdin” who is the Grand Vizier of the Sultan of Agrabah. As one Disney critic has pointed out, Jafar gets more screen time, and actually lives to the end of the movie than most Disney villains.
Since Jafar, Danny has generalized this villain concept to other movies, such as sinister Luther heading up the Council of Doom in the Justice League cartoons (which, to jog your memory, featured all the Super Friends such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc). He also likes to watch the scenes in the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors” with Steve Martin playing a sadistic dentist. Today, while on a crowded elevator in his dentist’s building, Danny clearly yelled out two words “dentist” and “evil” much to the consternation of the other occupants.
Then during Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur day services, Danny really got into the whole beating of the breast during the Viddui confessional prayer. He looked around and saw everyone hitting his or her chest, then picked up my hand to help him do the same gesture since he lacks the motor coordination to do it on his own. He even tried to name the ways our cat has misbehaved over the past year, which includes jumping up on the dinner table and scratching the furniture.
What’s pretty remarkable about this evil obsession is that he isn’t supposed to be able to do it. With a diagnosis of moderate intellectual disability, abstract thinking is supposed to be beyond his ability. As part of a North Carolina state checklist for judges and law enforcement officers states, “Most people can move from concrete to abstract thinking without effort. For people with mental retardation, this is often difficult, if not impossible.”
Who knows? Maybe bounding over tall buildings will be next.