ecarsonbelden’s review published on Letterboxd:
y'all wanna talk about Bruno? ok let's talk about BRUNO! get comfy and get snacks because this is gonna be a long one.
Bruno is neurodivergent. Bruno has OCD. Bruno can't do anything about these facts. Bruno can't do anything about the personal and familial trauma he experienced but his OCD will try to do any and every illogical thing it can to help him cope. it's always just lurking there for a chance to be oh so helpful. everyone is going on about this song (and i get it, it's a jam) but no one is centering Bruno's experience.
A NOTE: i cannot address this movie's representation of Latino cultures and why someone might really relate and love it (or hate it or feel indifferent) and i wish everyone who felt seen or not seen by this aspect of the movie well. i am disappointed that we are once again given another Disney movie directed by white dudes, tho. A 2ND NOTE: there are many aspects of Bruno's characterization that could indicate other kinds of neurodivergent experiences and/or mental illnesses but i can say with confidence that OCD is center of Bruno's mental health experience and aspects of other mental health issues that present themselves work in conjunction with the OCD. i am neurodivergent. i have OCD. i can talk about Bruno.
*OCD can present itself in a variety of ways from person to person. everything i write addresses my personal experience. i am not a doctor i can only explain it as a layperson with personal experience. i acknowledge and honor the ways OCD presents in others- i see you*
OCD is an anxiety disorder centered on intrusive thoughts and images. OCD is a disorder of obsession, compulsions and checking when a brain can't manage these intrusive thoughts and images. i'm told all people have intrusive thoughts (i can't speak to that) but the point where it becomes a problem is when a person can't filter, counteract, stop, move on, or assign appropriate value to the intrusive thoughts and this profoundly effects their wellbeing. think of the worst nightmares you've ever had. the ones where you wake up suddenly and think 'damn is something wrong with me?'. the ones you'd never share. and now imagine having those nightmare images relentlessly hit your brain every single moment that you're awake. and imagine thinking that they probably aren't true but there is a chance that they might be true and you have to do anything and everything to stop that possibility. imagine this going on for years. for decades. imagine having to function in society and feeling the need to protect other people and hide your weirdness to keep others from being uncomfortable (and honestly failing because that's impossibe). this was my experience of OCD at its most acute.
what does this feel like? it feels like being stuck in the walls in a crawl space that no one acknowledges. of not being able to participate fully inside a family unit or outside in society. it feels like watching everything from the other side of a wall that no one else sees. or if they do they ignore it. it feels like having to pretend with empty cardboard when everyone else beautiful full plates.
what does this feel like? it feels like being able to see the future, a truly burdensome and questionable gift. because there are SO MANY thoughts and they come SO FAST and thinking too much is preferable to feeling and the brain must calculate all possible choices and their outcomes and see dangers before they arise. and sometimes this sensitivity happens to hit on something true and right. and so we warn people. we tell them what is wrong. we tell them unpleasant things that they don't want to believe. and they don't like it. so they shove their anxiety back in our faces. they blame their feelings on our weirdness and gaslight us. they banish us. they make us black sheep. they neglect and ignore us. they make us feel even more alienated than we already do. (hello my pandemic experience as a person with OCD!). they sing a song about how they don't talk about us in which they prove that all they do is talk amongst themselves without actually paying attention to us.
what does this feel like? it feels like needing to stay on top of all of the cracks that are constantly emerging. and because no one else will acknowledge them we must be vigilant and take care of them all on our own or the whole world will crumble. it is constantly checking for more cracks and getting a millisecond of comfort when for a moment there are only the cracks that are already familiar. but that comfort crashes hard and we instantly have to check again just to be sure. and then checking again. and again. and again. and again.
what does it feel like? it feels like the brain is an infinite space of shifting sands and bottomless crevasses and gaping voids. because rock bottom is a myth. there is no bottom only endless spirals. it feels colorless because feelings are dangerous and make other people scared and angry so better to not have them. which is impossible so they poison and stew and find compartments to hide in and only worsen your compulsions. they make the visible physical expression of OCD worse and more apparent for others to see. it becomes increasingly difficult to express feelings in a healthy way in the moment.
now the brain has a problem: what we do with these thoughts/images. how do we stop them? how do we make sure they're untrue? how do we make sure they don't happen in the future? OCD has the answer: COMPULSIONS! if i do this one thing it will ensure that the thought isn't true. for example: if i touch and check each button on the gas stove 5x it will prevent the thought of causing the apartment to explode from coming true and i won't accidentally cause anyone to be hurt. but just to make sure i'll touch it 5 more times. and again. and again. and again.
i find that compulsions can be a tricky thing to self assess. i think the ones most often associated with OCD are counting and cleaning but they come in lots of forms, subtle and not, and they can be super obvious or insidiously difficult to catch. and some OCD experiences lean heavily on the obsessive side and find that is way more intense than the compulsions which might not interfere with living. and then some OCD experiences involve compulsions that can completely disrupt a person's ability to function.
so let's listen to this jam but let's center this story on Bruno the poor dude who no one wants to talk about. who no one knows how to deal with. who they resent because he increases their own anxiety. who they other because that's easier to do than learning about him and empathizing with a life experience they struggle to imagine. who ignore that his struggles are messy and difficult and relentless because it is too upsetting to think about having a life like that with little relief. Bruno is neurodivergent. he always will be. Bruno has OCD. he always will. but let's talk about ways where other people could give him some relief. let's talk about ways in which behavior that scares or confuses us is nearly always harmless and doesn't need to be treated as scary or weird. let's talk about why we ostracize our sensitive truth tellers. let's talk about how this world has no time or space for sensitive people at all. let's talk about why Bruno's problem is being born into a family that refuses to see him for who he is because in doing that they'd have to acknowledge their own anxieties, trauma responses, shortcomings, and failings. let's talk about why Bruno's problem is being born into a society that wasn't built for someone with his differences. and those aren't really Bruno's problems at all.
all three stars for OCD king Bruno. because three is the perfect number: one thing balanced in the center with two things on the side. all other odd numbers are unacceptable. believe me if you repeat things 3x always you'll feel better. at least for a millisecond.
shoutout to all of those with OCD. acknowledgement to any autistic folks who may also experience OCD. shoutout to those of us who know that the notion that you are your thoughts is a naive response to chaos with denial. because no one can truly choose or control their thoughts. what i do choose is to respond to my difficulties with as much kindness as i can muster. what i do choose to respond to your difficulties with endless empathy and infinite kindness because you deserve no less. and when i fail at this i will try again. let's talk about us who really are Bruno. you are you. you deserve a world that embraces all parts of you. i see you. i see Bruno. even if no one else really wants to talk about him.