Autism in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 566 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 566|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Arnie Grape's Portrayal of Autism
  2. Accuracy of the Portrayal
  3. Impact on Audience Perception
  4. Conclusion

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. It is characterized by repetitive behaviors, difficulties in social interaction, and challenges with verbal and nonverbal communication. In the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," directed by Lasse Hallström, the character of Arnie Grape, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is portrayed as a young man with autism. This essay will analyze the portrayal of autism in the film and discuss its accuracy and impact on the audience's perception of the disorder.

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Arnie Grape's Portrayal of Autism

Arnie Grape's character in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" exhibits several behaviors and traits that are commonly associated with autism. He displays repetitive movements, such as rocking back and forth, and has difficulty understanding social cues and norms. Arnie also struggles with verbal communication, often speaking in short, repetitive phrases and having difficulty expressing his emotions. Additionally, he exhibits a strong attachment to routines and rituals, becoming distressed when his routine is disrupted.

One of the most striking aspects of Arnie's portrayal of autism is his sensitivity to sensory stimuli. He becomes overwhelmed in crowded or noisy environments and is easily agitated by changes in his surroundings. These characteristics align with the sensory sensitivities often experienced by individuals with autism. Overall, the film depicts Arnie as a complex and multi-dimensional character, showcasing the challenges and strengths associated with autism.

Accuracy of the Portrayal

The portrayal of autism in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" has been praised for its authenticity and sensitivity. Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Arnie Grape has been widely acclaimed for its nuanced depiction of the disorder. The character's struggles and triumphs are portrayed with empathy and understanding, offering a realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by individuals with autism.

The film also accurately captures the impact of autism on the family dynamics, particularly the burden placed on Arnie's older brother, Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp. Gilbert serves as Arnie's primary caregiver, and the emotional and physical toll of this responsibility is depicted with honesty and compassion. The film effectively highlights the complexities of living with and caring for a person with autism, shedding light on the everyday challenges faced by families affected by the disorder.

Impact on Audience Perception

The portrayal of autism in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" has had a significant impact on the audience's perception of the disorder. The film humanizes individuals with autism, portraying them as individuals with unique personalities, desires, and struggles. Arnie's character challenges stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding autism, emphasizing the importance of understanding and acceptance.

The film has also sparked important conversations about the representation of autism in media and the need for accurate and respectful portrayals. "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" has been praised for its sensitive and authentic portrayal of autism, serving as a catalyst for increased awareness and understanding of the disorder.

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In conclusion, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" offers a compelling and authentic portrayal of autism through the character of Arnie Grape. The film accurately captures the challenges and strengths associated with the disorder, offering a nuanced and empathetic depiction of autism. The impact of the film on the audience's perception of autism has been significant, sparking important conversations and promoting increased awareness and understanding. Overall, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" stands as a powerful and respectful representation of autism in popular media.

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This essay was reviewed by
Alex Wood

Cite this Essay

Autism in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
“Autism in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Autism in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 May 2024].
Autism in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 May 18]. Available from:
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