Some thoughts

The Imitation Game

I wrote this after watching the film “The Imitation Game” staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, which was, in theory, either the story of Alan Turing or of Enigma or both.

That it failed to do justice to either is a shame, but nevertheless the film, as made, raised enough questions for me that I thought it worth drawing them out, if we were to go all poncy then I should say, “I’d like to unpack some of the ideas in the film”, but I won’t 🙂 .

It is quite possible that by using the “p” (oncy) word, I have broken one of the many politically correct conventions that seem to be constantly created, if so, then on a neurotypical level, I’m sorry for any offense caused. On an autistic level, get a life; it’s only a word for goodness sake. I thought it was me who is not supposed to be able to handle nuance and understand that what someone means may be separate from the words they use?

And that is really my starting point. At our first meeting with Alan Turing, and repeatedly throughout the film, it is made very clear to us that:

  • He doesn’t get jokes
  • He is very literal, for example, when told by his colleagues that they were going for lunch, he treated it literally as a statement, not a question as to whether he wanted to join them
  • Social communication is like a cipher to him, if you don’t understand the code, you have no idea what is being said
  • He was outspoken, blunt, arrogant, said what he thought without social filtering
  • He needed his orange and green vegetables to not touch

Ok, we get the message; the film thinks he was autistic. I never met him; he killed himself the year before I was born, so I cannot diagnose him. That said, the traits portrayed are classic autism and being a mathematician, we would not be surprised to find autistic traits. I’m a mathematician; I can recognise those traits in many (but by no means all) very capable mathematicians, far more capable than I am.

On the subject of food, autism is a spectrum so it’s not always about colour. I have to eat food in a certain order; the colour is not important but the sequence is. The need may seem strange to you, but it makes sense to me and to prevent me, or block me, from doing what I need to do is unhelpful. The same is true of what I eat. I have the same thing for lunch at work and at the same time every day and disturbing that routine is difficult. I can manage it but it’s not easy. My son needed his tea at 6:30pm exactly, unless there was a good reason not to, so that’s what we did. If it was impossible, I explained well in advance and made sure it happened rarely. On occasion I’d make sure his meal was at 6:30pm even if mine was at some other time. Nowadays he just needs to know the time, but you need to be accurate and include any uncertainty factor otherwise he will arrive on the dot of the stated guesstimate!

For me the most important message in the film, (I have no idea whether there is an original of this) was:

“Sometimes it is the people that nobody imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”

The world would be poorer without difference. Difference should not just be tolerated, it should be embraced. You never know who will have the next idea that changes the world!

There was an article on the BBC news website lately which questioned why a gay man would want to be married to a woman if he wasn’t at least bisexual. The Imitation Game addressed this very nicely. Marriage is MUCH more than sex, all the other aspects of the relationship matter too. In the film, and, as far as I know in real life, Alan Turing and Joan Clarke communicated and were honest with one another about his homosexuality. The problem highlighted in the BBC article occurs when communication hasn’t taken place and people find out that they have been deceived, either deliberately or accidentally. Honesty, even when painful, is an autistic trait that is seen as negative, this is clearly demonstrated in the portrayal of Alan Turing’s relationships at Bletchley Park. Yet such traits can make the world a better place and there can be a clear benefit when things are spoken about, even when, from a social point of view, they are no go areas.

I love Teresa, but I could not be married to her just for the sex, good as that is. I am married to her for all the rest, the understanding, the communication, the willingness to try, indeed, all the things that Teresa put on her shopping list.

Finally and absolutely not least, Alan Turing was granted a pardon for being found guilty of being gay (not what it was called at the time of course, back then being gay meant being happy!).

There are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of gay men with a criminal record from the time when being homosexual was illegal. These men haven’t been pardoned. Alan Turing was a special man and did not deserve what happened to him, but neither did the others. I have no problem with him being pardoned. I do, however, have contempt for a society, and especially a government that thinks it is acceptable to not pardon ALL homosexuals who were prosecuted, but only to make a special case because it is politically correct to do so.


In case the dual nature of the title had passed you by, in order to appear “normal” in a Neurotypical world, my whole life is a Game of Imitation.

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