I’m a little troubled, y’all. Ok, not troubled, but in a moral quandary, if you will.
Lately–in TV & movies there have been more characters with “autism” (the kid in Touch was first described as having Autism, but is now said to be “emotionally disturbed”–more thoughts on that lil change by ThAutcast) than there have been in the past. And while i celebrate their step into the limelight, it’s actually starting to bug me.
The first (that i started paying attention to) is of course Max from Parenthood. He doesn’t really bug me much–he’s a bit more… self-aware than an actual kid with Aspergers might be–but it’s TV. if characters on TV were like real life, most of the time we wouldn’t watch because a) it would be too boring or b) it would be too uncomfortable(think Hoarders). So TV and it’s writers need to find the mix between the two that keep the audience coming back I get that.
Let us not forget the undiagnosed Sheldon COoper on Big Bang Theory. I know Chuck has said that Sheldon is not an Aspie–but Autie moms know better. If you wanna call him PDD-NOS to feel better, Chuck, we’re ok with that. Acceptance is really the only way to come to terms with the diagnosis…
But let’s put Sheldon and Max aside. They are not who I want to address.
No, I want to discuss the rise of the “magical Autie”.
You know the kind: their “gifts” help solve crimes, or reach new understandings about life, or keep Keifer Sutherland’s acting career going.
I will admit, I haven’t watched Touch or Alphas or Numbers for that matter–because frankly none of the shows work for me. I’m not a crime show gal, and I tried to watch Alphas and found it wanting.
But maybe I avoid for another reason?
I am all for giving attention to Autism and getting people to recognize that it is something everyone will have to deal with (probably) in their life time. You will meet at least one person on the spectrum–unless you live on a desert island with a volleyball. And even then…
(think about it–non verbal, lack of eye contact, detached from the situation….)
And I am all for celebrating the “quirks” our children with Autism have. And finding a way to make those quirks work FOR them rather than against them. Yes yes. (can you tell I’ve been having this argument in my head for a while?)
But, an image is evolving that may not well serve the Autism community. Not every kid with Autism can solve 20-year-old cold cases. sorry. Some of them will never be able to live on their own or even hold a job. They can’t all count cards and win big in vegas. But they also have value. They also have lives that are very real and rewarding. They also have parents that try to help them every day to live their lives to the bet of their ability and find joy–in whatever form that takes. But they aren’t celebrated or touted, or even written into movies or films as anything other than a hardship or sadness. WE SEE THIS HOLLYWOOD. We aren’t blind.
A few years back, my Old Man pointed out the role of the “magical negro” (coined by Spike Lee) to me in certain movies and TV shows. You know the kind–the African-American companion that has all the answers and helps the white protagonist through the most difficult times–like a crappy movie about golf? I guess I’m just afraid that folks with autism are gonna be lumped into this category as well.
Look, it’s hard enough to fight the Rainman stereotypes, without someone looking for special gifts in my son. Sure–he may have special gifts. He may learn to defy gravity some day that helps up live in space (this prediction made solely on the fact that he fights gravity on a daily basis, often ending in screams of frustration, only to try his impossible upside-down hotwheel racetrack scenario again.)–but if he does have that or other gifts, I’d prefer they develop naturally. Moreover, I’d like people to value him because he’s a cool dude, and not because he can visualize wormholes.
So, Hollywood, while I commend you for trying to represent a part of society’s sometimes disenfranchised, could we have a little less miracle-working?