Posted May 1, 2012 @ 3:16 PM
I always find it very interesting how Autism gets lumped in with mental health as a general catagory both in the media and by society in-general. I disagree with that tendency. I think at this point I should confess that I actually have mild-to-moderate Asperger's so I speak from experience. I bumped along in a reasonably responsible job for a Bank and I was actually diagnosed as a 27 year old, so I'm not sure that I'm representative. However, I don't see it as an illness or even a condition. To me, this thing I have, its a fundamental part of who and what you are, its not something to be corrected or cured from. If somebody else can't handle it, that's their tough.
What bothers me is that there is a mono-vision of the issue in drama. Just as soon as we start getting noticed, it becomes a fad and then everybody is supposedly Temperance Brennan and comes out and is rude whenever they feel like it. You just can't do that, it's counterproductive. There's a whole process that you learn, at least in my experience, to help you function reasonably well in a workplace and the wider world, but this blatant coming out with whatever you're thinking, you have to first realise that other people don't consider that acceptable behaviour and then teach yourself not to do it no matter how desperate you are to and even then, sometimes you will fail. It doesn't matter that you don't understand why things are as they are and desperately want to try to understand, the rest of the world doesn't care the same way you do, so you have got to shut your mouth and learn to like it. The moderate types like myself will find ways of using the enhanced-recall that we "Aspies" often have, the somewhat obsessional and repetitive behaviours i.e. compulsive list making, extreme analysis of sporting statistics, obsessive devotion to Star Trek (the last one is me), to our advantage but taking that tendency into another field, staring at the bridge of the nose to make it look like you are giving eye-contact (I never do, that kind of contact is uncomfortable), teaching yourself to regulate physical contact and physical space by watching what others do and copying (I don't like being touched even by close relatives which is one of the many reasons family relations are difficult), avoiding office politics wherever possible because of the fundamental problem of "face blindness" - an inability or in my less serious case, a struggle to read facial expressions, body language etc, read and share in humour and generally work out how honest or deceitful somebody else is.
The point is, I don't see this in television. You either get the super-geniuses for whom the condition doesn't stop them doing whatever they want to do (it does, it makes it much harder to sustain employment, get employment or get promotion and maintain essential human relationships) and they'll always have an Angela Montenegro to helpfully interpret things around them. Or their Ryan Cartwright's character on Alphas. I wish I had somebody like Angela to help me, but it just doesn't happen that way. Nor does having super-powers either, sadly. Ironically one of the closer versions to my own inclinations I ever saw was Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager and she was recovering her humanity from 18 years of enslavement by the Borg Collective, not suffering from autism, although the symptoms manifested in surprisingly similar ways. I suppose I want something closer to me on screen, I want my own experience to be up there outside of a documentary. I went through life knowing I was different and not knowing why, I got no real help, guidance, support when it really counted, just having to figure it out on my own because all the so-called experts swore to my parents I would grow out of it when I grew up, whatever "it" was meant to be. I resorted to imagining I was my Mother and pretending to do what I thought she would do in-order to have a measure of how 'normal' people conduct themselves in-order to fit in and function.
And just so we're clear, I really don't mind "Cognitively Normal" people i.e., anybody who isn't Autistic (and it's not my term, we have a political rights movement now and a Pride Day - on 18th June every year incidentally), identifying characters as such on television at all. I suppose it might be iritating for some, but often-times they are not too far wrong and it suggests that the viewership is becoming more sophisicated that perhaps the media itself. For example, Saga Norén the Swedish super-detective in The Bridge has got to be, too many signatures not to be. I don't know whether that was the actor's choice to go that far in that direction or whether that was always the writer's and producer's intentions, but at least we are getting some screen-time now. Before we were just nuts. I take that to be a step in the right direction at least.