Autism, Feminism

Please Don’t Watch ATypical

Hello!

Recently, this video has been going around on Twitter and well lets say the autistic community is not too happy about that, and this post is going to explain why. The TV show follows an autistic male (white, cis, straight, etc.) who wants a sexual relationship with a girl. It was written by a woman, who isn’t autistic, with an autistic relative. I believe the actor playing the autistic male is also not autistic. It’s already not a good start.

atypical

Autistic Stereotypes 

Autistic stereotypes are spread throughout the media constantly, and are very harmful to autistic people. It can prevent autistic people who do not fit the stereotypes from being diagnosed and receiving the help they need, being believed by peers or family members, and even being abused, harassed or even killed for showing autistic behaviors in public.

Some examples of stereotypes can be:

  • A white male
  • Unable to have healthy relationships and sexual relationships
  • Blurting out things that are inappropriate (mostly a trait of ADHD, which some autistic people have)
  • All autistic people have blunt, honest communication (we generally sound more nuanced and at least understand what not to say by our mid to late teen years)
  • That we all have a learning disability
  • That, by adulthood, we don’t have meltdowns and that is only a “childhood phase”
  • That we are all geniuses
  • That autism is just “a different way of looking at the world”
  • That we don’t feel empathy or affection, when many of us actually feel too much
  • Autistic people are not desirable

There are many, many more stereotypes that affect us out there but that’s another post for another time (a lot of what I’ll be talking about can be branched off into other more detailed posts).

What this show does is enforces these stereotypes. That autistic people are white, are all looking for romantic and sexual relationships, that are cis and straight, etc. That we can’t control what we are saying, and although what we say often comes out the way we didn’t intend it to it’s not the way it is portrayed in most media. It is heavily cis and hetero-normative.

There is also the stereotype here that autistic people do not like being autistic, and that couldn’t be further away from the truth. A lot of autistic people grow to love who they are, despite the very anti-autistic world we/they live in. We love having autistic friends, being in relationships with autistic people and being proud of our identities. From what I can see on the trailer, there is nothing to say this male enjoys being autistic, has autistic friends or even autistic female love interests.

One that is portrayed strongly in the trailer, though, is that nobody will desire an autistic person. Nobody will want to be in a relationship with them, and finding someone to be in a relationship or to have consensual sex with is a struggle. Although we do have difficulty with dating, as I wrote in this post on autism and relationships, none have actually got anything to do with not being desirable but the struggles some autistic people themselves deal with when in a relationship. I’m 21 in August, and I have kissed three people, been in three relationships and have had two sexual partners. Autistic people are wanted, loved and desired.

Also linking in with not being desirable, the show is making fun and laughing at autistic people in a very obvious way. Maybe they thought other autistic people would not be watching it or enjoy being laughed at, but this is certainly going to cause trouble for a lot of autistic people, especially young autistic people still attending school/in the workplace. As if that wasn’t already difficult enough for us to deal with. We are not the butt end of a joke. We are real people trying to live our lives in peace and being unable to do that.

To summarize, this show is using most of the stereotypes it possibly could evident enough in the trailer alone.

Misogyny and Toxic Masculinity 

Another problem with this trailer is that it’s broadcasting toxic masculinity. I did a whole other post on what toxic masculinity is, so I won’t go into details here, but toxic masculinity is extremely harmful to autistic people who are not male, white, cis and straight. I actually tried to find the article of the autistic male virgin whose entitlement led to the murder of women, but instead I was met with pages and pages of parents killing autistic people and the writers justifying it. That’s another point we’ll get later on.

First of all, there’s a very clear objectification of women. He says the line, or something like it, “I hope I get to see boobs” at one point. There is no wanting a connection with another human being or any clear indication he wants a woman for more than just her body. It isn’t even clear if, when seeing this woman, he wants her consent. It’s a very disrespectful way to talk about women that isn’t suddenly okay just because they’re autistic.

He seems to actually be allowed to get away with it because he is autistic, like we are incapable of learning the difference between right and wrong or even knowing how to treat other people with respect. This is wrong. We slip up every now and then, we can do things or say things or act in a way to make others uncomfortable but by his age this is something he should have already figured out.

The whole show seems to be made for the male eye and catered towards male, white, cis, straight autistic people (and their family members, friends). It’s just a not very nice man who takes zero responsibility for his actions because of his identity (remind you of anyone) who falls in love with a manic pixie dream girl who sees past his “flaws”, autism in this case.

Also, because this show chose to centre a white, cis, straight man then it compltely ignores the vulnerability every other autistic person would have faced had they have been in his position, and maybe in real life autistic people might have to face more often once the show has been released. Cis men will take advantage of autistic people who are vulnerable, including but not limited to sexual assault, inabilities to form healthy relationships, STI’s and unwanted pregnancies. There is a massive risk of sexual vulnerability when an autistic person reaches out for a relationship or sex (and even when they don’t). The entitlement of cis men in this regard as, like earlier said, lead to the murder of women who dared to say no.

This show somewhat promotes this idea that white men are entitled to have sex or romantic relationships with someone else, even more so if they are disabled. It promotes the idea that all autistic people want to be in a relationship or a sexual relationship, where real life autistic people will be encouraged or forced into situations they don’t want to be in maybe even thinking they have their best interests at heart. It also enforces the idea that we have to put ourselves into dangerous situations to be “normal”/”pass as neurotypical”.

Inspiration Porn

One of my favourite disability bloggers, Shona Louise, blogged about the harm that is inspiration porn to disabled people that you can read here. She does it a lot better than I ever could. Inspiration porn is basically where people who are not disabled look at us and think we are an inspiration to you, and that if we can live our lives with our difficulties then you can live your life with higher spirits too. I strongly advise to read Shona’s post on it, though, as it’s an important topic and this show could have done better than to include that.

The Erasure of the Aro/Ace Community 

The show pushed the idea throughout the entire trailer, multiple times, that having a romantic relationship with someone and having sex at an early age onwards is what is “normal” and anything else is not normal. I wrote a post here for my asexuality and also talking about asexuality and the ace spectrum in general if you want to know more. I can’t speak from personal experience on the aro community due to (in my knowledge) not being on the spectrum.

It is incredibly harmful to tell anyone that being in romantic relationships and sexual relationships is what is normal, especially to an autistic who is trying so hard to fit in already and “pass” as a neurotypical. This would encourage vulnerable people to be in relationships they don’t want to be in and have sex when they don’t want to have sex and putting themselves into even more dangerous and vulnerable positions. This is something that has happened to me, and has happened to many people in the autistic community and the aro/ace community.

It is not normal for everyone to be in a romantic or sexual relationship and to enforce it the way this trailer has enforced it is…ridiculously problematic.

 

Our Biggest Problems Aren’t Getting Into Relationships and Having Sex

TW: abuse, sexual assault, murder

The show makes it sound like one of the biggest problems an autistic person will face is being unable to get into and maintain a healthy relationship and have consensual sex with one or more partners. Autistic people do sometimes come across these problems, yes, and they can be hurtful and upsetting but they are not anything compared to much bigger problems we face.

Like mentioned before, when I tried to find an article on the entitled man murdering women, I was instead met with pages and pages of parents and other relatives murdering autistic people and the writers of such articles defending them most of the time. If this was to happen to any other neurotypical child, would the response be the same? I doubt it.

Autistic children are far more likely to be bullied in schools and in the workplace when they’re teenagers/adults due to their disability. Our needs and accommodations will not be met, encouraging meltdowns where the blame will be put on us and not on them for putting us in a preventable situation to stop us from becoming so overwhelmed. Jobs, frequently, aren’t easily available to any of us.

Autistic people are regularly harassed, abused and even beaten up (often by their own parents). The blame is never put on them, though, and is always put on us.

Autistic people go through a lot in our lifetimes, frequently suffering from mental illnesses as a result of that, but the blame will be on us.

These are all issues that could have easily been addressed into the show. I can’t even tell you how great of an impact that would have had on our lives had that have happened instead, but it chose to focus on relationships and sex instead like that is the worst predicament we face.

A Summary 

  1. It encourages and enforces autistic stereotypes that hurt actual living autistic people
  2. Diverse autistic people are not getting the representation they deserve because a white man took their place
  3. The show missed an amazing opportunity to speak about the struggles of autistic people, but instead chose to focus on (aside from their autism) a privileged perspective
  4. Toxic masculinity
  5. Misogyny and objectification of women
  6. Inspiration porn
  7. Erasing of the ace/aro spectrum, and encouraging vulnerable people to go into harmful situations
  8. Turns autistic people into a joke, rather than actual human beings that should be respected
  9. Making it sound like the worst problems we face are being being unable to find a relationship or sexual partner/finding relationships and sex a struggle
  10. No diversity at all – very white, cis and hetero-normative
  11. Autism is being used as a plot device instead of an identity some people have where they live their lives just like everyone else

If you still choose to watch this show for entertainment and ignore everything that the autistic community and the aro/ace community is saying about it, then I really don’t know what to tell you. I do have hope that maybe the trailer was just bad, and the rest of the show might actually be good but…there’s not very much hope.

Below are some autistic charities that you can support instead of supporting this

Until next time,
Loz

If you like my blog and what I do, please consider buying me a book from this wishlist or something cute and Disney related from this wishlist. This post was extremely emotionally taxing to do. If you are low on funds (or just don’t want to!), please consider liking, commenting and sharing my posts. Constructive criticism is usually welcomed but, unless you are autistic or from the ace/aro community, please don’t as this is very sensitive for me. 

Autistic Charities You Can Support:

Autism Women’s Network – @autism_women
ARGH – @ARGHHighland
Autistic UK – @AutisticUK
Autself Advocacy – @autselfadvocacy
A-UK Cymru – @autisticukcymru

I also made a list of autistic people you should support on this page

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6 thoughts on “Please Don’t Watch ATypical”

  1. Thank’s for writing this!

    I agree with a lot of what you say in this post.

    My abiding feeling in all of this is disappointment. Netflix could have really broken down so many barriers with this show, and instead they squandered the opportunity and decided to go with the old stereotypes that have been pushed for decades.

    Also, thanks for sharing Autistic UK as one of your organisations to contact WRT Autism Charties you can support, we really appreciate it!

    Ryan Hendry,
    Autistic UK Committee .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. But I don’t want to be autistic. I want to be that cis white male that gets the relationships easily because that is the high valued person that I aspire to be. I just want to be wanted more. Is that so wrong?

    Like

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