Should media depict us struggling to fit in or succeeding at

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Should media depict us struggling to fit in or succeeding at it?
Show the misunderstandings and exploitation, warts and all 67%  67%  [ 12 ]
Show us as part of a team or gang of friends to promote acceptance by example 33%  33%  [ 6 ]
Total votes : 18

georgewilson
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04 Jan 2014, 11:34 pm

TL;DR autistic teens and adults are sometimes depicted as collections of symptoms making constant faux pas in the media, other times as quirky, likeable individuals muddling through with a little help from their friends—which one helps people understand and accept us better?

I’ve noticed two primary types of depictions of post-puberty individuals with high-functioning autism in the media, each of which has its pros and its cons.

Type 1: Realist protest

Typically this type of portrayal, which I so name due to its resemblance of the intense, “no easy answers” depictions of a realist novelist, will show intense difficulties the autistic character has relating to all or almost all of the people in their lives and will refrain from depicting anything resembling a typical friendship or relationship. Symptoms are usually depicted as significant, perhaps even exaggerated, always far more than a mere personality quirk. This portrayal may or may not function as a protest of the intolerance many of us face through the use of dramatization (as the civil rights movement, disability and otherwise, often did), and it’s not surprising that it’s more common in small doses such as films or short story arcs. Long-term characters are usually found in light-hearted series where they offer a serious counterpoint to the wackier action. Often other characters have an epiphany of a somewhat patronizing nature where they learn to be better people and thereby grow in tandem with the autistic character (the “magic autie”/”magic aspie” phenomenon). This is the most common type to be officially diagnosed in-universe.

Examples: Rain Man (yes, Barry Levinson gave Kim Peek the wrong diagnosis in the movie version but that was in the pre-Asperger’s era and some conflicts do ring true despite the obnoxious overuse of the title character as an easy stereotype for us), Adam, old TV-movie Miracle Run (a Lifetime gem with an early Zac Efron performance pre-HSM, check it out), Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory,” Jerry “Hands” Espenson on “Boston Legal”

Pros: Doesn’t minimize and makes it clear that this is a serious issue we aren’t “making up; models personal growth in understanding on the part of neurotypical associates (except in the case of “The Big Bang Theory” since sitcoms rely on static characters); good first primer perhaps for the truly ignorant

Cons: Often has rigid, one-size-fits-all collection of everything in the DSM to fit time and space constraints or to give actors a challenge, which could mislead the uninitiated as to what is “normal” for us or by the same token create false disqualifiers for those determined to naysay the diagnosis with “you don’t calculate in your head like Dustin Hoffman’s character did, so you can’t be autistic” reasoning; may reinforce negative expectations by emphasizing deficits as the adult version of the Autism Speaks narrative’s admonitions about children

Type 2: Positive legend

A legend is a story, often historically based, that helps those unfamiliar with an experience to place it in the context of their daily lives. The word myth, while it carries more connotations of falsity to modern audiences, has a similar connotation. This portrayal is most common on continuing dramatic serials, and in a nutshell it tends to show the autistic character having or quickly developing a web of close friends and in some cases a relationship or two. Obvious symptoms are toned down to avoid singling the character out with too much “nonverbal weirdness” or stealing the show in what is often an ensemble cast. The character is seen as more quirky than weird, one of the gang with their own valuable contributions. Still, misunderstandings do occur and the character is established as having a rough past at some point, though childhood siblings or friends are sometimes hinted at as having helped them get to the level of acceptance or social adaptability they now have. Parents of the severely affected are often the first to say “not so fast” and ask for a more severely affected character, and the sheer difficulty many of us have with being accepted causes such skepticism from interested parties that many such series simply refrain in the interest of suspension of disbelief from diagnosing the character or at least have a “person-first” approach that delays the “big reveal” until some episodes after introducing the character.

Examples: Bones, Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds, J.J. Jones on seasons 3-4 (the second generation) of Brit teen soap Skins, Chloe O’Brian on 24

Pros: NTs get a lot of their most profound “education” about the unfamiliar from pop culture, so having such presences at the heart of their most beloved dramas can weave some common personality traits seamlessly into the fabric of their understanding of the world the same way they may have that moment watching Heather Kuzmich on America’s Next Top Model or James Durbin on American Idol when a “socially acceptable” talent meets a persona the NT may otherwise resist getting to know IRL—in other words, the shows model for NTs a way of accepting common Aspie traits without having to see themselves as “accommodating a disability,” something many fear the complexity of doing

Con: The flipside is, does this make things look too easy for autistics and NTs alike? Minimization as “something everybody goes through sometimes” is one of the biggest obstacles to fully explaining ourselves to untrained NTs, so obviously more education is needed than just these shows.

Perhaps the solution is to find a way to square the circle, balancing the necessary arguments of the more conflict-based portrayals in Type 1 with the comfort factor found in Type 2 to give the average NT a picture that’s both accurate and relatable of who we are and how to get past their misjudgments of us.



Last edited by georgewilson on 05 Jan 2014, 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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04 Jan 2014, 11:43 pm

[X] Other.

Show us as individual people who have Autism, who struggle with the difficulties, and who can exceed all expectations under the right conditions.

Dr. Temple Grandin had an excellent interview on NPR today, which I will provide a link to in another thread. Toward the end of the interview, she says something like, "Don't tell me about your Autism, tell me about what interests you!"

I think that we are more than just our Autism, and that our interests may be the keys to our individual success stories.



vickygleitz
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05 Jan 2014, 12:52 am

All of the above, including Fnords option.



JoeDaBro
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05 Jan 2014, 12:54 pm

All I want out of Autism and media is just a sitcom like something by Seth McFarlane with a recurring autistic character who's usually the smart and "Well, have fun dying with that murderer in there after you ignore me" kind of guy who usually gets some kind of ridiculous technology or some kind of "the brains" role in the big operation in the movie. That's a text boxfull.



KingdomOfRats
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08 Jan 2014, 9:35 am

some of us are on the low functioning spectrum and many aspies are struggling to function in different ways,it is unfair not to show all corners of the spectrum now days fictional tv portray more of the highest functioning and the savant autistics.
the media will always use stereotypes to advertise whatever group their focus is on though its impossible to not show any different when theyre limited in time,the story theyre doing or format.



Jaden
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09 Jan 2014, 6:03 pm

The media should portray us in what ever light is most true, right now that's "misunderstood" and seemingly "shunned by ignorance in society". The media should convey who we actually are instead of the hearsay that is going on right now.

But since the media isn't in the business of truth, rather in the business of ratings and money, I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever be factually represented by the media.


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Stannis
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31 Jan 2014, 1:19 pm

Groups who lack wealth and power are vulnerable to scapegoating. Positive media treatment will help reduce the likelihood of forced "treatments," denial of liberty, and pogrom's. I do not have an opinion on the style of representation, as long as it encourages understanding and acceptance.



CockneyRebel
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31 Jan 2014, 11:15 pm

How about they show footage of us in the workforce to show the public that we're very capable people. Show the public that we are able to be independent and well respected members of society, instead of objects of that ugly pity.


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AScomposer13413
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01 Feb 2014, 11:17 am

Fnord wrote:
[X] Other.

Show us as individual people who have Autism, who struggle with the difficulties, and who can exceed all expectations under the right conditions.

Dr. Temple Grandin had an excellent interview on NPR today, which I will provide a link to in another thread. Toward the end of the interview, she says something like, "Don't tell me about your Autism, tell me about what interests you!"

I think that we are more than just our Autism, and that our interests may be the keys to our individual success stories.


^ This. Definitely this.


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