A little while ago, I posted an extended commentary concerning Leah Jane‘s response to a “geek culture” display of hypocrisy. The original image is available everywhere, so I am not going to bother linking it. Whilst there are issues with Leah Jane‘s response, the basic fact of the matter is that the people going around like morons telling us all that they are “geeks” when they have never bitten the head off a chicken and swallowed it (look up “geek show” on the Wikipedia) are hypocrites to the Nth degree.
So once again, I had to laugh and clap my hands in delight when Leah Jane posted another entry with the above image in it, complete with her own, far less wordy in this instance, commentary. But rather than comment directly on the image itself, I would rather tell my audience a few things that they might not have cared to think about concerning these images.
My response in comments to Leah Jane‘s post is where I will start. A lot of the time, so-called “geek” culture seems to want to erase, supplant, and even suppress actual autistic culture. They present themselves as if the two groups are one and the same.
They are not. Whereas so-called “geek” culture is nebulous in its rules and standards, autistic culture is, in reality, as nebulous and changing in its actual content as are the people represented by it. It is driven only by how accurately a piece of the media coincides with autistic identity. None of the idiot normies in Serenity (or any Joss Whedon piece of poo for that matter) represent the autistic, save maybe Simon and River Tam. Why is this, you ask? Well, other than not being idiot normies like Zoë et al, it is like this: they represent different aspects of how an autistic adult would react when confronted with the situation their characters are found in. River Tam (Summer Glau) is an eerily accurate representation of an autistic child who has suddenly put her foot out the door and discovered that adulthood, the removal of many of the restrictions on her power to fight back, and a dramatic change in the parameters of her existence, are waiting. Simon, for his part, is very representative of the autistic adult who has narrowly escaped the abuse and mistreatment, but sees what is being done to those of his kind and wishes to get up and scream “this is wrong”.
The situation that autistic adults currently find themselves in with respect to “geek culture” is not unlike the one that doom metal found itself in during the 1980s with poseur glam bands and such. The mainstreamist media monopoly dresses a poor representation up, thrusts it out at the audience, and says to the real thing, “here, this is you now, forever and ever, amen”. Only it did not work for very long. Even before the 1980s ended, glam poseurs ended up forgotten about, and among those who cared to listen, real doom metal ended up coming back with a vengeance. This is what we refer to as the backlash effect.
So in the spirit of sticking my fist up the arse of poseurs, or “geek culture”s as they are now apparently calling themselves, I would like to do something that is not occurring much in the community and offer a first rough concept of imagery that constitutes a representation of autistic culture. I will go on a cell-by-cell basis, explaining a few things about each “model” in the cell and what makes them representative of people on the autistic spectrum.
(Oh, and on another note, this little document is only to be regarded as a prototype, an essay in the craft. Others on the spectrum, even if you only limit it to those I have direct contact with, will have their own ideas concerning what should be on such a list. Maybe sometime after I have put this up for view, we shall all agree on a final model.)
I. Mystique (the X-Men films that count)
During one of many conversations that I had with the autism specialist by the name of Anthony Attwood, we got to discussion of a video I cut together using pieces of existing films. The theme of my video was things that autistic adults would like to say to curebies like Autism Speaks. And actually be heard, as opposed to the “la la la not listening!” act they pull. Mystique is featured in this video, and if you needed me to tell you that I used the moment in X-Men in which she tells a normalistic senator that people like him are the reason she was afraid to go to school as a child, you clearly are not listening yourself.
I would also like to offer this as a real up yours to “geek culture”. Mystique runs around in virtually every X-Men film naked, with only collections of scales (likely a natural growth for protection) in sensitive areas of her body providing any semblance of modesty. This is not because she is a “slut to be shamed”, as “geek culture” would probably think. Rather, it is because when your survival depends on your ability to assume any shape that will make people with murderous intent overlook you, not having clothes on that might spoil the illusion can be a big advantage. In the same sense that having a machine gun can be advantageous when confronted by a mob of stone-throwers.
Pretty much any of the women in X-Men, from Rogue to Kitty Pryde, can in some way be considered representative of autistic culture. But Mystique’s manner of representation goes to the very heart of what we are about. In the best, and until recently unchallenged for that status, of the X-Men films, X2, Mystique is approached by Nightcrawler, a mutant who has similar appearance characteristics to her. When she confirms that she can imitate anyone she pleases, even their voice, he asks her why she does not stay in disguise all the time, and look like everyone else. Her answer is exactly what the assholes of “geek culture” never think of, and the very heart of what autism civil rights is about:
“Because we shouldn’t have to…”
II. Quorra (TRON: Legacy)
Yeah, like you did not know this was coming. (You have read my journal before, right?) In order to understand why Quorra (Olivia Wilde) represents autistic culture far better than the Big Stereotype Theory crowd ever will, it is important to understand Quorra herself. Pretty much all of her life, she has been the subject of hatred and contempt from an entity that looks remarkably like the man who has rescued her from death and provided sanctuary for her up until the events of the film that she is basically the central element of. Every day, as she has endured a life of being hunted simply because of what she is, she looks in the mirror and dreams of a world where things differ enough to be new and exciting again.
If this sounds familiar to anyone who is on the spectrum, then I am glad we are on the same page. Because it is the same thing I see every time I look at both myself and the world that is around me.
Quorra’s characterisation in TRON: Legacy also offers a very good insight into the impression our world might give alien visitors or creatures who really do come from the outside, as opposed to people the mainstreamists just like to exclude for amusement. Aside from the shot that ends the film, one exchange between Quorra and Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) makes very clear why her visage is all over my journal. “Do you know Jules Verne?” Quorra asks Sam after stating that of the literature she has been exposed to, his work is her favourite. When Sam responds in a positive but completely dismissive, indifferent manner, she asks, quite earnestly, “What’s he like?”. Even normie retards who have no idea why I nearly ruptured a kidney laughing at this one still laughed part of the time that I did.
Needless to say, normies could learn from that a lot about how sometimes putting a bit of thought into your response to questions can save you a bit of grief. (Oh yeah, and the smug self-assigned superiority of “geek culture”‘s heroes is also conspicuously absent from Quorra or TRON: Legacy in general, too.)
III. Moka, Mizore, Kurumu, Ruby, Yukari, Kokoa… take your pick… (Rosario to Vampire)
The plot of Rosario to Vampire, a Japanese manga that was adapted (somewhat limply) into a Japanese television show a few years ago, takes some explaining. Yes, it is what they (often derisively) refer to as a “harem” manga. That is, a male protagonist somehow ends up with a large number of women around him who are keen to bump uglies. But as with all stories, it is the finer details that make the story what it is.
The male protagonist starts the piece as a nobody by the name of Tsukune. Japan’s intellectual caste system basically has him pegged as the menial labourer sort, as he has scored so low on all of the standardised tests that none of the schools at the level he has now reached will take him. Except his father, through an act of idiocy, manages to get him enrolled in a boarding school that is so far away that the bus that transports him to it even goes through a portal to get there. The first person he meets on his first day there is none other than Moka Akashiya (voiced by Nana Mizkui).
After learning that the “academy” he is enrolled in is, in fact, a school for youkai (that is, mythical monsters), Tsukune decides to drop out and make his way back to the “normal” world. (My words, not the manga’s.) But a group of youkai who have taken offense to how Moka prefers Tsukune’s company to theirs come after him, and after Moka learns that Tsukune really was not making it up that he is one of the Humans that she would rather not be around (it is a long story), he accidentally removes the rosario that hangs from her neck.
You see, Moka’s powers are mostly “sealed” by the rosario for reasons that are only lately being explored in the manga. But the relevant point here is that when the rosario is removed, the fullest, most powerful form of Moka Akashiya comes out to say hello. And when I say say hello, I mean rip the head off anything that happens to be threatening her, Tsukune, or her friends. Thus begins a long and beautiful friendship, even as more young youkai women decide that they want Tsukune for themselves, too.
Oh yeah, “geek culture”? Moka Akashiya is what an autistic adult of the Powell type thinks of as a truly powerful woman. Nana Mizuki‘s voicing of the Inner Moka alone makes it pretty clear that Inner Moka regards the positive role models that you hold up for your imagined daughter in a similar light to a toothpick.
(For the record, those who are familiar with manga and anime, I would prefer to be in the company of Mizore. But the unleashed version of Moka and I have much in common.)
IV. Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Harper Lee‘s novel, and the film based thereon, To Kill A Mockingbird, is phrased largely as the reminisces of a woman about how she learned what courage is through the example set by her father when she was a child. You see, “geek culture”, you do not need to be female to set a positive role model for the next generation of women (even if it does help). In Chapter 11, Atticus explains that courage is when you know you are defeated (“licked”, in his words) before you begin, but begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
Justice, the rights of minorities, and the wellbeing of people deprived of a voice in your society, is like life itself. No matter how insurmountable the odds, no matter how uncertain the outcome is, the fight itself is the whole point.
In a press event, the youngest of Gregory Peck‘s children, Cecilia, introduced her brothers to the audience and said something that has rung true for me ever since I heard it from the fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray edition of To Kill A Mockingbird. As much as many children wished they could have Gregory Peck for a father, she says, he was theirs. Given my male parental unit’s constant limpwristedness when my rights as a Human being are in question, I can only agree. A mean old drunk with a tenth of the testicular fortitude Gregory Peck based a career on displaying would have been a preferable father.
A central point of To Kill A Mockingbird is that when Atticus is appointed to defend an accused rapist who happens to be black, his children also end up subjected to threatening behaviour. And in the climax of the film, when the drunken father of the accusing party sets upon Atticus’ children with evil intent, the neighbourhood figure they have treated like a boogeyman, Arthur “Boo” Radley (a young Robert Duvall), comes to their aid, with fatal consequences for that drunken father. Atticus, as you would expect of a man so dedicated to being the better man, thanks Radley for his intervention as if he were the governor of the state, not just some recluse living in a basement and the subject of nasty speculation.
I have two nieces who, as of this writing, are walking around under their own power and keeping simple conversation with their parents. If I had to choose only one role model for them to replace their maternal grandfather with, Atticus Finch would be my first, last, and every choice. So if “geek culture” has a problem with me choosing him as the kind of role model I would rather have for them than any of their nominees, well, fukk them. In both ears.
V. Cadaveria (a real person with numerous musical projects to her credit, most of which can loosely be termed black/doom metal)
Cadaveria is an enigma of a person, even in her interviews. But if one takes her voice and the music behind it as an indication of the content of her mind, then once again, as potential role models for my sister’s twin daughters go, she craps out the window on “geek culture”‘s preferences from a height that compares favourably with a Parramatta office block, circa 2012.
The things that Cadaveria sings about require some thinking about. That is point one. Look, I do not know what musicians the “geek culture” approves of, and quite frankly, I am not sure I want to know. Although I am sure they will protest that it is not what I will refer to as the Spice Slags, with the like of Cadaveria as a basis for comparison, it might as well be. But what I can tell from observing their output is that they really, really do not seem to like it if you either choose to, or involuntarily (ie every autistic individual) think in a manner not in keeping with their “culture”. Wrong does not even begin to describe that.
One annoying aspect of the manner in which “geek culture” and their collaborators attempt to overwrite our culture with what they refer to as culture is that people who belong to neither take this as a sign that stereotyping us such as in Big Stereotype Theory is perfectly okay. As someone who has been “boyfriend” to at least two borderline autistic Powell type women, and happens to be an autistic Powell type himself, I can tell you that it is not. And Cadaveria‘s harmonic but distressingly aggressive output, I am sure the two women I refer to here would agree, is far more representative of autistic women in general. So in this list the vocalist known as Cadaveria goes.
A point that is also worth considering is that Cadaveria has often been confronted with questions and “feedback” concerning the direction of the band that shares her stage name. In effect, this “feedback” is about how the music does not quite fit neatly within that little pigeonhole they call black metal. Whilst I would prefer that artists simply answer that by paraphrasing Jello Biafra and saying that this rigid, conservative definition of black/doom metal is not what got them into black/doom metal in the first place, Cadaveria‘s answer does go somewhat weakly in the same direction. Remember, girls (and boys): stereotyping is baaad. Mmmkay?
And since I am in a mood to be comprehensive with my proposal, fukk it, I will put in one more that I would far rather be associated with, or have either of my nieces “represented” by in twenty years.
VI. Anna Paquin (a real-world person who is in a number of films)
Anna Paquin has been in at least two films and one television series that, in all cases, represent people on the autistic spectrum far better by accident than has been the case with Blackface-style portrayals like Ronald Bass’ barf or stereotypical thrustings like Big Strawman Theory. X-Men, in which the plot of the film essentially revolves around her character, is the earliest clear example. X2 features her less centrally but also gives her a couple of great opportunities to draw awesome parallels. Both of which she nails like the awesome professional that she is. And then there is True Blood, a television series I honestly wish I could say that even her presence will keep me coming back to see.
Ms. Paquin consistently portrays characters that are whole and actual people after her representations of them, even when the script and direction are fighting very hard against that.
One of her better performances in terms of representing what a grown autistic woman likely feels in this increasingly normalised world comes in the short horror anthology, Trick ‘r Treat. During this film, Anna portrays a young woman by the name of Laurie. Throughout the segments she appears in, much is implied, both in dialogue with other characters in her group and through some hilariously-done shots, that she is rather inexperienced in a romantic sense. Then, as she is on her way to a gathering in the woods with her groupmates, she is set upon by a school master whom we learned earlier moonlights as a serial killer.
But after her would-be assailant’s broken body is tossed to the ground and her groupmates begin to change in increasingly less subtle ways, all of the references about Laurie’s “first time” begin to make sense in a much more horrifying way. You see, Laurie and the women she has been in the company of are actually werewolves, and as they continually change to better reflect this fact, Laurie begins to devour the man who set upon her in the erroneous belief that she was easy enough prey. Sort of like what would happen to people who set upon the past girlfriends I spoke of earlier, after a fashion (as far as I know, they are neither werewolves nor cannibals).
Whether one regards Paquin‘s performance in Trick ‘r Treat as an accidental representation of a twenty-something autistic woman (I do not), one thing we can all agree on is that she has played better accidental representations of autistic adults and better role models for young women than anything the “geek culture” will ever credit in their feeble selective collective memory.
Hence, these are my proposals for six images we can consider autistic culture’s role models, both for young women and anyone who plans on interacting with them anytime soon. If other autistic individuals have proposals along these lines for what constitutes autistic culture, then all ears are open at this stage. Because believe me, the more “geek culture” tries to tell us their culture is ours, the more pissed off about that I am going to get. With good reason.
Hi, Dean. I’m here because you commented on Leah’s blog, and I find your choices of representatives of “autistic culture” intriguing. I also really like, and relate to, the movie version of Mystique — enough that I don’t mind that she’s not the Mystique from the comic books, who has a long-term lesbian relationship with Destiny that is actually really tender and adorable, and an adoptive mother-daughter relationship with Rogue, that make her a much more interesting, layered and mature character than she would be if we only saw her in her capacity as criminal mastermind. But the movie Mystique is a different character entirely, without either the relationships or the frankly mercenary outlook of her comic-book progenitrix. There is room for both in my fandom, I think. I like the movie Mystique’s dignity, how she’s basically just standing there going “Here I am; I’m a person and I’m not going to change just to make you feel better,” and evolving into the separatist freedom fighter we see in “X-Men” and “X2”.
(Also, your titles for your different blog widgets — “Chuck shit at me”; “These assholes had something to say” etc. — are hilarious. I love them.)
Always good to see a new and “distinct” person raising their voice in response to something I have written. It makes the whole endeavour of writing the original text worthwhile.
One problem you always get with films or television series as they try to adapt written, illustrated, or comic book sources, is that they end up having a fairly sizeable cast of characters and only so much time to allocate to each one. That is why the good X-Men films all base themselves around one or two of the characters and only delve into others as becomes “needed” to further the story. X-Men: First Class does flesh out more of the characters to a better degree than X-Men or X2, but they all have to allocate screentime and development in a tiered fashion. That is why Wolverine gets the lion’s share of the time in X-Men and X2. He is probably the easiest to sell to the audience that the film was aiming for at the time (15-25 year old boys who have not read a lot of X-Men in the past, such as myself in that time).
My approach to film or television adaptations in terms of assessing their quality is a strange thing. When I assess them, I look not for how every little detail of each character has been “preserved”, but rather how the character of the whole story has been maintained. For instance, when The Lord Of The Rings In Name Only was wrapping up in theatres, I was fuming at how its director and writers seem to think the ending chapters in which Frodo comes home to a Shire that has had the guts torn out of it is “tacked on”. In reality, it was metaphorically the whole point of the novel. Veterans never come home and see said home exactly the same way again. Sometimes the people they come home to end up looking like monsters to them. The difference with X-Men, X2, and X-Men: First Class is that not only is the essential message of the canon very much respected, sometimes it is used so unsubtly it makes The Lord Of The Rings In Name Only look like a professional game of Chinese Whispers by comparison.
(Theming, I find, can really help a journal with a message like mine. 😉 )