Tropes Vs Autism: The Superpower

This is one of the more recent twists in the treatment of Autistic people in the media. Someone, somewhere, latched on to the concept that Autistic people are super-good at some things and someone else’s speculation that Autism may be a step up on the so-called evolutionary ladder.

There is so very much wrong with both of those ideas that I could go onto an entirely different rant. So I shall attempt to keep it brief.

Being super-good at something is a natural consequence of what I like to think of as Autistic Obsession. Once an Autistic person gets on to something that becomes their universe, it’s all they think about and do about when left to their own devices.

The “step up the ladder” myth revolves around the mistaken belief that evolution is a ladder and mutation is the rungs. What evolution actually is, is a series of random experiments and the ones that pass their genes on are technically successful. If anything is a “step forward/up” it’s the ability to attract a mate and breed.

With that out of the way, I was initially pleased to see this trope zinging around the entertainment traps. First as an ability to tune into EM frequencies and monitor assorted transmission, then as an ability to crack the math of the universe.

Then I noticed that they were still wrapping this up in the tired old ‘Burden’ trope I’ve previously covered. How inconvenient this Autistic Superperson is to relate to/work with/have normal interactions around. It was at that moment that I realised that this particular trope was merely a band-aid on an older, more worn out narrative.

It feels like a palliative effort to stop parents of Autistic children from committing infanticide based on a few click-baity articles that some writers might have skimmed over at some point in the past.

Now, I’m all in favour of Autism being a superpower, but… it needs to be done properly.

How about, instead of a sugar-coating on the Burden trope, have a caregiver who’s in the rhythm of the Autistic Super’s needs and triggers, and comes prepared. [Which is, incidentally, what I’m aiming for in Murder Dollhouse] Sure, you can have newcomers having a learning curve, but the narrative should never treat this as a huge hassle or an enormous problem.

Heck, the last time I saw an Autistic Super in the media, it was the latest installment of the Predator series. We got to see the trails an Autistic person goes through, a distinct lack of punishment for the perpetrators of generic nypical assholery, and a completely unsubstantiated claim that Autism is some kind of Warrior Advantage.

You need a hook to hang that assumption off of, my dears. Actual proof, rather than a line or three and a bait and switch in the third act.

It’s a tightrope over a huge risk, I get that. Walking that fine line is something that writers should get input on. Preferably from people who actually have Autism. Or, you know, hire a few writers who know it because they have it. It’s not hard.

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