As you may recall, at the start of the year Rich and I analyzed the trailer for HBO’s Silicon Valley. During one short clip, there’s a joke made at the expense of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. In going back over research, I found an article by Mashable analyzing the moment and the greater pattern of stereotyping Asperger’s.

Here are a few choice moments:

“More and more, the term [Asperger’s] is becoming a go-to tick, a signal that a character will fall into certain characteristics: intelligent, quirky, awkward.”

“However, those with the syndrome vary greatly. They aren’t all geniuses with social skills problems on the side. Far from it.

“Definitively labeling a character with Asperger’s requires a new layer of sensitivity.”

“Show writers who purposely don’t give their characters disorders get away with most anything.”

Food for thought.


2 responses »

  1. alexamuniz says:

    Yea ableism is a thing in media and its nice to see more people being critical of that recently. Thanks for providing this insight.

  2. tylercohentyco says:

    I think it is entirely realistic to assume that everybody has varying levels of social perception, similar to how everyone has different vision or hearing ability. Some people ARE awkward and miss many social cues, but I don’t see that as a medical condition necessarily. On the wikipedia page for Aspergers, it says, “Although research suggests the likelihood of a genetic basis,[1] there is no known genetic cause[10][11] and brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common pathology.[1] There is no single treatment, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only limited data.” I have met some people who have been confidently diagnosed with Aspergers, and there is something distinct about how they navigate the social world, so I am not trying to disbelieve in Aspergers, but I guess my main question is “so what?” If we are calling it a disorder, how do we prevent isolating those who have it even more from society? I think the best treatment for Aspergers is something that communities have to work on in terms of accepting people as who they are, and when any social miscues harm anybody else’s safety and well-being, the people who have those miscues, regardless of what people consider the root cause of it to be, need to be educated about what specific actions of theirs make people feel unsafe. Having a social disorder is not a get-out-of jail free card for hurting others’ feelings, but society needs to stop belittling those who are considered to have social disorders. I’m glad characters in popular tv shows have a range of social adeptness, (even though shows like big bang theory are disturbingly hyper- white-male-centric) and I hope that the diverse representation of characters in media begins to make most people accepting of others, no matter how awkward they are.

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