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Archetypes of Autism in storytelling, an introduction.

Let's get theoretical, this post, like probably most of the post will be, shale concentrate on film because of the simple reason that I'm a film nerd.

After watching several films (long/short/fiction/docu) that deal with autism, sickness and disabilities I started to notice some patterns. I will address this patterns more deeply in other post but I would like to list a few elements that are very common.

That something is common doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing, done well the biggest cliché can be profound, but it's easier to do them bad than good.

First of all and this is also what saddens/angers me the most. Most stories dealing with any disabilities and or neurological and psychological conditions are not about the person with the disability or condition but about one of their loved ones. It's not about being autistic but about raising an autistic child or having a brother with Down syndrome. Don't get me wrong, these are important stories to tell but the balance is totally lost.

Secondly, a lot of stories portray disabilities and conditions pretty inaccurate. Focusing to much on the positive or the negative side. Something like autism is a very complicated and multi faceted thing. To sugarcoat or make it scary I think is counter productive and rather insulting.

And then there are three major story archetypes.

  • The Disease of the Week. A story about the latest fad in medical fashion, usually made by people with very little understanding of the subject mater. Roughly 50/50 percent inspirational or scare story almost 100 percent sentimental crap.

  • We Shall Overcome. Almost exclusively about parents whose child is born with autism, down syndrome or a disability and how the parents overcome the obstacles they face. Most true life accounts on television fall into this category(think Oprah). As said before these are important stories but please include the kid and be careful with the amount of sentiment.
The third is probably the most popular and also (in my opinion) the one which represents the biggest problems.
  • The Holy Fool. This is a category almost exclusive to people with neurological and psychological conditions. In their naivety they say things that are so profound that normal people learn so much and are capable of bettering their live. Once again it's not about the person with the disability or condition but about the people around them. Reducing a person to a condition or disability so he can give wisdoms witch fit in a fortune cookie is doing nobody a favor. At first glance it might seem like a positive thing but I find it dehumanizes people in a profound way. And just a little bit of advice. If you have serious problems, talk to a psychotherapist, marriage counselor or any other professional, not to a bloke with a box of chocolates.
Storytelling has become the most dominant art form of humanity, it helps us deal with life, so therefore I think it's very important to represent it as accurate as possible. I know several people who when they hear the word Autism think of Rainman and are surprised that that is not necessarily the case.


What made me think of autism

About two years ago I started to consider that I might be autistic. Before that I had been diagnosed with SAD (social anxiety sindrome) and while that explained some things it also left a lot of questions.
Then by accident I saw this video.

well, it's true.

I recognised a lot that was said in the video. Almost as if it was meant to be there were quit a few TV programs about autism going around at the time (several on MTV). It took me about two years to find the courage to admit to myself that it might be autism and to talk to my doctor about it.

I will be thankful to Emily for ever. I fully believe that seeing this video and the 2 follow ups changed my life.

part two of my personal video series aout autism!

This video responds to the many messages and questions i have gotten regarding my first two aspergers videos.


Something fun

Just something that I really like. At first it might seems that the film Stingray Sam has nothing to do with autism but for me it does.

Last april while I was being testes for autism I took a week of to volunteer at the Imagine Film Festival (formerly known as the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival), I saw this film and met it's director and star Cory McAbee.

This film helped me in a time of confusion to feel okay about being outside the norm. It's film making outside the box at it's most accessible and funniest.

If you choose to download you get the trailer and a song from the film (both I-Pod ready)