Autism in Pop Culture
Written on 16th May 2017 by Alex Lowery
This is a blog article about autism in Pop Culture. I’m going to be talking about how quite a few characters display signs of autism that appear in Pop Culture today.
In television shows, films and books, there seem to have been many characters who display signs of autism. In most of these cases, it was never the creator’s intention to make the character autistic, but when you look at these characters, you can see many of the signs of autism in their behaviour.
Mr Bean - One character that always makes me think of autism is Mr Bean. His traits seem very autistic, to the point where if he was a real person, I think he would qualify for a diagnoses of ASC. His behaviours almost seem to be autistic traits, that have been greatly exaggerated to make a funny character. For one thing, he seems very intelligent, but still lacks a lot of common sense. He often doesn’t seem to think of doing the obvious thing to do in a situation, but actually comes up with a genius (but awkward) alternative that no-one else would have thought of. He also seems awkward Socially to me. He never seems to pick up Social cues, never seems to know what is a Socially appropriate way to behave and also frequently seems to take people literally. He doesn’t seem to empathise very well. I’ve noticed, he even looks like he’s Stimming sometimes. I’ve seen some of the movements he makes that do look very like Stimming. I do think that if Mr Bean was real he’d undoubtedly be told he was on the spectrum, but I’m still sure that wasn’t the intention of the character. The intention of Mr Bean was obviously just to make you laugh, but I still wonder if the creator of him did get some ideas for his character from people who are on the spectrum.
Sherlock - There are also other characters in Media who seem to display characteristics of autism. One of the most recognised characters is Sherlock Homes from the BBC Sherlock series, based on the book series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His character is very intelligent, good at logical thinking and can solve problems very well. However, he doesn’t seem so good Socially. He often doesn’t seem to pick up on Social cues very much. He can also be quite rude and socially inappropriate, but also seems unaware that he is. I’m aware that he sees himself as a Sociopath. But personally, I don’t really believe he is a sociopath. There are clearly people he strongly cares about. But there is an article online, which explains why Sherlock should not be viewed as autistic, which you can view here. And the article does bring up some good points, but it’s still interesting to look at traits of autism found in fictional characters. I’m also aware that the character was written before autism was even a diagnosis, but other versions of the character don’t seem quite so autistic like. It’s mostly the BBC version specifically. There’s even an episode in the show were they reference that Sherlock possibly has Aspergers.
Spock - Another character that seems to display autistic tendencies is Spock from Star Treck. I’m not really a Star Treck fan, and haven’t seen a lot of it (I’m more into Star Wars) so I can’t go into much detail here. However, many people seem to describe Spock to be very much like a person with a Classic case of Aspergers Syndrome. However, this is down to his species. It seems like his race of alien does tend to display a lot of stereotypical Aspergian traits. They tend to view things on a very logical level and not so much on an emotional one.
L - Another character many anime fans speculate as being on the autistic spectrum is ‘L’ from the animated Death Note series. L is a detective like Sherlock Holmes who has a lot of autistic traits. He’s childish and socially awkward. He always sits with his knees up. Some autistic people have set ways in which they like to sit. He feels uncomfortable to sit in the way most people do. I think you sometimes even see him rocking slightly. He’s also very good at paying close attention to the details. In the dubbed version of the anime, he also has a rather stereotypical autistic voice.
There are many other fictional characters who people believe are autistic including Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory (who I decided was such an obvious and predictable choice that it was barely worth bringing him into the list), Gregory House from House MD (who I personally don’t believe is autistic since he seems fully aware socially, but just doesn’t care if he’s appropriate or not), Temperance “Bones” Brennan from Bones (who I can’t comment on since I’ve not watched it) the Doctor from Doctor Who and even Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars has had fans speculating that he could be on the autistic spectrum.
Now, the characters stated above (as far as we know) aren’t officially meant to be autistic, but they display signs that make you wonder, but it doesn’t really make a lot of difference. Some may even argue that if you start saying they have a condition, it ruins the fun of the characters. For example: if you all of a sudden decided Mr Bean was autistic (which he isn’t officially) you may stop laughing at him and start taking him more seriously, which in effect is ruining the main purpose of the character, which was to make you laugh. But in the end, I think that theorising is still a lot of fun. But one thign I’m thankful about is that more films and TV shows seem to be featuring characters that are confirmed to be autistic. I hear that the new Power Rangers film has an autistic character and so does the new ‘Thomas the tank engine film’ which is soon to be released (the old series was a childhood favorite of mine).
Below is a clip from the BBC Sherlock. John Watson asks Sherlock to be his Best Man for his Wedding day. However, he doesn’t use very clear language. The way Sherlock responds is quite the typical autitsic response. The clip’s very short, & it’s cut mid sentence, so I apologise for that, but I couldn’t find anything longer, but I still wanted to use this scene, because it’s a good example.
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