AIGHT so I never thought I would be making a huge-ass post about this but it’s been making me so mad lately that I had to.
So recently I was at the bookstore. I was just browsing when I saw an interesting-looking book and turned it over to read the summary. As it was describing the main characters, something caught my eye:
“[Character X] is trapped caring for her autistic older brother.”
Now, that wasn’t the exact line, but one word in particular got my attention. Trapped. Clearly, the purpose of this word was to emphasize how difficult and stressful it is for poor Character X to watch over her autistic sibling.
After doing some research on the author (whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment), I found out that they were, surprise surprise, not autistic. That got me thinking about other allistic portrayals of autistic characters in the media. How do non autistic authors treat us?
Whenever an autistic character is shown (MOST OF THE TIME obvs), they always fall under one or more of the following stereotypes:
- Helpless and totally dependent on non-autistic characters (usually their family) to do everything for them.
- Childish, with “ridiculous” interests that are portrayed as annoying and weird.
- A side character; never a main character whose thoughts and feelings are relevant to the story.
- Portrayed as “quirky” and “lol so random!!” and have absolutely no social skills whatsoever.
This brings me back to the “trapped” line: whenever an autistic character is shown, their actions serve no other purpose than to A.) act as a burden to other characters, or B.) act as a comic relief with the source of their humor being their disorder. You’re not supposed to care about them or feel sympathy for them or be interested in them; You’re supposed to feel sorry for other characters for having to put up with them.
This is why I encourage allistic writers (or any kind of writer who wants to provide representation to a minority) to DO THEIR RESEARCH. Don’t just look online. Don’t just rely on the ONE autistic person you know. Look for MORE. Find others. Join communities. Listen to what they have to say.
That is, in my opinion, the key to being a great writer.
Plus, write with sympathy for the minority character and assume that some of your audience will share that feature with your character.
I mean, I’ve even heard of people identifying with the ‘comically nonverbal character’ types, like Groot and Curious George.