Friday, September 23, 2011

Glee and Aspergers

Sugar, the offending character

I don't want to sound like the oversensitive PC police, but I was offended by the portrayal of Aspergers on Glee.  If it were some of the other shows I watch, there wouldn't have been a problem - many of those aren't known for their sensitive handling of disability topics.  Glee, however, had no excuse for playing autism this way.

They've been applauded in the past for how they deal with disability issues, bullying, gay rights and other major controversies.  They have a recurring character on the show with Down Syndrome, played by an actress with the same disability.  They handled physical handicaps beautifully by having a character in a wheelchair and doing an episode where all the students in the Glee club had to use wheelchairs at school to understand how hard things were for their classmate.  They regularly show kids standing up to bullying and discrimination.  Why, oh why did Glee have to take this offensive, tactless route with AS?

For those of you who don't watch the show and don't know what I'm talking about, in this season premiere of Glee, they put in a female character who uses "I have Aspergers" as an excuse to do and say whatever she wants.  She was a horrible singer when she tried out to be in the glee club and constantly flung insults at the other characters while saying that the fact that she had (seemingly self diagnosed) Aspergers excused her.

Unfortunately, this is the way many people in the world see my disability, even though I don't act anywhere near how the girl on the show did.  They hear a single murmur of "I have AS", even in a valid situation where it's called for as an explanation and they just see the bad things from then on out, believing that I think it's an excuse to never better myself.  That isn't at all true to any who knows me.

Glee, if you're going to use a character on the autism spectrum, please give them the same equal, sensitive treatment that you have to every other disabled character.  High school kids with real AS already feel awkward and misunderstood enough, they don't need you trivializing their disorder.  Like my mom used to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

How did you feel about the show and the AS character?  Do you think they're going to bring her back?