Autistic representations in the media: The wider conversation
If Sia’s film did any good for the autistic community, it opened up a wider conversation about how autistic people are represented and portrayed in popular media. There are very few, if any, perfect representations. One could argue that this is an impossibility anyway, given the diverse nature of autistic presentations.
This has opened up the wider conversation of disability representation in general. One might think that in the “enlightened” 2020s, disabled actors have ample opportunity to portray their own disabilities on screen. Sadly, the vast majority of disabled roles are given to non-disabled folk.
My personal opinion on this, is that it comes from a place of ableism. The people in charge of casting assume that we won’t be able to handle the pressure of working in the media. To put it another way, they believe that non-disabled people are more capable of portraying us. Our capability is always in question.
This also highlights a greater issue. Media representations don’t care if their portrayal is authentic.
Autistic people especially have to sit through unrelatable characters, with what is usually rather offensive stereotyping. The people on charge of these projects don’t seem to do any more research other than the bare minimum. They don’t care if their portrayal is accurate, as long as it is entertaining.
We need to continue to put pressure on production companies to put disabled actors in disabled roles. We have the right to tell our own stories. Autistic people have cried out #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs for years. And it’s time that the world started listening.
Autistic people are not a stereotype. They are a beautifully diverse tapestry of human experience, and we as Autistics have a right to decide how that tapestry is shown to the world.
Nothing more, nothing less. We certainly won’t settle for less.