Musings of a Marfan Mom

To the Writers of Glee

| 20 Comments

Dear Writers of Glee,

I love your show, I really do. My husband Mark even likes it, and we rarely agree on TV. Mark actually did showchoir in Northern Ohio and enjoys guessing which schools all the different teams are based on. Our toddler watches Glee too, from time to time. He memorized the logo and, excuse the pun, shouts it out rather gleefully whenever he sees it.

My husband has aspergers syndrome, and our son has high-functioning autism.

Last night, your episode featured a character who said she had aspergers. Maybe you thought that because you made her say she was “self-diagnosed” that that would make your portrayal of aspergers ok, even funny. You were wrong.

It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t accurate. It was actually kind of offensive. Creating characters with autism that are incredibly one dimensionally obnoxious only serves to perpetuate stereotypes. Making her “self-diagnosed” just adds to the grief that many on the spectrum get, particularly adults: that autism is made up, over-diagnosed, and just used as an excuse for bad behavior.

The people I know with aspergers don’t act like your character. Many of them are actually quite sweet. They may struggle with social interaction, but I can’t imagine any of my friends or loved ones acting in the manner you had Sugar behave.

If you plan to make Sugar a recurring character, please add a little more depth to her. You could take a cue from Parenthood. People with autism shouldn’t be the butt of jokes.

Sincerely,
Maya, the Marfan Mom

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20 Comments

  1. I.Love.You! You put so eloquently into words what I felt last night as I’m watching the show. I have a moderately functioning 4 yr old with Autism and the joke cut to my core. I was even chastized for being too close to the situation when I railed against it on FB during the broadcast. I love how the show celebrates diversity and acceptance, unless you’re developmentally delayed. I love that Becky is one the show, but why does she have to be the minion of the evil character? She is portrayed as unwittingly doing the bidding of a woman who is supposed to love people with Down’s Syndrome?? Thank you for writing this piece!

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    marfmom Reply:

    Too close to the situation is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. That’s just saying “I realize this joke is kind of about your child in a way, but we should be allowed to laugh at the expense of people like her, so please don’t tell us it’s wrong.” When you’re making jokes about a group of people, it is that group of people who gets to determine whether the joke is inappropriate, not a bunch of people who have no connection to them. Sigh.

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  2. This is SUCH an issue, and it’s gotten to the point where I cringe when I see a child character who is distant or cold, like watching finale of Warehouse 13 last night. (He didn’t have autism, thankfully, but was dealing with trauma.) I steel myself for the soon-to-be-inevitable diagnosis. My daughter who has enough of a disability to struggle on a daily basis is one of the most affectionate children I know, some people she doesn’t even need to warm up to before a hug.

    She’s a very complex person, and I love that about her. I’m a writer and if you’re writing a person with Aspberger’s or autism as one-dimensional, you either know nothing about the subject (and should do research) OR you’re not a very good writer.

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  3. I also found the show very offensive.

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  4. Couldn’t agree more. I hope they get this passed along straight to their inboxes. Still love the show, but….

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    marfmom Reply:

    I wish I knew how to send it directly. I tweeted something last night but I doubt @FoxBroadcasting reads their tweets…

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  5. Well put. I found it offensive too & I’m not entirely sure I’ll be tuning in next week.

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  6. I don’t watch Glee, but I totally agree with you. We don’t need more stigma & misunderstanding, nor to be the butt of jokes.

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  7. I agree with your assessment. I was immediately upset when this new character was introduced.

    The only way they could remotely redeem themselves would be to have the character’s mom or dad show up at some point (preferably when the character is declaring she has Asperger’s), and remark to everyone that she *doesn’t* have Asperger’s, she’s just rude.

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    marfmom Reply:

    That’d work for me! I’d prefer to just never see her again, but given that her father is the one who donated the pianos, I expect she’ll be joining the Glee club shortly.

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  8. She’s probably typical of many people who self-diagnose themselves with Asperger’s in order to make excuses for their inadequacies and shortcomings.

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    Violet Black Reply:

    @Lee, I hope this doesn’t sound rude, but that remark is pretty much an example of the issue that has many concerned. I and much of WrongPlanet cannot corroborate the assumption that anyone would self-diagnose Asperger’s as an excuse for anything at all, but for some reason that statement gets repeated a lot, and surely media representations like Glee’s are contributing somewhat. Have you _personally_ seen real people do what Sugar is doing?

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    marfmom Reply:

    I concur. I have yet to meet someone who self-diagnosed themselves with Asperger’s as an excuse for anything. And while I understand people’s skepticism when they hear an adult has diagnosed themselves with Asperger’s, it’s very difficult for adults to get formally diagnosed. For starters, there is the stigma that they’re just doing it to “excuse bad behavior,” and two, it’s hard to find psychologists with experience in autism spectrum disorders who are willing to see an adult.

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  9. Thank you for posting. We found it offensive too since my son is an adolescent with aspergers and we are always trying to educate people (teachers) that he is not choosing to act a certain way. I blogged about it too http://aspieside.com/2011/09/22/why-glees-portrayal-of-aspergers-is-so-offensive/ I hope they fix it because I love the show too!

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  10. I was thinking the same exact thing when I saw it.

    Tweeted out for you… thanks for linking me on my page.

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  11. Pingback: » Asperger’s Disorder and Glee Dr Stephanie

  12. I am way behind on watching Glee so I just watched this episode a few nights ago. I was extremely disappointed by the Sugar character. I agree that making her “self diagnosed” is more likely to add to the sentiment that autism is not real. I currently am struggling with explaining my son’s Sensory Processing Disorder to people and getting the sense that most people think he’s just a poorly behaved kid with an “excuse”. I do hope that Glee does something to improve this character or just make her disappear.

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    marfmom Reply:

    I haven’t watched much fo Glee this season…just a few episodes after that one. One of these days I’ll catch up.

    Baby J has some sensory processing issues already, but not enough for an SPD dx. I’d love to study whether there might be a link between that and MFS some day. I at least know that delays in motor development can lead to all sorts of sensory processing issues.

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  13. I’m a member of two Asperger’s groups and the vast majority of the members of these groups are self-diagnosed. They usually are diagnosed with a mental health problem and probably think it’s better to tell people it’s Asperger’s.

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    marfmom Reply:

    Even still, another mental health problem would not constitute an “inadequacy and shortcoming.” The idea that mental health illnesses are either of those things are quite likely why people feel better calling them something else.

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