Girl Meets World – Asperger’s Episode
I watch Girl Meets World. I’m not the only adult who does. It has a huge fan following of adults nostalgic for the old Boy Meets World. But, I have to admit that I watch kid-TV all the time, mostly Disney (#^^#)
Anyway, last night, an episode dealing with Aspergers aired. I was hoping they wouldn’t make a complete mess of things. I had a little bit of hope and some anxiety. All in all, it wasn’t bad. It addressed a few problematic pop-culture representations, but it also re-enforced others.
The character Farkle (Stuart Minkus’ son from BMW) is suspected to have an ASD. He is a genius character with some social idiosyncrasies. He fits the hollywood Aspie stereotype of genius, a little weird, but popular enough non the less. By the end of the episode, we learn that he doesn’t have an ASD after all. I like the message that being a little “weird” doesn’t necessarily indicate autism, nor does being a genius.
I am also really pleased that a female character (Isadora Smackle, who has a crush on Farkle) was revealed to have Aspergers. Females Aspies are terribly underrepresented on television and in general, so that’s progress right there.
But here is where a noted a problem. Smackle’s character has overly exaggerated Aspie traits. I know there are some Aspies that may act like her, but for the most part, I think her character was dramatized as is often necessary for character representations. We have seen Smackle before, but she has not been a regular. In order to cover something like Aspergers, and make a point in such a short time, her traits had to be exaggerated. She was so “obviously” autistic, that even Maya and Riley, who had not even heard of Aspergers before, recognized her as having it after reading a list of symptoms.
This isn’t the worse thing Disney could have done, but it increases an issue I run into as a female Aspie, that being the comment “But you don’t seem autistic to me!” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is not all that unusual for a female Aspie to blend in better than a male. This isn’t always the case, and there are certainly Smackle’s in real life – but it’s an assumed stereotype that makes communicating my own situation more difficult.
In the interest of countering pop-culture, let me share with you my favorite Aspie-related youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fTBM_3sdwE
Smackle ends up becoming a semi-regular character on the show and her autistic traits become a lot more nuanced. I was really happy to with her character development. It’s a shame the show was cancelled after only three seasons.