Did Glee Make Aspergers Student a Joke?

Sugar MottaI suppose what set me off is the rude portrayal of the student with aspergers. There was a student who came into the Glee club tryouts with aspergers, thinking she was the greatest singer of all time but who in reality just couldn’t sing at all. This of course is not an unusual manifestation of aspergers as any of us parents could tell the Glee writers. There have been times over the years that both boys would think that they were doing something so amazingly that they could be the best in the world. An unrealistic perspective about one’s talents is part and parcel of this disability. They could think they are more capable then they are, or quite frankly, as with most cases, think they are less capable then they truly are simply because there are so many basic daily realities that they face that are so hard to accomplish and understand.

via Raising Asperger’s Kids: It Happened, Glee Pissed Me Off.

This is the first thing I’ve read that took Sugar’s self-diagnosis as actual fact, instead of believing it to be a ruse by a privileged brat who just used the excuse to behave as she liked. Of course the bit where she says “NOT ASPERGERS” is pretty telling, because people with ASD cannot just switch it off. There are other tells for me too.

Sugar Motta isn’t autistic. Sugar Motta is a spoiled, over-indulged child who has never been told “no.” She offers up her “self-diagnosed Asperger’s” as a manipulative way of behaving however she likes and getting whatever she wants. Sugar is obviously a privileged child — if Mama or Daddy Motta had ever thought that their little girl suffered from a developmental disorder, I’m sure they had the resources to have her evaluated; I’m confident that Sugar had an attentive pediatrician; I’m also going to bet that even Lima, OH, has a system in place to evaluate students who are educationally at risk. The fact that by high school Sugar remains “self-diagnosed” is a pretty clear indication that she is NOT on the spectrum. (Frankly, I keep waiting for them to mention that Finn has Asperger’s: he’s never been able to hold eye contact, speaks in a monotone, and is oblivious to the disastrous social errors he keeps making…)

via Don’t Turn it Off

Still, I don’t want to dismiss this out of hand. If people are seeing Sugar as really an Aspie, the depiction could be problematic. Also, I know as a person whose diagnosis is often depicted as excuse (I have never seen a genuine case of ADHD portrayed on television, only children wrongly diagnosed, being diagnosed to get the meds to stay up late studying, etc) that it is incredibly discouraging to only see fake cases portrayed.

What did you think of Sugar?


34 thoughts on “Did Glee Make Aspergers Student a Joke?

  1. I thought she absolutely did /not/ have aspergers and was only a spoiled brat. But that did not necessarily make it less problematic…

  2. *eyeroll*

    So, I am actually autistic. As is my brother. And it’s really, really bothering me that Glee is getting flack for showing a kind of person who appropriates a disability, a kind of person who bullies us, a kind of person who is currently making my brother’s life at school a living hell, in a negative light.

    It boggles my mind.

    Asperger’s isn’t the joke here.

    And, for context? Two featured characters on this show have developmental disabilities (Becky and Brittany) and the concert movie highlighted a fan with Asperger’s.

  3. To be honest, I’m insulted that some parents want Sugar to be taken as an example of an autistic person. That reads more like bullying to me than anything the writers could do–and the character has a LINE where she says she isn’t autistic. Insisting that she’s an accurate portrayal of autism is what’s actually offensive and ableist.

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

  5. The problem I have with that is the same as with all the depictions of people pretending to be ADHD — it makes the world at large look at people who legitmately have these special needs with suspicion as though everyone’s just faking it.

  6. Yes I know; I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s and come across a lot of these self-diagnosed people with Asperger’s – they make things a lot more difficult for us.

  7. Sugar might have Asperger’s, but if she does, it clearly doesn’t manifest in the way she seems to be suggesting. She is obviously aware of the fact that she’s saying rude things when she says them.

    You might claim that the joke here is on people who self-diagnose or lie about having disabilities, but the joke plays into already existing assumptions about Asperger’s – such that it isn’t a real disease, that people use it as an excuse for inappropriate behavior and that people with Asperger’s are generally rude.

    Also, it’s suggested that people with Asperger’s have it easier in social situations and get away with insults and social mistakes, which I don’t agree with. Also, having several characters fake disabilities in order to get special treatment (Sugar now, Tina’s stutter in early season one and Finn in Wheels) perpetuates the idea that people claiming to have disabilities in real life might just be lying. I don’t think anyone with an actual disability benefits from those portrayals and that attitude.

  8. “She is obviously aware of the fact that she’s saying rude things when she says them.”

    This. Because if I was able to warn people before I said rude things, I wouldn’t say them. Fact is, I say things all the time that I think are neutral and normal and end up causing offense. I actually have no idea where the line is. Sugar totally knows where it is.

    For the record, my only diagnosis is ADHD, from the mid nineties when they were surprised to find a woman could fit the criteria.

    And yeah, the incidence of fake-disability in Glee is actually higher than the incidence of actual disability in Glee, which I think is as problematic as the incidence of false rape allegations in police procedurals. You watch SVU, you’re going to think that half the time people claim rape, they’re lying.

  9. But what is beginning to REALLY bother me about the response to this is that people seem to feel that Asperger’s deserves to be handled differently by the show than any other marginalized group.

    Glee also “perpetuates the idea” that Jews are pushy and rapacious, that women like to be treated poorly, that asians control and manipulate their children, that gay guys are feminine and superficial and lesbians are bitchy and full of anger, etc. And these are also all groups that face bullying, are the victims of hate crimes.

    But if you take a moment to think about how Glee works: they introduce a “stereotype” and mock them, then gradually show the character and depth and charm and HUMANITY of the person behind it in order to create a parable of acceptance and understanding.

    At the very least, give Glee a chance to tell Sugar’s whole story — whether it’s about a privileged brat who appropriates disability in order to manipulate people and get her way or about a girl with Asperger’s who is ALSO a snotty brat (maybe because of how she’s generally treated, maybe it’s a defense mechanism, we don’t know anything yet). If you have enjoyed the show and haven’t been complaining about the way in which the stories about Kurt, Brittany, Artie, Mercedes, Jacob, etc., “play into already existing assumptions” about the groups they represent, you’re on very shaky ground.

  10. So why do you watch the show? Not to be confrontational, just wondering: if you find it insensitive in general and a detriment to society, why would you support it with your viewing time?

    I think, in Glee’s defense, people don’t watch it to mock and belittle these characters: we love these characters. We feel uncomfortable with the way they are sometimes portrayed because that is the discomfort that comes from recognizing something internalized and awful in ourselves or our culture. But ultimately, I think we feel like the show is offering up some things to be examined and then released back into the wild with a better understanding of what they are, how they work, and the various ways in which they are in fact beautiful.

  11. I agree. I don’t think Glee has handled the “faking disabilities in order to get special treatment”-storyline very well in the past and I also don’t think they’ve done a very good job at portraying characters with real disabilities either. So, yeah, I don’t feel particularly hopeful about Sugar.

  12. And really, if you’re trying to learn about real life from Glee (or SVU), there’s something wrong anyway.

    And by you, I don’t mean YOU, but anyone who is hoping Glee is real life or anything like it.

  13. I think most TV shows is insensitive in general. I watch Glee because I enjoy and like it, despite the fact that I also sometimes find the storylines or character portrayals to be problematic.

    I agree that people don’t watch Glee to make fun of the characters, and most of them are supposed to be sympathetic. However, I do not think that fact alone means that their usage of stereotypes can’t be damaging, offensive or just annoying at times.

  14. My younger brother has been diagnosed with Aspergers since he was four (recently mis-diagnosed and changed to high functioning autism, which yes there is a difference between the two). I have had to watch him get kicked out, moved around, and put into the behavioral disorders units of different schools… just because the school system doesn’t know how to deal with him. He doesn’t get to do whatever he wants, or say whatever he wants because he has this disability. It doesn’t work like that.

    If my brother ever said “it’s ok I have aspergers” it would have never been an excuse. He has been alienated and pushed aside his whole life because of it. Numerous teachers, at different schools who have all claimed they can “handle” his disability, end up putting him in isolation because they don’t understand how aspergers/autism works. Believe me, if he had ever just said “Oh it’s ok, I just threw my desk across the room because I have aspergers” it wouldn’t have meant crap. Instead of trying to focus on helping him excel (because he is a smart kid, as is usual with Asperger’s and high functioning autism) every school has focused on his behavior, which most of the time he can’t help, and they have punished him for it.

    I do not think it’s appropriate, even if she claims she is “self-diagnosed”, to use this as her scape-goat for being a dumb, self-involved, rich girl.

    Someone above had said that they introduce a stereotype at first and mock them, and then gradually show the character depth and charm. That doesn’t mean just because it fits in with the Glee norm makes it ok.

    I agree with many of the comments, that Sugar is making a false image of what Asperger’s is, and I think in the long run if people take this seriously without looking up what Asperger’s entails it’s just going to make it harder on those who have it.

    I would not want to self-diagnose myself with aspergers, or any kind of mental disability. It has been painful watching what my brother has had to go through, and I don’t think someone should want to have a disability so they can get away with things.

  15. Hi,
    I have never actually been so quoted in all the years that I have been writing my blog about aspergers. I would have to say that yours was one of the more respectful approaches to what I wrote. It seems that the anti-bullying message of Glee doesn’t really translate into society as a whole. But that is just fine, it shows me that quite frankly I and the other autism advocates are not wrong about our approach to this latest episode.

    For those of your readers who are interested, I do not think the important point is “self-diagnosis” rather it is “aspergers.” The character is acting out and behaving in a manner that many attribute to aspergers. Additionally the character is using the “aspergers” as an excuse for poor behavior.

    Having raised two children on the autism spectrum I can without a doubt say that society as a whole does treat my children as if they are purposely and maliciously behaving in inappropriate ways. Most in society do see aspergers as an excuse used by my children (and others) and have attempted to use that dx to marginalize who my children are or who they have a right to be. Society, educators, even psychologists (there was just an intense debate concerning the DSM and the definition of aspergers internationally by the way) does see my children as overindulged, spoiled brats with delusions of grandeur and importance.

    The fact that Glee found it necessary to make fun of and use this character in such a poor light without bringing to fruition the idea that 1. she did not really have aspergers (to say “self-diagnosis” does not cut it, many adult aspies are self-diagnosed after decades of being misunderstood and emotional torment, and 2. a proper discussion of what aspergers is, adds to the misconception about autism. It also gives impetus to those who would bully and alienate those who do have aspergers.

    Whether Glee rectifies this issue or not in future episodes does not matter. The damage quite frankly was already done. While many of you in the comments have noted that Glee makes fun of many issues that people have, you forget that those issues are dealt with respectfully and with compassion, this was not done as far as the asperger issue was concerned.

    Perhaps it is noteworthy that so many are discussing the issue. Perhaps that in and of itself will lend to a larger national dialogue about aspergers and autism in general, which would be a good thing, as long as people are willing to learn and not decide that they know everything already.

  16. I really don’t think the show is in any way condoning what Sugar is doing. She’s a character who had decided she can get away with being awful because of her own notions and prejudices about ASD. To be honest, I think the show very clearly lampoons her decisions and her perceptions — not Asperger’s itself. There is no way a person with Asperger’s can turn their ASD off and on, as Sugar appears to think she can. She says “NOT ASPERGER’S” like she’s saying “And I really mean this!” as opposed to all the other stuff I just thought I could get away with saying.

    Just because a character does something in a show doesn’t mean the show or the narrative condones that behaviour. The problem, of course, with a show that uses story arcs instead of sitcom-type stories that are started and wrapped up in thirty minutes, is that you have to wait through the whole season to get a sense of everything. When Finn uses the word “faggy” to Kurt, Finn’s words are immediately and clearly condemned. When Terri lies to her husband for months about being pregnant, the consequences are nowhere near as immediate. Glee certainly doesn’t make a point of saying “It’s a good idea to fake a pregnancy to save your sham of a marriage”, but it might take a few episodes for you to see that character suffer the narrative consequences of her behaviour.

    Likewise with Sugar, we need to be able to wait and see how they proceed.

  17. Hi Elise, and welcome to DG.

    I do try and be respectful. I also do not censor the comments because I believe that people’s opinions are important and that they deserve my respect, even if I disagree with them.

    I also have a terrible history of offending people needlessly (and without intent), so I work hard at not doing that. I’m happy you feel I’ve succeeded.

    The internet is a virtual school playground with no teachers when it comes to bullying. It always has been and probably will be. As a blogger, it’s an unfortunate truth of life that you will have people say mean and nasty and sometimes threatening and illegal things to you, and you will have no recourse. It’s a sad reality, but we share it.

    I’ve been discussing this here, on other blogs, with work colleagues and with my family. One big thing I have noticed is that the majority of people I know who have ASDs and watch Glee are actually quite happy with the depiction and poking fun at people who appropriate a disability they do not have. The opposition seems to come largely from — well, I don’t know how it’s termed in Autism/ASD advocacy, but in the queer world, we call them “allies”. You know, family, friends, supportive people in general.

    This observation, to be honest, is making my opinion more and more solid and worries me more than the reservations I have about Sugar’s portrayal. If the people who have ASD diagnoses are expressing either neutrality or comfort with the portrayal, why are allies making such a massive fuss?

    You say that Sugar acts out in a way that “many attribute to aspergers”. Do you believe that the character is genuinely neuro-atypical?

  18. Hi, Elise! I am the mother of a 5yo boy with Asperger’s — I’m also one of the people who attempted to comment on your blog pretty early in the day yesterday, and whose comments you apparently deemed “absolutely nasty and condescending” and refused to include in the “discussion” below your post. I put bunny ears around the word discussion, there, because the only discussion you seemed to allow was a chorus of people who agreed with you. You’ll notice I let people disagree with me in my own post and believe that they, too, deserve the respect of a forum for their thoughts and ideas.

    I’ve already offered my two cents and a lot of sweat in my defense of these four minutes of Glee’s season premiere, but what it boils down to, for me, is the very troubling identity politics that you (and the many others who are similarly up-in-arms) are trying to play against Glee.

    At one point the character of Kurt has a tiny pink handbag fall out of his MOUTH while talking to his gay friend about GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY. Did you support a campaign to have Glee publicly apologize for this insensitive treatment of gay issues? Do you think gay kids are any less affected by bullying and social marginalization than autistic kids?

    Brittany and Santana are shown falling over themselves to bed two guys who lie and are cruel and dismissive of them. Did you support a campaign to have Glee publicly apologize for this insensitive treatment of women? Do you think women are any less affected by bullying or violence in schools than autistic kids?

    Rachel is told by Sam that he wasn’t supposed to talk to her because he was warned she would try to steal his gold; it’s one of many anti-semetic punch lines in the show’s 2 seasons. Did you support a campaign to have Glee publicly apologize to the jewish community for the way in which their programming fed into preexisting antisemitism? Do you think jews and other racial/religious minorities are less affected by bigotry than autistic kids?

    The issues I note above are not always dealt with respectfully, or with compassion — they’re not even always funny. That being said, I certainly feel the writers do respect and have compassion for their characters and the groups they represent. I’m going to quote myself not because I’m awesome but because I am exhausted: “take a moment to think about how Glee works: they introduce a “stereotype” and mock them, then gradually (GRADUALLY, we’ve only seen the first four minutes of Sugar Motta!) reveal the character and depth and charm and HUMANITY of the individual behind it in order to create a parable of acceptance and understanding.

    If you don’t feel that way, if you think that Glee is painfully and irredeemably irreverent, then by all means stop watching, but don’t leave under the illusion that you are flying the flag of Equality, Acceptance and Inclusion if this is the first time you think Glee’s crossed the line.

    (If I seem angry or nasty or condescending, please bear in mind that I also am a mother fighting the same battles you are. I, too, am mad as hell at a society that tries to tell my child there is something WRONG with him, and tries to convince me to train him up like a puppy so that he will tow the line like a good little NT. But I’m not mad at Glee. And I’m not even mad at you.)

  19. Not sure whether the character is actually neurotypical or someone with aspergers. I honestly don’t know too many persons, especially a teenager who would say they have aspergers if they did not.
    As far as who is upset by the portrayal more aspergeans or their advocates? I really couldn’t say. I do know that in my world everyone is anything but pleased. Yes we are mostly parents of children on the autism spectrum but there are quite a number of adult aspies who also saw what we did.
    Why are we making a fuss? Perhaps its because our children are so badly abused on a daily basis in school by their peers that a more thoughtful and understanding portrayal of aspergers and the issues involved should be addressed. It has been verified in studies that over 90% of all persons with an autism spectrum disorder have been bullied and most of them suffer from PTSD because of it. I can honestly say that my oldest was one such student. If it had not been for therapy and an amazing welcoming college environment he would still be afraid of other human beings and the meanness that they could perpetrate against him.
    To say that Glee was making fun of students who claim to have a disability in order to garner sympathy or excuse behavior is also to continue the misconception that accommodations make things easier for those with disabilities, rather than the reality of simply leveling the playing field. It is amazing how in today’s world, even the most highly educated, at some of the leading universities in this country, still see a disability as an excuse for special conditions. They say that if you need the special accommodations you have no business being in college nor in the working world at all. The ignorance that abounds about “invisible disabilities,” as aspergers is referred to, is quite literally astounding.
    Afterall Glee has handled the issue of bullying, physically disabled, mental illness and coming out and gay rights beautifully. There is no reason they could not have done the same with aspergers.
    In fact I think it came as more of a shock than I thought it would because of the wonderful way Glee also handled the guidance counselors OCD.In fact one of the more touching scenes was when she was in with the psychiatrist and was told that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and is no different than any illness.
    The issue is that Glee reaches so many adolescents and young people. It speaks to not only the present high school generation but to many of us throughout society. It has become the voice of those who need acceptance. Well my children need acceptance too and a character who may or may not have aspergers but is portrayed as a spoiled brat inottnotnonot going tdoesn’t quite make aspergers something to understand and accept.

  20. Actually there is one from someone who decidedly didn’t agree with me but there was no name calling, nothing condescending and quite frankly added something to the discussion. Whether you were one of the anonymous or went by a name ( I only received one of those), when anyone questions someone else’s intelligence it doesn’t get posted. If you posted under the moniker you used here, I never saw it and did not receive it.

    Apparently you forgot to read the part where I discuss how Glee handles other issues and how they are resolved respectfully. There is nothing wrong with the positive approaches Glee takes to many issues in fact it is one of the reasons that Glee has been a positive element on television, but it doesn’t mean that it is always perfect.Even when Glee makes stereotypical remarks or is inappropriate it is rectified.

    I do not know if your son’s dx is new or something you are now just coming to terms with after years of trying to figure out what was happening with him. But you can rest assured I have been where you are now twice.

    Considering you are starting your journey through the world of autism let me offer you some support elements that may help. We have a twitter based support group called The Coffee Klatch. We deal with all kinds of issues from autism, LD, mental illness, cancer and extremely fragile children and persons of all kinds. We are parent based. Our website is http://thecoffeeklatch.com

    There are also some wonderful new radio shows http://specialneedstalkradio.com

    Parents on twitter happen to be a wonderful way to connect and find people who have answers or at least someone to commiserate with.

    Also the idea that you have to train him like a puppy to get along in the world is ill-conceived. You need to teach your child that there are ways to behave and acceptable societal parameters. Every person has to learn this, but for those on the spectrum it is just harder than for most. The world is not going to accept poor behavior from him and will not make excuses if he cannot function appropriately. That is the challenge we face as parents of children on the spectrum.However, this does not preclude their right to be who they truly are and to give them the chance at a full and happy life.

    Anyway i hope you join us on The Coffee Klatch and even stop by my new radio show Raising ASD Kids and Teens from Special Needs Talk Radio

  21. I did indeed comment while logged in as dontturnitoff, so it is a mystery indeed why the comment never surfaced.

    And I did not “forget to read” your point about how other issues are treated on Glee. You didn’t actually say that they were resolved respectfully — you said they were dealt with respectfully and with compassion” and I would have to argue that that is a very different thing than something being RESOLVED respectfully. I would agree with you that [most] things on Glee are indeed resolved with compassion — but that resolution often takes months, if not an entire season, of story arch to achieve. You’ve given Glee four minutes to resolve Asperger’s and declared that “Whether Glee rectifies this issue or not in future episodes does not matter.” Really? And you honestly believe that isn’t because this issue is YOUR issue and therefore you are taking it much more to heart and less willing to tolerate it being the subject of irreverence than the other issues?

    And with all due respect, you don’t know me or my circumstances; you don’t know if the woman you are exchanging these emails with is NT (I’m not). You are very quick to lecture me about statistics and bullying, but I don’t need statistics to speak to the topic of bullying, or violence in schools or PTSD. You assume that because my child is only 5 I don’t know what’s coming: I promise you that I, to my great regret, do.

    You are very quick to tell me about how the world won’t accept “poor behavior” from my son, but my son doesn’t have “behavioral” issues — in the commonly accepted usage — that need to be addressed or corrected. Unless you consider stimming and perseverative interests things that need to be eliminated, which I don’t. I don’t have the slightest idea of what you mean when you say he’ll need to “function appropriately,” but it makes me uncomfortable, to be honest. You’re more than welcome to visit my blog to get a pretty complete idea of how I see things, if you’re interested. I will be checking out yours, as well.

    I am sure there are a lot of issues on which we could agree, Elise, and I don’t in any way want to take your opinions or your experiences from you. But on this particular issue, I’m afraid we do not see eye to eye and speak very different languages.

  22. I will definitely visit your blog and no I don’t know you or your son. But in that vein you don’t know me or my children either. What I can tell you is that I am an autism advocate and have been one for almost twenty years.And when people mention that they don’t want to train their children it hits little buttons that they tend to not want to deal with all the issues that they will face with their children. That obviously is not you so I apologize for jumping to conclusions.

    You also need to remember that when I write I write in a comment section not just for your perusal but for all those that may be reading our discussion. I also was trying to let you know why I had the visceral reaction to Glee that I did.

    I am sure as with most issues we would agree on alot more than we would disagree when it comes to the autism community. it would also be great if you could join our online community. We do need input from AS parents raising AS children. I truly helps everyone out alot.

  23. Elise,

    As an autistic person, I am offended that you are saying that ANYTHING about Sugar’s character implies that she might actually be autistic–especially when she, in her last line, states that even her self-diagnosis was a lie. I find what you are doing to be infinitely more ableist and harmful to me and other autistic people than anything Glee has done.

  24. Sorry – but i didn’t see her as an accurate depiction at all. HOWEVER, that being said, I’m sure it’s possible for there to be a huge spectrum of behaviors I’m not acquainted with along the Asperger’s line. I just didn’t find her character to be at all realistic and my son, who has Asperger’s, and my daughter, who deals with him, both looked at me weird and expressed their disbelieve in the joke that Sugar made of the condition.

  25. //And really, if you’re trying to learn about real life from Glee (or SVU), there’s something wrong anyway.

    And by you, I don’t mean YOU, but anyone who is hoping Glee is real life or anything like it.//

    DeconstructingGlee, this is…really an odd statement to see on this blog, and particularly in this discussion. If TV shows don’t have any effect on confirming or disrupting stereotypes in viewers, or if their portrayals don’t matter because “TV isn’t real life of anything like it”…then what’s the point of this blog, or even this particular post? What does it matter if Sugar actually has Asperger’s, or if she’s faking, or what her faking is meant to signify? Why does it matter if Holly Holiday is celebrated for being a crap teacher, or if fans want Kurt and Blaine to kiss in the hallways every episode, or if Kurt’s crush on Finn is portrayed as predatory or seen as predatory by viewers, or if Glee uses slurs like “tranny”? Why do positive (or negative) portrayals of characters with disabilities, or queer characters, or characters of color even matter?

    I don’t think anybody purposefully watches narrative television shows to learn, and I don’t think media alone has a huge effect on anyone’s real life attitudes. Whether you think the high incidence of false rape reports on SVU are realistic or totally bullshit is probably going to depend largely on attitudes you already hold. But, it’s also possible that your attitudes will be influenced by the media that you consume. Really, it’s not a particularly quantifiable thing, and it’s possible to either overstate or understate the effect that media has on real life attitudes (and, of course, the effects of the media landscape as a whole have more effect than any single TV show), but I do think saying “It’s just a TV show” or “TV isn’t real life, so it doesn’t matter” is kind of a cop out in a discussion about media analysis, and kind of contradictory to this blog as a whole.

    When it comes to the present discussion, I’m neurotypical, so I think my opinions on Sugar’s portrayal are probably less informed than those of the non-neurotypical people who are discussing thing. For example, I’ve seen “Oh, I bet you have fake ‘Asperger’s’ and that’s why you’re being such an asshole” (with not a lot of distinction made between whether Asperger’s is a “fake diagnosis” and people who fake a diagnosis) invoked way more than people actually using self-diagnosed Asperger’s as an excuse for bad behavior, so I figured it was more of a stereotype than a reality, but according to this thread I was wrong about that. And the fact that the criticism of the character is coming primarily from parents of children with autism rather than people with autism themselves is definitely troubling, but there are a few adults with Asperger’s who also found it potentially problematic.


  26. Yeah, sometimes I express myself very poorly! Apologies.

    I was thinking — at the time — more of how the common things aren’t what makes the best stories — how great stories are full of uncommon occurrences which means that false rape allegations make better stories than, say, plain old ordinary people being honest.

    Likewise, I suppose, a spoiled brat who appropriates a disability to be a spoiled brat is a funnier story than the actual struggles of a person with ASD.

    But having read those links and a bunch of other stuff, I suppose the debate comes down to this:

    1. Are we at a point in Autism/ASD awareness that it’s possible to show up stereotypes (in the way that comedies do) without perpetuating them?

    2. Is Sugar meant to actually be Asperger’s? If not, was that depicted clearly enough? If yes, is the representation fair?

    3. Does the narrative condemn her actions or support them?

    From my perspective, being harassed weekly by people who want me to attend loud parties with strangers for Autism awareness, there certainly seem to be a lot of people “aware” of autism, if a bit thick about the whole thing. I do not believe Sugar is portrayed as actually having Asperger’s and from my perspective, it was very clear. I have since learned that others found it not quite as clear cut.

    To be honest, I think we have to wait on whether the show will condemn or support. They’ve said they’re working in arcs this season, so we have to wait.

  27. Oh! I was wrong, totally wrong, you’re right. I just want to do a count:

    Brittany, Artie, Becky, Deaf show choir director, Finn’s friend Sean, Jean… am I right?

    I kind of default to counting just the Glee kids.

    And so far Finn, Tina and Sugar have appropriated disabilities they don’t have.

  28. Sugar never said her autism was a lie, she said her insult to Shuster in the end was not because of her autism. Re-watch the show.

    Quite frankly i find offensive that you have decided how I and other advocates can view the future for our children. I find offensive that you have decided just what everyone’s autism looks like, and presents itself to the world. I find you offensive and self righteous thinking you can tell everyone how to think, believe and advocate.Thus deciding just what kind of future my children are entitled to have and how the world is supposed to welcome them. Your autism is your autism, it does not denote anyone else’s.

    Ableism (i.e. bullcrap) is that suppose to hurt my feelings? Try again. I have raised two boys with autism I have fought off the worst haters in the world. Personally I just find you foolish.

    I find adult autistics as yourself the worst instigators of problems for those with autism. People who think the world revolves around them and that they do not have to comply with rules in order to get along in the world need to grow up, get an education and get on with their lives. No one owes you a damn thing. you are truly boring.

  29. Wow Elise. I think you just said absolutely everything you need to say. You have just confirmed every suspicion I have ever had about why people need to advocate for themselves and not rely on “allies”.

    For the record — people with ASD cannot just turn it off and back on. The very fact that she identified some comments as affected by her Asperger’s and one that wasn’t proves that she is quite NT.

    I’m sure the accusation of ableism wasn’t made to hurt your feelings — ableism is a very real thing and unfortunately I have learned more about it in one paragraph than I have ever wanted to know.

  30. Elise, you might not have realized that you have entered a community of people who a) have some pretty intense feelings about Glee (pro and con) and discuss them often and in a very thorough fashion; and b) know, trust, and respect one another, even when our opinions are COMPLETELY at odds (eg, see any discussion between Kate and myself where Karofsky is mentioned!).

    You’ve walked into Deconstructing Glee’s house and started behaving in a very hostile manner to her and to her guests. If you felt you were not being respected here, you had every right to leave and not return.

    The fact that you consider yourself an advocate for people with autism/Asperger’s and yet were able to write the last paragraph of the post above causes me great sorrow.

    You claim that Julia has wrongly determined what sort of future your children are entitled to have: I think the only point she, and DG’s moderator, have made is that as your children come of age — though they may have Asperger’s — they are entitled to determine their own future. Your sons will be “adult autistics” one day; I hope they are treated with more respect and compassion than you have treated those on this thread.

    You’ve travelled beyond the typical barbs of fractious internet debate: you have attempted to HURT someone here. Not challenged her ideas, or stated your opinion and why you believe that opinion is the more logical or valid or deeply held: you have attacked a rather wonderful young woman you do not know in an ugly and shameless way.

  31. I do not care for this story line involving Sugar at all. And I thought the term Aspergers has been abandoned by the professional community for the term “high functioning autism.”

    Ryan Murphy – please dump her character. Too many other avenues to explore IMO.

  32. I’m just saying its only a show it’s supposed to be a joke she says ae has it so she can say what she wants no need to get worked up about it like I don’t think the glee writers thought about sugars doctors

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