How the Media Represents Autistic People
As an autistic person, I've often felt frustrated by the way that media portrays people like me. Too often, autistic characters are depicted as emotionless automatons, lacking in the depth and complexity of real human beings. This kind of representation is not only inaccurate, but it can be harmful, perpetuating negative stereotypes and reinforcing ableist attitudes.
Media Representation is Important
It's important to have representation in media, not just for the people who are being represented, but for everyone. When we see people who are different from us portrayed in a positive, nuanced way, it helps to break down barriers and build bridges of understanding. It can also help to combat harmful stereotypes and biases, making the world a more inclusive and accepting place.
Unfortunately, autistic representation in media is often lacking, and when it is present, it can be problematic. When marginalized identities are written by people outside of those communities they are often presented as offensive caricatures of who those people actually are. Additionally they fall into harmful tropes and stereotypes. The idea that autism is a "superpower" is a particularly harmful stereotype, as it diminishes the real struggles that autistic people face and can impact the support and resources that they need to thrive.
Autism as a Super Power
It’s almost ironic then that I chose a super hero comic book to challenge that idea. I recently released a free digital copy of the first issue (in a five issue run) of a comic called High Support Needs in which the main super hero team is composed of autistic individuals with varying support needs. By creating my own comic book series featuring autistic superheroes, I hope to contribute to a more authentic and positive representation of autism in media. I want to show that autistic people are not robots, but rather, complex and multifaceted individuals who deserve to be seen and heard.
A World Where Everyone Feels Valued and Accepted
The idea is that, even if autism was a super power it wouldn’t matter. There’s always a scene in a movie where the hero gets their powers and don’t quite have control over them yet and need to develop coping strategies to deal with it. Super heroes have support needs. The X-man Cyclops uses an assistive vision device to stop him from destroying everything he looks at. The Incredible Hulk uses anger management, cognitive behavioural therapy, and meditation to control his powers. My whole point is society is not actually equipped to handle the support needs of people with super powers, because we aren’t equipped to handle to support needs of the people we have now. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend a disability is a superpower when we can’t even support the needs of the disability I’m the first place. With more representation, marginalized communities being written by people in those communities, we can create a world where everyone feels valued and accepted, regardless of who they are or what challenges they may face. And with a lot of hard work, we can lessen the impact of those challenges.
Author: Jeff Baker
BOSS Community Support Professional Coordinator
Aspiring comic/character artist and digital painter
We would also love it if you could please take a moment to check out Jeff's first comic "High Support Needs" Issue #01.
Link to download free here: