“The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.” -Aesop Fable
You wonder why I put this Aesop Fable in here, let me give you a background: I have been recently obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, he dismissed claims of Alan Turing being on the Autism Spectrum. Yes, he has said some disparaging things about autism concerning several of his characters. Yes, he compared autistic children to Frankenstein’s creature-but only in that they were both innocent and childlike. Yes, I can surmise that he still does not know about autism.
But I believe he can still be reached.
I believe Benedict Cumberbatch can still be reached because his journey is still far from over. I believe he has not experienced the full spectrum of the trait(s), because the autism schools he speaks of tend to have a smaller range of autistics than the general public, especially due to mainstreaming the “high-functioning” ones. (I myself never went to an autism school or “special” school, but public school, for an example.) I still believe he can be taught, because he has yet to experience the full, capable side of autism. If he were to open his mind, the truth about autism would get to him. How do you open his mind? It must be done gently, of course.
I got to read much about the man’s missteps, and much of the information was filled with bitterness. There was rage, there was anger, there was hate and confusion. There is a lot of hate in the autism community for Benedict Cumberbatch. The only way a person has changed their mind about something is by gentle persuasion, even when the facts have not done it for them. Vitriol does nobody good-not even yourself. I have learned this the hard way. My last few posts can attest to that. A gentle touch does wonders for the heart. When the heart hurts, that gentle touch will be remembered. Remember, when a person has the harsh overcoat of ableism or a limited viewpoint on, howling like the wind will only make them bind it to themselves tighter. It takes gentle patience and understanding to glow like the sun, and then the man will take off his coat.
I hope I have not thrown too many people off by my interest in Benedict Cumberbatch. It hurts me that he said some disparaging things about those of us with autism, even though he should know better. Why is it that I care about what some actor I have never even met says about a condition, when he has been given a rare opportunity to look at those who have it (while preparing for a role) and dismiss their condition as piteous or infantile? What makes me so thin-skinned? It hurts when you think somebody has an opportunity to open their minds and they don’t take it. How do I get over it? More importantly, how do I get this guy out of my head?
There is a saying: “What you resist persists.” It persists, and persists, and persists. Sometimes a problem with them is all you need, but this one, well, it’s stayed. If you understand how I’m feeling (and look at the picture), you’ll understand why there’s such a crazy thing going on in my head. I mean, look at him! He’s absolutely gorgeous! Well, maybe not your kind of gorgeous, but there’s a certain quality there. Maybe, perhaps, that’s why his brand of not knowing how it really feels to be autistic-the kind of autism you have on your inside-smarts even more.
I am not really that mad at Benedict Cumberbatch. I am more of a sad. There’s almost an expectation among people that you are perceived with basic human needs and wants, and almost nobody else is aware of this expectation. I mean, just about all of us autistics are intimately, acutely aware that we perceive the world differently. The rub is, most of us want to be seen as adult humans, with needs and wants, and he spoke of us as mostly children! That is what hurt the most. But, truth is, society itself sees “disabled” people, and autistics by extension, as objects of pity. I really don’t see disabled people that way, possibly because I have been lumped in with them. It’s a blindness given to us by society that even the sighted have. I personally don’t know if he’s ready or open to an education, but if and when he is, we need to be right there to provide the source material. Only those who are really autistic can provide the true source material.
But for now, let’s gaze upon him. *sigh*
Recently, I came across some troubling statements regarding one of my favorite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch. He spoke his experiences regarding his time spent at a school for high functioning autistics. He said this:
“I think it’s a really dangerous thing to toy with that,” (Cumberbatch) says while promoting “The Imitation Game” at the Toronto Film Festival. “People talk about me doing that quite a lot and that being a good thing for people who are on the spectrum, which is great. But I don’t go into a job going, ‘Is this autism? Is this Asperger’s? Is this some other form of slight learning difficulty or disability?’ I’m very wary of that, because I’ve met people with those conditions. It’s a real struggle all the time. Then these people pop up in my work and they’re sort of brilliant, and they on some levels almost offer false hope for the people who are going through the reality of it.”
At first, this type of statement brought out gigantic bulls of anger running through my heart. He seemed to know, but stayed ignorant, even insulted, that his characters were to be considered autistic! But, in all fairness, I decided to set my seething rage aside in order to dissect a statement like this, to see how we can further educate Mr. Cumberbatch. You see, he has spent time getting to know people with autism. This will, I am sure, inflame even more people as it inflamed me:
BC: (talking about the Creature’s origin) It’s basically being a man child, it’s being a man infant. And then, psychologically, Danny and Nick Dear, who’s adapted the Mary Shelley novel, into a brilliant 2 ½ hour play version of it, he, they both have autistic sons. So we went to two extraordinary schools and met some high spectrum autistic kids. And it was very, very humbling and amazing and very upsetting, but very, very extraordinary as well, and inspiring. And especially the people looking after them, and these amazing life forces, but just formed with…*sigh* um, socially just things that are outside of everyday. You know, there are certain barriers that aren’t there because of the arrested development that… there was a 17 year old that had the mental age of, I think, an 18 month old. I mean, it was…
BC: It’s…it’s…it’s really really extraordinary and very upsetting. And uh, it was important for them to realize that the Creature in their story was not their… the monster of old… the monster of the gothic horror stories. He’s very much an innocent. He’s very much someone who is carried through life, as someone who is so different, not only because of his appearance, but because of these behaviorial tics, which are very autistic, um, both in his understanding of the world, psychologically and emotionally, but also physically as well, how that manifests later in his body. And so that was the major part of the preparation.
So, what are we supposed to do, besides rage and protest? What is clear to me is that Mr. Cumberbatch is simply repeating what he has heard from an ableist society, without much input from the autistic adults in the world. It kind of sounds as offensive as Denny Crane on the TV Show “Boston Legal” saying that an African American prospect employee doesn’t “sound black.” (I have no idea what that means.) Trouble is, both men are victims of an insidious, continued stereotyping of how a certain trait is supposed to be carried out or communicated.
I guess the whole point is, trying to explain autism from neurotypicals is like trying to get a proper explanation of sex from a virgin. You are not going to get a good answer. I think we need patience to understand that.
Of course, we can also try and get our blogs to him, in order to provide a well-informed definition of autism.
Here’s a small portion of what those of us with autism can relate to for a glimpse.
Here I am, in Kentucky, wondering what I should say or do in the aftermath of the terror in Paris and the French countryside. It’s like deja vu all over again, like the days after 9/11. Those poor people in France! I just want to hug them all and say everything will be okay in time. I want to let them know that living and keeping in with the principles of free speech apparent in the existence of satire. There is victory in the very act of living when terror strikes.
Now, there is one guy I wish to ask, but I somehow feel I know the answer. You see, he is a Muslim. He is also one of those “Don’t Mess With the U.S.A.!” types. He bristles at the very existence of ISIS and terrorism supposedly justified under Islam. Believe me, I get his viewpoint. I get his viewpoint every time Westboro Baptist Church does or says anything. Google Westboro Baptist Church and you’ll see what I mean. When they talk about how God sent violence and death because of homosexuality, I cringe. Where did they get the idea that God was so graceless? Sure, there is wrong, but you can always turn around and do right, asking for forgiveness and grace. But I do not believe a punishment is the same as a consequence. Sometimes you do not need to “punish” when a consequence is punishment enough, but I digress. I get where he is coming from.
I found a little more to draw from when some terrorists were comforted. In the reports, they interviewed a young teen from one of the villages. He was so shocked that something like this could happen in his little town, like his village was somehow soiled by it. I got that when our own was reported as having major drug problems. Now, I won’t bring those out into the light, but I can also get where he is coming from. We, as Americans, can help comfort the French to understand what has happened to them, and bring them back to a place of secure awareness. We need to help them. The French get terrorism now. We’ll help them get on our side.