Autistic people on tumblr: Rick Sanchez has verbally confirmed himself as autistic, and this makes me happy. It’s pretty rare for autistic characters to be canonically confirmed in-show like this, and especially not this easily and casually. It’s also very unusual to see a canonically autistic character who is sexually active, not straight, not white and who is actually a complex, funny, well-rounded character. It’s a neat little bit of representation in a mainstream show that I wasn’t expecting, and you know, it’s actually kind of nice :).
Neurotypicals on tumblr: OH MY GOD STOP FETISHING AUTISM!!!! QUIT OVERREACTING!! DON’T YOU KNOW THAT GETTING EXCITED OVER NUANCED REPRESENTATION HURTS AUTISTIC PEOPLE?!!
EDIT: I’ve switched the word ‘positive’ with ‘nuanced’ as I definitely agree with a lot of commenters that Rick is not a positive role-model for ANYBODY, but I still wholeheartedly stand by this post.
Because Rick represents something us in the autistic community need so badly on TV, and that is complex, original autistic characters, rather than autistic charicatures.
Autistic people need to be allowed to be depicted as people, and that doesn’t always necessarily mean ‘good’ people. Because not all people - neurotypical or autistic - are ‘good’ people in real life. We don’t expect non-disabled characters to be morally black or white, so why do we expect this from characters with disabilities?
There is nothing wrong with creating a flawed, damaged or destructive autistic character. The problems occur when a character’s flawed, damaged and destructive behaviour is immediately linked back to their autism. Which in most cases it invariably seems to be.
Rick is a very damaged, incredibly flawed individual. He’s selfish, manipulative, completely morally bankrupt and basically just one big, collossal twat.
But at no stage is it ever implied that this is down to him being autistic. Rather, the blame is blatantly and repeatedly assigned to its one true source: Rick himself. Rick himself is clearly the product of his own bad choices, selfish actions, unhealthy coping mechanisms and flat-out refusal to ever address his catastrophic mental health problems. The revelation that Rick happens to be autistic is never presented as an explanation - or excuse - for the way he has been up till now.
Is Rick the most positive representation of autistic characters out there? Hell no!
But does he represent a shift from creating rigid, overly-pathologised autistic characters to more human, nuanced characters who are capable of making their own mistakes and forming their own independant, complex personalities? Hell yes!
And I for one welcome this kind of representation.