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I’m going to be sharing my favourite fictional characters – who I personally believe are on the autism spectrum.
Disclaimer: I know there are some people out there who believe that you shouldn’t diagnose fictional characters, or be an armchair psychologist… but I disagree. I think t’s fun and empowering spot “one of us” among film, TV and literature, especially one that are popular among neurotypical people, because it can help to “normalise” autism and autistic behaviour within society.
If it helps, I actually do have a psychology degree, but in case of doubt, this is for entertainment and headcanon purposes only – I do get that they probably weren’t written with autism in mind by the authors/creators.
So let’s dive in.
1) Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
I have a major headcanon about a lot of Austen characters (especially within Pride and Prejudice) but my favourite character, and one I also relate muchly to, has to be Mr Darcy. In my mind, there is no doubt that Darcy is autistic, and let me prove it to you.
Yes, like everyone I consider the Colin Firth portrayal of Mr Darcy to be #ultimateDarcy, but the 2005 version with Matthew Macfadyen is interesting because I feel it’s an especially autistic portrayal of the character. (It’s pretty much the only reason to watch that version though)
But since we are being purists here, and I have a supposedly classical education, let’s refer back to the original text and not the movies.
When we are first introduced to him at the ball in Meryton, he “insults” Elizabeth by slighting her appearance and basically saying he hates parties, he isn’t comfortable and he doesn’t want to bother with some random woman unless she’s a mega hottie.
She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me, and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.
His character is misunderstood as proud and unpleasant by everyone except those who have known him the longest. When Elizabeth throws accusations at him that she believes to be true (but are of course at least partly false), he responds with a lengthy letter detailing the logic and rationale behind his behaviour and setting out the truth, or at least his own perspective of the truth. He is loyal to his friends and bears grudges against those who betray him. He also has a massive library and reads extensively.
He has a deep understanding of his own faults, and an openness and frankness about them that he is willing to share with those he trusts.
He can’t work out how to make easy conversation and even though Elizabeth alludes that this is because he doesn’t practise, probably autism awareness wasn’t all that back in 1813.
He says to her:
I am ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers… I certainly have not the talent which some people possess … of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.
I’m not overrelating, you’re overrelating!
I think there is a case for arguing that many of the Bennets, including most obviously Mr Collins are on the spectrum, and even that Lydia might have ADHD, but I know some remain unconvinced.
Listen to the way that Mr Bennet is described:
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humor, reserve, and caprice
Just consider this: Austen writes the characters who have a natural way with people and love to talk and network as the “bad guys”. Frank Churchill, George Wickham – those who are charming and talkative almost invariably turn out to be shallow, petty and untrustworthy. Her heroes defy social norms, can be socially awkward and tend to be the more self-contained characters.
So I’m not saying Jane Austen was autistic, but… *Jane Austen was probably autistic*
2) Anya from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Anya is an ex demon who becomes newly human upon her arrival in season 3, and joins the Scooby Gang until the very end.. She is unfamiliar with human culture, no matter how hard she tries to fit in and to fake it. She gets intense joy out of her special interests – like counting money.
Now I hear you say “but she’s an ex demon! That explains why she can’t understand human culture”
But I think it’s a stronger case than just a metaphor, although clearly it works on that level too.
In the fifth episode of season 7, “Selfless”, we see a flashback to Anya’s pre-vengeance demon days as “Aud” the human.
We see that she has been an outcast her whole life, and is scorned by her then husband for her “strangely literal” interpretation of the world even as a human.
I don’t talk to people much. I mean, I talk to them, but they don’t talk to me. Except to say, “Your questions are irksome”, and “Perhaps you should take your furs and your literal interpretations to the other side of the river”.
Her defining personality traits are her lack of tact, brutal honesty and questionable social skills. Her special interests bring her much joy and fulfillment: these being money and capitalism, and running a business.
3) Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls
Paris is honest to the point of blunt, overachieving , but when she is rejected from Harvard she has a meltdown in public (on TV no less).
I am not cut out to deal with people
Her brutal honesty is her trademark, which she employs frequently and without any sort of consideration for the effect she has on others.
(I think there’s a case to be made for Rory as well – and a reason why they seem to keep running into each other despite not seeming to like each other very much, they forge a friendship based on commonalities)
4) Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games
I think you get a sense of this far more from the books than from the movies, and a lot of her autistic traits could be explained away by a reaction to trauma (as they certainly share similarities)
But essentially she dislikes and distrusts other people, she doesn’t know how to fit in, she is uncomfortable with attention on her and is unwilling to play social games.
It’s the 75th year of the Hunger Games, so why on earth is it only now that someone like Katniss comes along and disrupts them?
I know there’s a bit of the whole Young Adult trope of the “chosen one”, the teenage saviour, but part of her strength is her no bullshit attitude and unwillingness to play games. The chosen one trope is also something that resonates strongly with me as an autistic person, a feeling that you’re not in the right place, or being lonely and different from everyone else in the world. I think the popularity of Young Adult fiction and this trope in particular can explain why we might see a lot of autistic seeming characters popping up at the moment.
5) Dexter from “Dexter”
This is one of my favourite shows, and one of the few shows that I rewatch every now and then, but when I first watched it I guess I took a literal interpretation of what I was seeing and just sort of assumed that he was supposed to be a psychopath. But once pointed out to me, it struck me – of course he’s autistic.
His shocking and gruesome murders lead the audience to believe that he lacks conscience, but of course the series shows that this is not the case at all. And I personally just assumed everything about him is the result of this extreme childhood trauma that he suffered.
But look at it this way. He hates being touched despite not having been violently assaulted or abused himself. He has trouble understanding what he’s supposed to say or how to react in social situations. He even talks about the way in which he’s cultivated a persona at work “the doughnut guy”. His whole life is a persona of a character that he’s playing. He essentially has to pretend to be as normal as possible, partly as a cover for his murders, but I do believe that even without that aspect of the narrative that he would struggle to fit in anyway.
He strictly adheres to the rules as set out by his late father and gets agitated when they have to be violated. He likes order, routine and cleanliness
I would say that Dexter is probably the most obviously autistic of all the 5 characters, and there is plenty of evidence for this as the series gives us a deep insight into the workings of his mind.
So what do you think?
Do you like diagnosing fictional characters as much as I do? Let me know just how wrong I am down below in the comments.
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- Life after autism diagnosis – what next? - June 14, 2019