Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nostalgia Critic's Apology: Nice effort, but....

Trigger Warning for Disablist Language

The Nostalgia Critic, one of the most popular, if not the most popular, incarnations of That Guy With The Glasses, a famous internet personality who does what most of us have been dreaming about since the age of 11 (Well, at least I have): Having a massive fan-base and millions of hits for the virtue of recording videos pointing out just how asinine/impractical/condescending some movies can be.
I admit it, in spite of the times that they gaffe with disablist language and other fails, I'm a huge fan of the Nostalgia Critic, and other personalities on the site, like Film Brain, The Nostalgia Chick, and especially Linkara, who won my heart with his feminist criticism of comic books.
The Nostalgia Critic angered me greatly though, when during his Earnest Saves Christmas video, he made a cheap joke at the expense of autism. Mercifully though, he was called out on this by autistic and neurotypical fans alike, and removed that segment from his review of Earnest Saves Christmas, and apologized in this video pointing out his "fuck ups":
It's the #1 mistake, and the fact that he apologized gladdened my heart.
His apology had some major mistakes, and I think it is only fair that I address them honestly, as an autistic person and a fan of his.
I am glad that he apologized at all. Most people who insult autistics and autism never apologize, they just moan about political correctness gone mad. But it is not okay to have your apology framed around the idea that there are "high functioning" autistics, as well as "low functioning" autistics (For more on why the terms high functioning and low functioning are not appropriate, check the post I did at Womanist Musings:
To suggest that "Oh, there are autistics who are smart, act their age, and can talk and aren't amused by puppet shows, therefore I shouldn't have made this joke" devalues people who do not "pass" as neurotypicals as easily as people with Asperger Syndrome do. It draws a false value upon intelligence and verbal ability, suggesting that only those who act just enough like neurotypicals are worthy of being treated with respect, dignity, and kindness. Maybe that's not what he meant, but that was the impression I got when he mentioned that. It felt really jarring and wrong, like "Sorry that you auties who were smart enough to figure out I was insulting you were hurt, from now on, I won't do that. But I still don't think too highly of the value of people like you who can't talk or live independently.
And then there's his mention of "I know autistic people". Without playing oppression Olympics, it's been debunked enough times when someone says "Oh I have gay friends, so it's okay if I espouse homophobia" or "I have black friends, I can't be racist." It's just as inexcusable here.
Once again, I could be wrong. He could be pointing out that he knows people with autism who are not amused by children's puppet shows, but once again, this is drawing that false value upon people with autism who can talk and "pass" as neurotypical, suggesting again that people who may be amused by puppet shows are in fact worthy of such mockery.
I'm sure he learned his lesson and will never make an autism joke again. But I am hoping that the next step will be respect for all people who are non neurotypical.


  1. Essentially, then, he didn't learn his lesson; he simply learned the cause/effect sequence involved in his making jokes about autism: "If I say this, people will get offended, and I'll have to assure them that it's okay because I know autistic people." As you pointed out, he hasn't gained a legitimate understanding of the reality of autism/Asperger's; he's simply come to infer that he'll invoke upset responses if he makes jokes without specifying that he's "down with" the "almost normal ones". It's like punishing a child for bullying, without explaining the effects of bullying. I'm reminded of the Stages of Moral Development as described by William O'Malley: not far past the point of realizing that one must ask for something if one hopes to get it (in an infantile stage) exists the point at which one realizes that some things aren't to be done, simply because the input/output entails some kind of reprehension that impedes upon the wellness of the individual. It's nearly infantile, and yet many live in this stage for the rest of their adult lives.

  2. Chill out.....butthurt-levels are up to 9000 with you!