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Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Being 'Human'

This is an essay on the character Aya from Green Lantern the Animated Series An essay on Aya and autistic narratives In discussing with Isaia last night I showed her and essay in which I discuss the race of aliens in Mass Effect, the Geth and allegorize them to autistics and autistic narratives. I am sort of going to repeat myself a little bit but I will try to discuss why I connected with Aya as an autist and why writing autistic narratives can be so bizarrely tricky. Aya is by far one of my favorite characters. I haven’t connected to her so strongly since Avatar: TLA with Sokka and Aang. She developed at a pace that wasn’t forced or contrite, nothing about her character seemed like a cliché and everything about her seem to sit with me in way I had trouble describing. I really liked her, a lot.

Being male identified, I had to pick out why I connected to Aya so strongly and why I wanted her to be happy the most. It was when I was running through the blog-gauntlet being ‘Autism Awareness’ month (aka, Month of Hell) and I was busy readying over blogs for my disability activism then it hit. I attached to Aya because she is an autist like me. Now bear with me, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds, nor am I projecting (I might a little), I spent years studying autistic narratives in fiction and analyzing them, I write fictional autistic characters, and I notice things. It was when I had that epiphany I knew I had to talk about it somehow. As I stated previously, Aya was paced well. Meaning her development came organically and unnoticed. You don’t noticed that she was falling in love with Razer because the writers didn’t expose it and learn to show not tell with it. Her evolution of gaining momentum over the course of the season and it was interesting watching her develop. When I realized what she symbolized for me everything seemed to be colored differently. The way she interacted with people, the way she talked, learned reminded me a lot of my own experiences and a few of my peers; to me despite being a robot, she resonated with me how an autistic person should act in fiction or narrative setting. She wasn’t helpless, she wasn’t a permanent child constantly needed the ‘neurotypicals’ to explain things to her, she wasn’t obnoxious, or made to be plot furniture. She was socially clumsy interacting with organics, communicating them had occasional snafus and there were more than one moment in which Hal yells, “Ayaaaaa” in frustration. Yet, she is brilliant, powerful, beautiful, and so wonderful to watch grow up. Watching her interact with Razer was so breathtakingly amazing to see how Aya evolved and became more human. Not by the will of her love interest but by her will and desire. It had nothing to do with Razer but everything about her own agency. And at the same time, I was frustrated. They have made a wonderful autistic narrative, but Aya wasn’t an autistic, but a robot.

Despite autistics being stand-ins for robots in many modern narratives these days. I know Aya wasn’t an inversion and most of my observations could merely be projections of my own want of a clear story of an autist that is not written just for neurotypicals. Not everyone shares my view point on Aya, and I respect that. Aya though is example on how I want autistic narratives to be written. With that same well-paced, organic feel that isn’t full of preconceived notions of what autistic should be or has to be in the eyes of neurotypical society. There was no need for a ‘Velveteen Rabbit’ story for her, meaning in which, a non-human or disabled character is turn normal or human by the loved of another. Usually a male non-human turned human by a female. Aya had her own agency and decision with her own identity. It wasn’t made as I mentioned earlier, for Razer’s benefit. But hers, Razer loved her for her. Not to make her normal or organic but truly accepted her for her. In some way, watching her in pain and anger while she was in Aya-monitor mode, made me both frustrated and in pain with her. I wanted her to be ‘saved’ but because she was hurting so much and I understood the moments of shear cathartic anger and rage at the discrimination that we both endured. I didn’t want her to burn away like I have so many times before. I think the most striking thing about Aya and her narrative, is that emotions and feelings were there and watching her build them to empathize with her human crew and still getting treated like she was soulless machine; was rather heartbreaking. I have experienced that, the idea that as an autist I can’t love, or that love is too complex for me and I lack ‘theory of mind’ to understand love; and its nuances. Watching Aya defy what was expected of her condition was amazing and so beautiful. She did feel and love, and seeing that being told was very rewarding and satisfying.

 It was proof that autistics and robots. Do have souls.

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