IMNSHO: Autism Representation done right

I can clearly imagine the neurotypical rage that would happen if... one of the heroes... was introduced while he was stimming as pictured above.

IMNSHO: Autism Representation done right
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I can't imagine many of my readers are neurotypical, but I can clearly imagine the neurotypical rage that would happen if Laios Touden, one of the heroes of Delicious in Dungeons, was introduced while he was stimming as pictured above. "Too woke", "why do they have to have a [SLUR] in the lineup", and the ever-popular, "people like that don't belong in fantasy."

But he wasn't introduced while stimming. We the audience meet him in the middle of dire straights and are flung into the circumstances that start the premise of the show: Making food out of fantasy monsters whilst going on a dungeon crawl.

In that first episode, it's Senshi, the eco-conscious Dwarf who loves to cook, who is seen as the weirdo. He and Laios bond over a shared interest - they're both fascinated by monsters.

Allow me to heartily recommend Delicious in Dungeons. Go find it. Watch it. You're welcome. Spoilers henceforth, so proceed at your own risk.

Laios is introduced as being "a little off" as we say here in Aus. Or, if you're more familiar with Bluey, "there's something going on with him." He's got an intense fascination with monsters to the point of writing his own guidebook. It's when he expresses a desire to eat them that's seen as 'crazy'.

It's still within the limits of what a neurotypical person is willing to tolerate. They can achieve the same with intensive study and some hard work. In fact, Laios' encyclopedic knowledge saves the day on multiple occasions. [Putting a pin in that for the "we're only welcome when we're useful" style rant]

The rest of the team settles with devouring monsters because they're in a hurry to rescue a team member who's currently located inside a Dragon's digestive system. There's a whole thing about Dungeons binding souls to bodies so that explains Revivify and True Resurrection... as well as a bunch of other D&D related nonsense. There's also interspecies politics which I, a writer, find really fun.


They get there and do some Dark Magic shenanigans, but the Big Evil turns the rescued lass into a Monster. This all takes a decent amount of the season. As does the gradual increase of Autistic traits that Laios displays.

The audience is introduced to his traits episode by episode. His special interest, his difficulty with some social situations, his obliviousness to certain details... and his adoption of a living armour sword.

And it all comes to a head when the team has to detect and fight a shapeshifter. Identifying and capturing the spurious doppelgangers. There were four of each teammate, some more easily identified than others. The process of elimination left Laios to attempt to decide which copy was which.

He could not use conventional means to figure things out, which lead to a lovely faceblind bit which you should see to believe. And it lead to the stimming pictured above as Laios, under high stress, attempts to calm himself down with what neurotypicals call "unusual" movements. This is the moment I felt seen.

Autistes like myself have learned through extreme social pressure [read: bullying and abuse] to do our utmost to imitate "normal" behaviour. The audience watching so far has been watching Laios while he's been masking. Doing his best neurotypical person impersonation. In this moment of high pressure, the mask slips, and the 'severe' Autism symptoms come out.

Even after he chooses [Correctly!] he doesn't want to admit how he put it together, putting it down to 'vibes'. The lad's recently suffered rejection from someone he counted as a friend because of his Autistic traits, so he's reluctant to bring them into the open again. The team doesn't trust his 'vibes' and almost devolves to fighting.

The situation's desperate, so Laios falls to desperate measures. He uses all the lessons from the other guides in his life - dogs. He roleplays a guard dog, something calls "doing it", and successfully scares the shapeshifter into revealing itself. Hilarity ensues when he goes in for the bite and Marceille (the group's Wizard) just blows the monster's head off.

And in a peak moment for this Autiste, the team just accepts this. Laios is asked why he didn't use his sword and he confesses that he was too much in character.

My only conclusion to this is that Laios has been roleplaying "a normal person" for most of his adventures. Only his sister and his dogs have seen and accepted his real self. It's so heartwarming to see his adventuring team also accept his weirdness as just another facet of himself.

Now for why I think this is Autism represented right:

1: No Robots or Aliens

In pop culture, the "best" way to make a character a robot or an alien is to surgically remove key features of humanity. They have a tangential relationship with emotions, or have an amusing misunderstanding of common sayings or customs. They can ask rude questions or make socially awkward mistakes.

And they're always adopted by the Autistic Community as their representation. Or held up to Autistes as an example. "Oh, just like [Robot/Alien] from that show!"

It gets a little tiring in good time. Some of us are a little bored with being robots or aliens. Some of them are fun, I admit, but having them as the only option for that good-good representation... the shine fades.

2: Not Tacked On

Autism is often used to defend an "asshole genius" character. Offered as a possible explanation of Why He's Like That(tm) or outright stated as a blatant excuse. This sort of thing is always pasted on top of an existing Unlikeable Lead after Season One has run its course and sometimes shoehorned into the plot.

Most of the time, it's mentioned once and referenced incessantly by the fandom as an excuse to let the writers continue on with the status quo.

Just as long as the asshole genius never actually learns to be a better person and the writers don't have to think about having a character arc, all is well. After all, we don't want a horde of basement-dwelling redpillers declaring the show's "gone woke" and thereby being noisy about that on the internet. That would be terrible.

You can't see it, but my eyes are rolling hard about this one.

3: Lack of Infantilisation

My goodness, the number of fictional Autistes who become "childlike" after the Autistic Reveal is sickening. Sometimes, it's a slow slide from one single 'childish' interest to needing a teddy bear in stressful situations or something. Sometimes, it's an entire comedy reveal of the bedroom set up like a nursery, or the "autistic" character playing with dolls.

Either way, this grown-ass character is "like a kid" and not expected to do many socially-acceptable things. Or learn anything.

Very. Very tiresome. It needs to die.

4: The Acceptance

My giddy gosh, the acceptance. The remainder of the crew acclimate to Laios' peculiarities and accept his expertise. Sure, some find it annoying or disturbing, and continue to call it out when it gets on their nerves... but they accept him. Weirdness and all.

When he explains the real reason why he picked the true teammates, he's not rebuked for it. It's seen as perfectly logical and rational. Using his knowledge base to come to the correct answer. The only objection in the group comes from Marcielle being called out as 'careless'.

It's heavily implied that the team's going to trust Laios a lot more after this event. The team know his strengths and weaknesses, and will act accordingly. That's heartwarming for me.

It means that it's possible for Autistes like me to just exist without catching ridicule or horrible comments at best... or bullying and abuse at worst. It means that someone like me can be accepted as a hero. At least in fiction.

I'm moderately positive that there's Autistes being heroes large and small all over the world. We just don't hear about it because it's not that newsworthy. Or it doesn't 'fit' that someone amazing also has a diagnosis.

And now for my sole objection:

The Gender Thing

Autistic representation is still predominantly male. Or at the very minimum, male-coded. The aliens are male or male enough. Same with the robots. He/him/his pronouns are very much present.

I would like very much to have some female-coded positive representation. There's plenty of ladies out there who are Autistes, and Enbies like myself as well.

[For those not up to date on the parlance, Enby is a corruption of N.B., a shortening of Non-Binary. Someone who doesn't quite vibe with either accepted gender]

Autistic women and girls alike get all kinds of shit for existing while autistic. They're called fakers, they're called slurs, they're bullied and abused for being openly autistic online. They're forced off of any media they share their honesty with. And that's not fair.

Neurotypical people only know what they've been shown. If they're only shown Autism as a male-coded thing, it's only natural that they call any other brand of Autiste fakers, slurs, and other insults.

The thin good news that comes with this is: the mistakes have already been made. There exists a good way to represent an Autistic person. So when a female-coded Autistic character finally arrives on the screen... it will be a much better job at it than everything that went before.

I can hope. And I will.