In case you were wondering if Asperger’s was still considered an obscure condition that relatively few know about or understand: Wonder no more. Asperger’s Syndrome has officially entered the American mainstream through South Park.
After being gently and intelligently explored on the show Parenthood, through the story of Max, it will be interesting to see how the more crass portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome will be received by the autism community.
Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized, among other things, by awkward social behavior and a bluntness in verbal interactions brought about by an inability to empathize with others. South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, known for their irreverent humor (to say the very least) tackled those aspects of Asperger’s along with the mistaken belief by some, despite no proven medical links, that autism can be caused by vaccinations.
The episode, titled “Ass Burgers”, can be viewed here. It is typically crude and plays on the fact that Asperger’s sounds like, you guessed it, “ass burgers.” One of the kids is diagnosed with it by the school psychologist, who determines the recent school flu vaccinations to be the culprit, after he starts to display the anti-social behavior of thinking that pretty much everything in life sucks.
I’ll save you the time of watching the mostly unfunny episode by letting you in on the central joke: After a doctor declares, “Asperger’s is serious, but unfortunately because of its name people think its a disease to be made fun of.” we find out that the disease isn’t real. “If there was a social development disease, you wouldn’t call it Asperger’s! That’s just mean!” and is actually a front for people who are not under an evil Matrix-like pall over humanity that forces people to find movies like “Zookeeper 3: Zookeepier” awesomely entertaining. ”Where other people see fun movies and hear music, all you see and hear is sh**,” as the Morphius-like doctor explains.
I found the episode to be not that great, but thought it was interesting in that it brings mainstream attention to an illness that is difficult to understand, but is being diagnosed more and more frequently. I also appreciate that an effort is being made to make the idea that vaccinations may cause autism seem as outlandish as it is in real life.
Do you think the Asperger’s community is ready to laugh at itself or do you think the crude depiction (and it was offensive, depicting men peeing on walls, and other over-the-top “crazy” behavior) makes the stigma more difficult to overcome?
Photo Credit: South Park Studios
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