It wasn’t that long ago that comic books, superheroes, Dungeons and Dragons, computer games, science fiction, and technology were the things that interested a small, somewhat localised, group of kids and, to a lesser degree, adults who were often referred to as either Nerds or Geeks. They were usually picked on and made to feel like social pariahs; the epitome of “uncool”, they were often of above-average or high intelligence, and often portrayed in the media with pocket protectors, taped-up spectacles, running the high school AV (audio visual) Club and being bullied for the way they were and because of their interests.
Nowadays, things are so different. The situations have pretty much reversed, and it’s now very hip and cool – dare I say it – mainstream to like comic books, and science fiction. TV shows such as Dr Who and Star Trek are now actually popular and have it a huge cult following. Now it is actually abnormal to have never watched the latest comic book movie, and everyone has heard of Voldemort and Darth Vader. We live in a tech-based society, where if you don’t own a smart phone and stream your TV online while being anti-social at the weekend, then *you* are the outsider – the uncool one. It really seems that geek-style hobbies have gone mainstream; it’s almost as if popular culture is heading towards a more autistic, introverted style of life. I say this because, as an Aspie, I have some narrow field of focus or obsessions which, like some (not all) autistic people, is based on technology, science (including sci-if) video games and comic books. Also, many of us that are on the autism spectrum tend to be introverted, shy and often socially awkward. In short, the personality traits we exhibit are becoming more popular, even …cool!
This raises a very important question for the autistic community. Does this rise in the popularity of geeks and their culture mean that there will be more of an understanding of us as autistic individuals? I can only speak for myself, but the way I see it, (being a geek with social shyness and all the other traits now becoming popular, and coupled with the the way technology has come on in huge leaps and bounds since I was a kid), this may well be the way forward. If so, then that’s an amazing leap towards acceptance and understanding. At the same time, though, it’s a very sad state of affairs because what we are saying is effectively that we will only really accept things like autism when it becomes a big part of our mainstream popular culture. This a shame, but I guess it’s how the world works.
Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line it might go full circle, but for people like me who grew up in an age of being picked on and ridiculed for how we are, we can at least say that we had autism before it was cool.
Stay Safe X