Is There Humor In Asperger's?

Asperger's is making its way into pop culture thanks to shows such as Glee and South Park, but is the syndrome fair game for humorists?

Asperger's syndrome is getting the comedic treatment on two beloved television shows. South Park, known for its outrageous and over-the-top tactics, and the decidedly more tame Glee.

South Park

Season 15 of South Park premiered with longtime character Stan being diagnosed with Asperger's. The syndrome is defined by Wikipedia as "an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests."

To South Park creators it's comic gold. Entertainment Weekly reports:

"After the school discusses the HPV virus, the subject of Asperger's arises, a term that Cartman heard as "a**burgers." Thinking he had an easy way to get out of school, he made some hamburgers, stuffed them down his pants, and complained to the school nurse of pain in his rear end."

Crude? Most certainly, but also not entirely unexpected from South Park.

Glee, on the other hand, is a different beast, and some fans are not at all pleased to see new character Sugar Motta, who is self-diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome -- use it seemingly as an excuse that allows her to "say whatever she wants."

In a discussion going on at the show's message board, one user writes:

"I am the mom of an Asperger teen boy who is 15. I can tell you that my son is in NO WAY rude and does not say whatever he wants, whenever he wants... It's a shame that GLEE has used Asperger as an excuse (even if they think it's funny) for Sugar's rudeness. It does not help with people's perception of any type of autism."

Another upset Glee viewer adds:

"As a mother of a child with Aspergers, Glee got it completely wrong and are doing great harm to children with Asperger Syndrome! Kids with AS are NOT aware that what they are doing or saying is not socially appropriate... Sugar clearly understands what she is saying and doing and that she [is] offending people and doesn't care. AS kids care and want to fit in... they don't want to offend. I'm VERY disappointed in GLEE who touts themselves as being accepting of disabilities and differences only to mock one that affects so many bullied children and teens in America!"

A third person who doesn't quite see what the big deal is said:

"I find it a bit absurd that everyone is getting so insulted, offended, and/or angry at the representation of a character with "SELF-DIAGNOSED" Aspergers. I have been CLINICALLY DIAGNOSED with Aspergers, and I have no problem with how this character was presented. It would be one thing if the character proclaimed a legitimate Aspergers diagnosis, claimed she was able to say whatever insulting/inappropriate thing she wanted because of her disability, and then continued to completely fail in her performance. However, that was not the case. I think it was made completely obvious that the character was not representing typical characteristics of Aspies at large considering she clearly stated she was self-diagnosed, and, in general, high school students do not have the proper credentials to make clinical diagnoses."

What do you think of shows such as South Park and Glee taking on Asperger's?

Image via South Park Studios

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Comments

Comments on "Glee & South Park take on Asperger's"

Jon Beaupain October 24, 2011 | 10:06 AM

I have Asperger Syndrome. This is not a good thing. Asperger people put up with harrassment all of their lives. We do not need another source of this harrassment.

Dylan Comer October 06, 2011 | 4:51 PM

I myself am an aspergian, i prefer to use the term applied by john elder robison in his autobiography than the more common aspie, and i personally find no problem with all the hallaballo over the tv stuff. but then again im also an actor so maybe the fact that i have a take n both sides makes me judge it less critically.

Sheena October 06, 2011 | 1:00 PM

im amazed glee would be respectful of the downs syndrome character becky...yet make fun of aspergers, which is an autism spectrum disorder!

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