In the cultural marketplace of ideas and views, we’re constantly exposed to buzzfeeds and blowhards. It’s so rare that the space is cleared for truly nuanced, thoughtful and unique perspectives. Documentaries tend to be a great way to fill that void.
And for anyone and everyone who was appalled at the news that the ABC show The View anointed Jenny McCarthy, the celebrity mother of an autistic boy, to be a co-host, there is a doc antidote: Neurotypical. Watching this POV documentary is a way of cleansing yourself of the artifice, bad faith, misdirection and plain stupidity that McCarthy conjures with her dead-wrong belief that vaccinations are the cause of autism.
It’s such a shame that the limited time that is spent discussing autism in the mainstream press often focuses on McCarthy, the latest being ABC’s stunning decision, earlier this month, to give such a public platform to a celebrity who has no scientific basis for her belief and has helped maintain a myth that not only endangers lives — because of exposure to diseases that vaccinations would have rendered harmless — but also seriously screws up the thinking of families who live with people with autism.
Now, I know I’m adding to the attention given to her, but I only do so as a way of shining a light on Neurotypical, because I think it’s relevant when you consider that the film is all about giving people with autism the space to express their views. We so rarely get to hear from them.
Watching the film, I was moved by how Wolf, an articulate guy who’s on the spectrum, talked of us neurotypicals (people without autism). And I was floored by how John described the existential import of the game of tag — a perspective that can only be rooted in his very different way of looking at the world.
Those are the viewpoints that should be heard, but, instead, it’s McCarthy who gets so much attention to spread her stunningly irresponsible message. Her co-hosting gig of The View starts in the fall, but I’m hoping that the public outcry protesting her selection could change ABC’s commitment to her.
You can just bet that McCarthy’s controversial status was well considered when ABC executives picked her. Whether or not her contract stipulates that she can or cannot talk about autism, I can assure you that either course will be used for ultimate impact. She’ll either make a well rehearsed and highly publicized announcement that she won’t be discussing the issue as an act of noble high-mindedness or they’ll put on a reasoned discussion relying on the good old American value that everyone has a right to their opinion.
But they don’t! Not fascists. Not bigots. Not, in my opinion, even climate-change deniers. And definitely not her. Take her off the show and let John and Wolf have a day to share their views. That’s what I’d like to see.
It’s no coincidence that POV — point of view — has aired Neurotypical. That’s because POV promotes points of view that are well considered and resonant. The View simply relies on viewpoints that hook eyeballs to the screen. But not all views should be trusted.
So, I hope you’ve seen Neurotypical. As I said in a post a year ago about the same subject (“A Neurotypical’s View on Autism Documentaries,” no less), I can’t claim to know this subject like those who live with it. But that doesn’t mean we neurotypicals can’t be open to their views.