Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

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Neurotypical and Jenny McCarthy: One of These Deserves the Autism Soapbox

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Jenny McCarthy is scheduled to begin co-hosting The View in September 2013.

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.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki
  • QueenAutiIndigoAngelDiva11

    As a Neurotypical Journalist, your piece is honest, to the point and in a Word, Excellent.

    I do not “have” a condition or “live” with autism; I Am Autistic and here is a link for a Blog Talk Radio Show I co-hosted, back on May, on the future of the Autistic Individual in Society, and 7 Keys to Getting Us Beyond The Label.

    http://m.blogtalkradio.com/autistic-people-/2013/05/29/lets-talk-beyond-the-label-5pm-pst-1

    I have never read anything where J McCarthys name appears because she is irrelevant. She doesn’t have a clue because she doesn’t know Me. She doesn’t know what Autism is.

    My core autistic personality traits make up the Sum of Me, my gifts, talents, strengths. My weaknesses are only my perceived difficulties in trying not to be offended when People think they have the Answer; no one has the answer because the question of What Causing Autism should never be asked.

    So, I am already debating a prominent Autism Spectrum individual this coming November, on the Myth of the Black Autistic/Aspergian because it needs to be dispelled, once and for all. It is still being put together and confirmed for a virtual/online platform, so those are the only details I feel confident in providing at this time.

    After the debate, I, along with 7 of my other fellow Autistic/Aspergian Friends and Acquaintances would absolutely Love the opportunity to be guests on The VIEW, so J McCarthy can See the Results and get a Glimpse at what her Son can Be, when he grows up.

    I was born Autistic, diagnosed as a Baby partially mentally retarded, in 1963, and I was non-verbal until the 2nd grade. My parents were told to institutional me when I reached 4.

    Before I became December 31, 2008, I worked for a total of 31 years in this country, rising to the level in the Global Corporate American sector, alone for 20 solid years in the Life Science industry, and without a college degree, as a Director by role and responsibility.

    I have attended 7 colleges/universities across the country and I am preparing to enter College/University number 8, to work towards degrees in law, sociology and psychology, because no one will do for Me or Us, that which We are not willing or Abled to do for Ourselves.

    My future Foundation and International University for Neurodiversity is going to forever change that mindset because We All are supposed to help each other progress in Life. That is essentially why we were all Born Differently Abled, and that’s an AUsome Thing :)

    I’ve already been an audience member on The View, May 2012, as well as 3 other day time talk shows, and now I Am Ready, to be a guest. Heck, if I’m abled, and blessed, maybe one day I can have my Own Talk Show on primetime television. I was Born Naturally Autistic, so anything is possible.

    Patricia Elaine Chandler
    Brooklyn, NY
    Autistic and Proud of Who I Am, today!

  • AutismAcceptanceDay