In my 13 years of being a Sonic fan, I have always admired Sonic’s way of being–his speed, his charm, his devilishly good looks, and his even his smile. Yes, I was obsessed with Sonic–and his dark, anti-hero counterpart Shadow–but my obsession wasn’t as clinically serious as that of Mark the Tapir in Sonic Boom‘s latest episode, “The Biggest Fan” (a title reference to a long-forgotten boy band film of the same name, starring Dream Street lead Chris Trousdale).
In this episode, Sonic meets a socially awkward tapir named Mark, a self-proclaimed number one fan whom Sonic allows to be his personal assistant. Mark’s gestures to Sonic were admirable at first–picking out his bandana, grilling his hot dogs, painting a portrait of him holding a chili dog, and advising him on the best strategy to defeat one of his enemies. But he soon takes his friendship with Sonic to a dangerous level by getting into a bicycle accident and imprisoning Sonic at his cabin, where the walls of his room are filled with numerous Sonic memorabilia.
“The Biggest Fan” doesn’t preach about the Sonic fanbase as a whole, but rather about the dark side of fanaticism–creative stupidity and overt criticism. For example, there’s good Sonic fan art, but then there’s fan art that makes your eyes want to bleed into permanent blindness. I drew a few pieces of Sonic fan art, but they weren’t as professional as the ones I saw on deviantART, yet I’m still proud of them. I also saw pieces of Sonic fan art that have been amateurishly drawn on MS Paint, involved female characters being unrealistically pregnant, and–even worse–recolored on screenshots from Sonic X. Overt criticism of the Sonic games has been running rampant in the decade after the release of Sonic ’06. SEGA didn’t make Sonic ’06 terrible on purpose. The development team was downsized in half after Yuji Naka’s departure from Sonic Team, and they were rushed to complete the game in time for the release of both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, placing them under insurmountable stress. Elise’s kiss of life was indicative of that, but big whoop! Sonic and the Secret Rings may have made under the same stress despite that it didn’t come out until three months after the Wii’s release. One bad game shouldn’t have to release a chain of negative criticism for successive games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World. Also, please keep in mind that Sonic Boom is a spin-off franchise, not a part of the main canon despite Boom Sonic appearing alongside Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic in the 25th anniversary banners.
I’ll always love Sonic, but the actions of Mark the Tapir don’t represent me in any way, shape or form.
I didn’t expect Sonic Boom to not be on the air today. I certainly didn’t expect to hear that the show will be on hiatus for a month one week after the premiere of its second season.
Two years ago, I shied away from Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal following their horrendous display of glitches and deafening dialogue on top of a shoddy storyline, but I couldn’t resist watching the TV show on Cartoon Network. I believed that Sonic Boom, along with Adventure Time, Regular Show and Steven Universe, was going to drag Cartoon Network out of its creative hell. Actually, the show would’ve made twice the positive impact on the network’s quality as the other ones mentioned here were not for the 7:30am time slot it was given for Saturday mornings. I used to get of bed that early on the weekends for Sonic X because a decade ago, there weren’t any DVRs to help viewers record programs of their choosing except for TiVO, which I didn’t have at the time. Because 4KidsTV would change the time slot for Sonic X at any time, be it at 8:30am or 10:30am, I got out of bed at 6:30 in the morning to watch the other shows first. Nowadays, kids don’t wake up that early on a Saturday morning anymore because of the high academic and extracurricular demands disrupting their sleep schedules, not to mention their circadian rhythms, making them sleep in until 9:00 or 10:00 on the weekends. Thankfully, their DVRs can record their favorite cartoons if they set it to “Series Recording.”
Then there’s lack of advertising. Cartoon Network promoted Sonic Boom at least a week before it first aired. The second time they advertised the show was in July 2015, when they announced that they would air two weeks worth of new episodes from July 13th to the 24th. They haven’t advertised anything for the current season, which resulted in the 560,000 viewer rating for the season premiere episode “Tommy Thunder: Method Actor.”
I was expecting Sonic Boom to be just as serious as Sonic X, but the humor it took after popular comedy shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory drew me to the show like a honeybee flying to the most beautiful rose in the park. I hope Cartoon Network places Sonic Boom on to later time slot come December. Until then, I’ll find other comedy shows to release the dopamine I need to survive the rest of the semester.
I thought I would be happy to get back into the groove of academic life after my eight-month break from school, but unfortunately I’ve transferred to Florida Atlantic University in worse emotional shape than when I left Broward College with my AA degree in hand. Why? Although I’ve become more socially engaged, my anxiety has somehow managed to come back to ruin me–not just in mind, but in body and soul as well. For over two months, I’ve had heart palpitations, headaches, upset stomach, muscular spasms, and more recently pins and needles. I can still function just fine, but my body would still be in optimal condition if not for the following issues looming over my head.
My incomplete novel
I’m just one hair strand close to done with writing my first novel, but I just needed some inspiration from Law & Order: SVU to finish the last chapter or two. I promised myself I would finish the book by the time I got back to school, but it seems I kind of let myself down. If I had signed my soul over to a publisher, then I would’ve had it finished, edited if need be, and placed it on the shelves of Barnes & Noble a lot faster.
On Friday, September 9th, I passed my driving test and acquired my driver’s license. While I am grateful that I worked so hard to get the ultimate ticket to social freedom, I should’ve done this a lot sooner. Right now, I’m driving to and from school with my mom in her mini-van, and so far I’m doing remarkably well. My parents got me a new car on Halloween, but I have to put off driving it by myself for a few days.
The possibility of someone ending my new relationship
Kristoff is just the most amazing man to ever come into my life. He’s smart, funny, affectionate–and he was in my church’s youth group back in high school (even though I don’t remember talking to him much). Unfortunately, someone on Facebook wasn’t too happy about the fact that I found love during the summer and he didn’t. That someone was my college acquaintance, who I’ll call Juan. About a week into the Olympics, Juan messaged me on Facebook asking me what I did this past summer. My answer was very simple–“I went to Vegas, went to SuperCon, and I found love.” The last part pissed Juan off to the point where he bitched at me for spending so much of my time with Kristoff and not him, to which I responded, “He’s a good guy! I even practiced some of my driving with him!” (Okay, I probably didn’t type that last sentence, even though it was true. Either way, that conversation has been long since deleted.) Juan got pissed off even more, saying that I sat our friendship on the sidelines as was the case with all of his other friends when they got into relationships. I decided he went too far, so I blocked him immediately. A few weeks later, I talked to Juan over the phone and told him that me having a new boyfriend doesn’t give him the right to yell at me. I assured him that he’ll find somebody to share his life with someday, but he has to do some growing up first. Juan apologized, and I never spoke to him again since. What Kristoff and I have is beautiful, but I’m scared that someone will do something that will bring our relationship to a screeching end.
Attending university may cost a lot of money–and thank God for financial aid–but it shouldn’t have to cost me my mental health. In Broward College, I was able to focus in class and complete my assignments without any issues. Now at Florida Atlantic University, because I’m now a junior, the workload has become a little unbearable, especially because I’m taking one class that’s not exactly required for my major. On top of that, the majority of the journalism classes I need to take are held at the main campus 45 minutes from home, and my mom isn’t exactly ready for me to attend classes at that campus next semester, which means I will be forced to take two classes next semester and two classes during the summer (if my financial aid will even cover that), or I’ll have to take two online classes (which I don’t want to do, not after what happened with Intro to Ethics). If my brother is able to go to a medical school far from home, why can’t I attend a campus that has all the classes I need for my major? This brings me to my final point.
This practice is highly prevalent in Hispanic families: sons have more social rights, whereas daughters need to be overprotected regardless of their maturity level. Even though I’m autistic, I’m quite mature for my age, yet my mother insists that I shouldn’t participate in the some of the same activities as my brother based on the simple fact that I’m a girl.
My brother can go on trips to Orlando, New York, Vegas, and pretty much all the other 50 states with his friends and his girlfriend; I can only do so with my family.
He can work while he’s in school (although he’s unemployed now because most schools forbid Master’s students to hold a job); I cannot.
He can go sleep over at his girlfriend’s house if he so chooses; I cannot do the same with my boyfriend, even though his apartment has a guest room available.
These problems have been causing me great anxiety for over two months already, and I’m afraid I won’t relax until I take care of most of these issues. Why anxiety chooses to afflict the smartest people on the planet, especially autistic people, is something I cannot fathom. It’s a bitch, but I have to fight it so I can be fully happy again.
Well, well, well. I never thought I’d be writing about Autism Speaks again at this point. The good news is, they have dropped the word “cure” from their mission statement–something the autistic community has been begging the organization to do since its inception in 2005. Their statement is now written like this:
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder, and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.
Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.
The bad news: the words “intervention” and “research into causes” remain.
While it’s good that Autism Speaks has somewhat turned over a new leaf to understand us better, it’s 11 years too late. All they did was change their words around, but what about their actions? Are they still going to spread ableist propaganda about us on TV and billboards? Are they still going to exclude us from discussions on how to help us cope with a neurotypical world? Are they still going to encourage our parents to kill us simply because we don’t see things or act the same way that they and other neurotypical family members do? Or are they actually going to buck up and start listening to us, start including our input in their media projects, and start respecting our right to live, work, and play with our neurotypical peers?
Until I see actual changes in their treatment of autistic people like myself, my distrust of Autism Speaks will stay.
Recently, you have announced in an interview with Access Hollywood that your youngest son, Diezel, “is no longer autistic,” giving credit to Suzanne Wright–in light of her death from pancreatic cancer–for his ability to “overcome his diagnosis.” I’m sorry to have to say this as a fan of your music, but…
To say that your son is “showing no signs of autism” is to say that he has been taught to mask every trait that comprises his neurology in order to pass as a normal, average person. In other words, you and the therapists Wright referred him to have taught him that being autistic is frowned upon by society–and it shouldn’t be. Diezel may be a social butterfly now thanks to the speech and language therapy he received in school, assuming he wasn’t referred to a therapist outside of an academic facility, but that does not stipulate that he’s transformed into a neurotypical person.
Oh, and the “my son Diezel suffered from autism” line? The word “suffered” should only apply to cancer patients, NEVER autistic kids. God only gifted Diezel with the ability to think differently from everyone else.
I know all of this from my experience as an autistic woman–or an Aspie, as I like to address myself. At 18 months old, I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Translation: Autistic. Most boys are given a specific autism diagnosis, like Asperger’s syndrome or severe autism. Since I was a girl, the doctors didn’t know which end of the spectrum to place me, so they slapped PDD-NOS on my psychological record. I was enrolled in special education classes and mainstreamed from kindergarten until 3rd Grade, when the powers that be decided that I was intelligent enough to attend regular classes. However, I walked back and forth between my regular class and a special ed class for extra help in math until the 5th Grade. I maintained average to above-average grades, but I was forced to repeat the 3rd Grade based on my low scores on the standardized test formerly known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). I even had to go to a speech and language therapist until the 8th Grade, although I didn’t attend a lot of sessions in 6th Grade. My teachers treated me with the utmost respect, but how my peers treated me was a different matter. While some kids were friendly with me, others just bullied and teased me for exhibiting some of the traits that came with my autistic brain, such as taking their jokes too literal, expressing interest in things that either everyone else has supposedly outgrown by the 5th Grade or earlier is strange to them, and attaining a higher GPA than most students in my class. To put it lightly, I was a glutton for verbal punishment. I even thought of being autistic as a curse because of everything I did–singing and listening to J-Pop songs, whispering to myself (both privately and publicly), expressing my love for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise despite all the production problems some its games endured, and avoiding school dances (even prom, but that’s another story). Eventually, I learned that if other people don’t respect my interests, then that’s their loss.
I may have received help in learning to be sociable, but that doesn’t mean I’m “cured of autism.” Absolutely not. Society shouldn’t expect me to be less autistic, nor should they punish me for living my life differently. Just because I show some of the aforementioned quirks, doesn’t make me a bad person. My family and friends love me unconditionally for who I am. I expect you do the same for Diezel.
And for the love of God, stop supporting and working for Autism Speaks. Suzanne Wright may be gone, but the organization’s mission is still a gargantuan farce.
I know all of you religious folk are expecting me to read a verse from the Bible. As much as I would love to read such words of inspiration written by the hands of God, today I would like read a quote from a whole different source and explain why I chose such a quote for your dearly departed Suzanne as theologically as possible.
“Darkness sleeps in every heart, no matter how pure. Given the chance, the smallest drop can spread and swallow the heart.”
Anybody wanna guess where this quote came from? Anyone?
Since no one has the slightest clue who said this, I will tell you that the philosopher who wrote this originated from a work of fiction. Not a novel, but rather a video game produced by none other than Disney and Square Enix, called Kingdom Hearts. One of the main characters, Ansem, is the fictional philosopher in question who wrote the same words I recited to you earlier in one of his reports regarding his studies of the darkness of the heart.
Suzanne Werner-Wright, like most people, was born with a pure heart–a heart that saw no imperfections in anyone, even if they saw themselves or others as imperfect in any way. But as soon as one of her grandchildren became autistic, Wright struggled to prevent darkness from unleashing itself inside her heart. The more imperfections she saw in her grandson, the more darkness had taken hold of her heart and drove her to stomp out people with the neurology under the guise of charity.
Instead of providing us autistic people the supports and accommodations we felt were appropriate, Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.
Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of autism–high IQs, intense focus on fields interesting to us (be it STEM, arts and literature, video games, music, or even history), enhanced vocabularies–Suzanne scrutinized the complications autism brings–anxiety, meltdowns, and speech impairments–and referred our families to mental facilities notorious for abusive practices, like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and electric shock therapy, she believes are designed to eliminate our behaviors and, ultimately, cure autism.
Despite her best intentions, Suzanne NEVER advocated for the acceptance of autistic people. All she’s done in her last 11 years of life was encourage the wider society to tell us over and over again that being autistic is not okay, therefore we should be punished, or even killed if need be.
Take a look at me. I’ve been autistic for most of my 22 years on this earth, and I know a lot about the life of an autistic person ten times better than Suzanne has. Did I cause my parents’ divorce when I was almost 2? No. Have I ever embarrassed my family in public in any way? Maybe, but I don’t remember exactly what I did to embarrass them. Does the fact that I received speech and language therapy and acquired social skills from pre-K to 8th Grade mean that I’m no longer autistic? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I only attended one Autism Speaks walk in my sophomore year of high school, and I never went back. Suzanne’s “Call to Action” speech in Washington, D.C. two years later confirmed my decision to not walk for the organization since she deemed us and our families “not living.” Upon hearing this from John Elder Robison, who resigned from the Autism Speaks Board of Science, I plucked the two puzzle piece bracelets I got from the Autism Speaks walk out of my purse and threw them in the trash, ultimately renouncing my support for the organization.
I’m proud to be autistic, and I’m glad that I’ve met people who are on the same boat as me. Together, we are working and/or have worked to defeat every demeaning autism stereotype in Suzanne’s book. She said that we will never attend college and graduate with a degree; we are, and we have–because we have every right to an education. She said we will never leave our parents’ homes and find jobs we’ll be successful in; we are, and we have–because we have every right to live independently. She said we’ll never find love, get married, and raise children (if we so choose); we are, and we have–because we have every right to be in loving relationships.
About Suzanne’s claim that autism is like cancer–the joke’s on her. Darkness had spread everywhere in her body and consumed her before she even had the slightest decency to apologize to all of us for saying such lies about us. I understand that where she will go from here depends on the Lord’s judgment, but because she has promoted ableism against us all these years, I believe she does not deserve to spend eternity in Heaven.
If I ever have children and any of them turn out to be autistic–which is likely due to genetics–I will treat them with bountiful love and respect, and raise them to advocate for their human rights if anyone ever tells them their lives and their contributions to society don’t matter. I will never subject them to any abusive therapies and treatments Suzanne and other so-called “autism warrior parents” swear by to change them. Don’t agree with me? Then I have a special guest here to sing a song dedicated to you and all those who have supported Suzanne’s ableist endeavors.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Disturbed performing “Who Taught You How to Hate” from their latest album, Immortalized.