Electric Shadow

Screen Time #50: Turbo Time

This is the most personal episode I've done of this show yet, and it might be the most personal I ever do. Recording solo wasn't the hurdle, it was getting through the thing and staying focused for the most part. The episode uses my brother's love of Jingle All the Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bridge to opening up about living with someone else's autism.


Autism can be a part of who someone is, just as much as anything that makes any of us unique. Unfortunately, prejudices against autism are deeper and more openly expressed than those against something as innocuous as left-handedness, or something like race or social class.

Movie and TV portrayals have trained many to treat autistic kids like classic Universal monsters rather than human beings. There's a documentary titled Autism is a World, which I think is one way to look at it. Throughout my life, I've come to think of it as a radically different calibration of sociocultural behavior and perception.

Social constructs like money, and other things that we invented as a species, seem patently ridiculous to an autistic mind. How could money ever run out when it's a thing that's printed like anything else on paper? The idea that there are times when we should and should not talk, run, or do as we please also makes no sense.

When "normal" people say things to that effect, they are hailed as firebrands, revolutionaries, and champions of liberty. Someone diagnosed as autistic is somehow diseased, and a mutant. They're an outsider on a genetic level, and to many "normals", they are no better than a burden on their loved ones, and something to be hidden from public view. I saw people clutch their children as if my brother's autism was contagious, or not do a good job concealing their supposition that my entire family must somehow be "infected".

That bundle of feelings is almost impossible to convey outside James Whale's Frankenstein.

My younger brother had a great deal to do with shaping the way I enjoy, process, and judge entertainment. I'm at once an exacting critic and most likely to forgive flaws in favor of charm and effort.

The interview paired with this episode is with animator/director Tom Cook. In the 70's and 80's, Tom worked on cartoons for Filmation and Hanna Barbera, among others. His work means a lot if you ever held a plastic sword aloft and bellowed "By the Power of Grayskull!!!", tried to reason with a friend how great The Herculoids or Thundarr the Barbarian were, or simply cackled at the bizarre mismatch that was the He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special.