Glee – You’re on Notice

Shuffling out of my bedroom still half asleep, I’m greeted by my bright-eyed tween with her usual morning after questions.

“Did you watch Glee?”

It’s our Tuesday night assignment. She can’t watch Glee ’til we’ve watched Glee and screened it. And she might explode if she doesn’t get to watch it, today. She’s as “hopelessly devoted” to Glee as I was to Grease when I was her age. Only more so.

I hug her tight and she stands on her tip-toes, arms around my waist. The tip-toes are to make herself taller than me. It’s new, and she can’t stop doing it. We look at each other eye to eye.

“We need to talk about Glee.”

“Was it appropriate?” She asks, hopefully.

“Well, most of it was okay, but there was a part that really upset me.”

Her face drops. I call her father and brother into the room. Todd and I talked for hours the night before about how to address this and I can’t say we’ve really figured it out.

“Riley, you know how sometimes kids with Asperger’s, when they are having a hard time, they can be misunderstood and people think they are brats?”

She nods.

“I mean, even Dad and I didn’t get it at first, right? When you were little?”

She waits for more.

“Well last night on Glee, there was this new character, who behaved really badly, and said because she had self-diagnosed Asperger’s, she was entitled to act like a brat.”

“What did she do?”

“She insulted the Glee club, and even though she wasn’t talented, she felt she should be the star of the show, and she was really mean and rude.”

Todd adds, “She might not have really had Asperger’s, we’re not sure, but was using the diagnosis, as an excuse for her bad behavior.”

Riley looks back and forth to each of us.

I continue, “And we really were mad about it, because it’s not fair to stereotype kids with Asperger’s like that. You have Asperger’s and you would never act that way. You are never cruel. You don’t think the world owes you favors. That’s one of the reasons I love writing about you, because it gives people an understanding of how sweet kids with Asperger’s are. You’re a great ambassador for Asperger’s.”

Neither child knows what an ambassador is, so we explain the concept, while inwardly I question whether that’s a bit much to put on a child. Will I ever feel like I’m not winging the parenting thing? Ugh!

Seth nods along, affirming his sister’s awesome ambassador worthiness.

Riley listens intently, then says, “Maybe the writers didn’t mean to depict Asperger’s in a bad way.”

That’s my kind hearted girl, always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Todd says, “Maybe not. And maybe they’ll take the story line further and explain more about what Asperger’s really is in future episodes. We don’t know.”

Her face suddenly twists up with worry.

“Can we just assume they aren’t talking about me?” she asks, her voice rising a couple of octaves.

The second agreement from The Four Agreements pops into my mind. Don’t take anything personally. Could I just assume they aren’t talking about Riley? Could it really be that easy?

Somehow I feel I have to protect her from what the world thinks of Asperger’s. She’s not rude. She’s not lacking empathy. She’s not robotic. I hate those stereotypes. And I’m not sure Riley really understands the repercussions for kids like her if negative stereotypes about Asperger’s are propagated unchecked in our society.

But then again, I know how pushing against something makes it bigger. Why not just let Riley do her thing, and continue to touch the people she touches, and change perceptions in her own little microcosm, one heart at a time?

Finally she looks at me with tears in her eyes and squeaks out her worst fear about the whole thing,

“Are you not going to let me watch it?”

This is where I want to put the powers that be at Glee on notice. Seriously. Ryan Murphy? Brad Falchuk? Ian Brennan? Dante Diloreto? (My daughter told me your names. She has everything about the show memorized). It’s really unfair to make people who are so vulnerable the butt of your humor. What’s next, kicking puppies? You better redeem yourselves or I’m leaving your viewership and taking a whole lot of people with me. The autism community is a big one, and it’s a divided one, but I think we can all agree, don’t mess with our kids. And BTW? We have lots of friends. 

I look at Riley and tell her, “We’ll keep watching it, and we’ll keep talking, okay?”

She sighs big. Relief all over her face.

She loves you Glee.

Keep that in mind.

This entry was posted in appreciation, Asperger's, Parenting, special needs, special needs parenting, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Glee – You’re on Notice

  1. Alexis Yael says:

    I’m not *quite* as huge a fan as Riley (close, tho!) but I’m with you. Glee is on notice, and they better make this storyline right.

    (I’m also watching via hulu which is on a week lag now, so I haven’t even watched this episode yet, but your description troubled me. I do take that “self diagnosed” part to mean the character isn’t actually diagnosed, tho, which may be a saving grace.)

  2. Heather says:

    Oh, how I love that sweet, sweet girl!

  3. amber says:

    I hope they google themselves and find this post… I would email it to the show if I were you.

    I’m with you. Just say the word.


  4. naomi says:

    Beautifully explained, Michelle and Todd.
    As for the writers of Glee, I think that it’s so easy when writing from a sardonic space to cross the line from brutally honest over to arrogant and cruel. Congrats writers, you successfully pointed out that a few people use the myths associated with the label as a license to be selfish, that’s brutally honest. To leave it hanging there without any validation for the people with Asperger’s who have to work so hard just to be seen for who they really are, that’s arrogant and cruel.
    ..but yeah, Riley changes perceptions just by being her sweet self. xo

  5. Leah says:

    Really great conversation between you and your daughter. I admire her strength and comprehension (that’s more than most of us can do). I can only imagine your heartache when she came in and asked you about Glee. You did an awesome job talking with her. I, too, hope Glee takes notice. For Riley’s sake, but for all kids out there.

  6. Meg says:

    For “winging it”, you sure do a damn fine job of parenting!

  7. Patti says:

    Wish I ‘winged’ parenting as well as you, Michele. You should hear the line I was trying to feed my daughter today…..

  8. Chris V. says:

    I “heart” Riley…

  9. Carrie Link says:

    Yes, you have a LOT of friends! Love how this was handled and how Riley went straight to that Agreement.

  10. Dee Ready says:

    I’m with you on this Michelle. I personally don’t watch Glee but I’ll see that those I know who do read your posts and see the important point you are making.

    And by the way, I wish I “wing” much of my life as well as you “wing” helping/working with/loving/ supporting Riley.


  11. Elspeth says:

    Always hard to know if you’re saying too much. Still, it is an awesome idea to screen ahead of time, to talk about the issues pro-actively. If you’d been watching it with Riley and the line was said and she turned to you asking for an explanation right away… ? Yikes. Sounds like you’ve got a great system going and future full of interesting family discussions to come. (Though, I predict that all of them will end with: “Will you still let me WATCH it?”)

  12. Amanda says:

    I thought winging it was the whole parenting thing down to a t!

    Email the show – EVERYONE email the show – that way they willhave a chance of seeing the error of their ways…. but you’re right… DON’T MESS WITH US!!

  13. Tanya Savko says:

    “Can we just assume they aren’t talking about me?” – She is so.amazing.

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