In which I begin to think a lot of people need a damn good smacking

I did finally sit down and read the essays "explaining the autistic experience by analyzing Sherlock as though he is a high-functioning autistic". I think personally that the bits on stereotypies and physical movement are assuming a lot of facts not in evidence -- in general, the author presumes Sherlock has learnt to conceal things in pretty much the same places I presume he's playing things up intentionally to cover for things he can't figure out how to hide -- but in general, Sherlock-as-autistic strikes me as about as plausible as Sherlock-as-deeply-isolated. It is cheerfully accepted as alternate head-canon, and my brain won't bitch at me about out-of-characterness if I find well-written fic on the premise.

That wasn't the interesting part, though.

Because the author of the essay is an autist writing for a largely allist audience, there is a lot of compare and contrast, particularly when talking about Sherlock and sociability. "In general, allistics would interpret this as..." versus "Autistics would generally recognize this as..." Accounting for the fact that he's using broad generalizations on both halves of the equation, I can tell you two things: One, that none of the reactions he outlines for allistic people would be unusual or unexpected, although he does take each event in isolation, which is almost never the case with an allistic who has to deal with anyone, autistic or allistic or extraterrestrial or whatever, over a period of time. (Not that this would save Sherlock from the incomprehension of others -- he behaves that way all the time to everyone, and many people are about as observant as salt-water taffy until you point things out.) And two, the vast majority of the time, it would never in a million years occur to me to take Sherlock's behavior that way. Most of the time, my assessment of his behavior pretty much matched the 'autistic' one. Apparently I already speak some Autist, or something related.

Sherlock sometimes behaves badly. So does John. Stressed-out human beings can be huge gaping assholes, across the board. Sherlock in particular is an asshole when he wants people to leave him alone, and the people in question are ignoring him when he outright says "Leave me alone". This is not a behavior peculiar to autists -- allists do it a lot too, they just do it differently. If I saw this in real life, I would not assume that whoever was behaving like a mean bastard because he had suddenly become a mean bastard, when an hour ago he was kind of weird but not especially cruel. I would assume that he was suddenly being a mean bastard because something had gone amiss, and that since I obviously wasn't helping where I was, I should fuck off and if possible drag other people out of there with me. I actually do this in real life -- I pinch ears, it gets attention very well, and when you pull someone's ear they go with you whether they want to or not.

(Also, autistic people: Do the general public really react this way all the time when you sally forth to deal with them? That's fucking appalling. I may -- and probably will -- ask a giant bale of stupid questions if given half a chance, but I like to think I pick up on people being Not Me and that I should allow for the possibility that they also don't necessarily think like I do. I start out under the assumption that everyone's 'normal', because if I start right smack in the middle then, mathematically speaking, I'll have to adjust my concept the shortest distance in any given direction to make it accurate, but it's a starting point, not a prescription. Sometimes when I ask people what they want of me they lie, but given that I do what they ask anyway, I figure that not getting what they want ought to be appropriate motivation for not goddamn doing that anymore.

Just so y'all know, I smack people for behaving like that. Mostly verbally, but occasionally if the person behaving like an idiot is someone I know, I have been known to reach over and pop them one across the back of the head to make them shut up. I'm fairly good at recognizing signs that someone's under stress, even if they're displaying unusually, and I have a lot of history that leads me to stand up for people who look cornered and can't get out of it themselves.)

A lot of the things that Sherlock does around John, that the general public are apparently arguing are selfish and manipulative, are things I interpret as Sherlock trying desperately to forge an emotional connection, and slamming into a hard limitation of one kind or another. He doesn't know what to do, doesn't know how to get it done, isn't experienced enough to really know what will happen afterwards, or is running into some kind of difference in thinking patterns that he can't immediately figure out well enough to explain. Judging from everyone else's reaction, they've never seen Sherlock sincerely try to connect with anyone else, ever. The idea of it, I think, surprises Sherlock rather a lot; he seems to not really know how to take it when John isn't skeeved out by an invitation to a crime scene, seems confused by John's confusion when he points out that John has failed to freak out in the cab on the way, and seems rather startled when John praises him again in front of Lestrade, and he finds it means something to him.

And to be honest, it kind of makes my heart go twang when people assume that he's just got John by the back of the mufti and is hauling him around to be his captive audience. Everyone else in Sherlock's life is quite surprised when he shows up with John because Sherlock typically does all of his brain-work alone. When he asked John to go with him to the first crime scene, the offer he was making -- and which he was probably terrified would be rejected -- was to share the only thing he has inside his head that he perceives to have any value at all outside of it. I'm not sure I can begin to describe what a precious, precarious thing Sherlock is trying to hand to someone else, and how much feeling like he's being trusted not to break someone so strange and isolated is probably exactly what John, otherwise utterly at loose ends, needs. There is a difference between co-dependence and symbiosis.

A lot of the peripheral behaviors, like the perching on chairs and so forth, I don't really even notice are odd until I sit down and pick things apart for analysis. I see them and I know they occur; they're just Things Sherlock Does. I deal similarly with friends IRL -- I don't think I really know anyone strictly normal anymore. Unusual mannerisms that aren't actually presenting a problem, other than sometimes being unexpected, I just kind of note down and file away for later reference. Many of Sherlock's are pulled straight from the canon, for what that's worth, and others are borrowed from Jeremy Brett, whom Cumberbatch has remarked was one of his influences while studying for the part.

It may also be worth noting that I also have this problem with a lot of people when talking about the original stories. They think Holmes is a cold, emotionless, humorless, asocial calculating machine, and I think they have lost their damn minds. Holmes thinks it's plenty hilarious when he's screwed up in a situation that doesn't result in anyone getting hurt, and several times when something has upset his sense of right and wrong, he's decided to not give someone guilty up to the police, or chased a miscreant out of the room with a fireplace poker to impress upon them that they must never do that again. Watson does do his best to present Holmes as the marvel of computational deduction he seems to want to be, but he also records a great deal of quiet affection between them. They watch each other, quite a lot. In the first novella, Watson sits himself down and writes out (for the reader) what amounts to a list of Weird Stuff My New Flatmate Does; he doesn't seem put out by it so much as he thinks it's horribly interesting to puzzle out how Holmes works. One of Holmes' favorite tricks, breaking into to Watson's thoughts with a conversational answer, I can tell you from personal experience cannot be done without first knowing the person you're talking to fairly well.


  1. Unfortunately they do. Even more if they know you are autistic.

    Because when your brain is weird it is your damn responsibility to make all the changes and efforts to be understood. And when I have moved 97% of the way, it can be difficult for my partner to remember that the 3% that are left are theirs to move.
    A lot of the problem comes from autism "awareness". We are not viewed as fully human by some value of general populous.

    1. This seems to be a common position people hold whenever anyone who's weird in any way shows up. I very much resented as a child when I was told I'd have more friends if I could just (pretend to) develop an interest in the same things as other girls my age. The idea of telling the other girls to (pretend to) develop an interest in quantum electrodynamics never occurred to them.

      It's especially pernicious when it's applied to gifted kids -- they often argue that, because we're extra-smart, it's easier for us to learn how to speak Normal than it is for normal people to learn how to speak Gifted. They're correct in that, but it still doesn't make them right.


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