Following on this post about the uncanny valley.
I wrote this a while ago (actually before the linked post), and now I kind of have mixed feelings about posting it? I’m not sure if it’s the best way to make this point. It’s kind of gross and not much more than gross. But, anyway, here is the thought exercise I did while thinking about the uncanny valley and me.
Characteristics of autism/common autism “symptoms” or “behaviors”, described as they might seem to a neurotypical horror movie character*:
- Says creepy things
- mimics your words back to you
- repeats phrases over and over in inappropriate contexts
- inappropriate volume– too loud or too quiet
- Unreality-seeming things: strange interests, repetitive behaviors, obliviousness to other people
- focuses intently on seemingly innocuous things, possibly on things you can’t even see/hear/etc.
- reacts as if in anger to seemingly innocuous, normal things, even to the point of destroying objects and attacking people
- reacts as if in pain to seemingly innocuous, normal things, e.g. normal levels of noise and light, things like music that are supposed to be pleasant
- doesn’t make eye contact
- no response or delayed response to things that you’d expect to get their attention, e.g. talking to them/calling their name
- keeps doing the same thing over and over even when you try to interrupt them
- Creepy body language
- the things they pick to do over and over are strange things associated with negative emotions or lack of self-control, e.g. rocking back and forth, self-harm
- apparent lack of facial expressions or other emotional body language
- stiff, limp, lopsided or otherwise strange posture
- Self-harm/self-injurious behaviors are kind of a horror-inducing thing in themselves, aren’t they? Especially when repeated over and over, especially when a (notionally cute and innocent) child is doing them.
* What I mean by this is, someone who doesn’t know anything about autism and is predisposed to feel creeped out rather than concerned for the safety of the person doing these things. These descriptions have a deliberate creepy slant.
In actual everyday life, where people may be somewhat educated about autism, and where autistic people are sometimes able to reassure others and explain why they do these things, and where people have just as much of an innate tendency to go “meh, boring” as they do to feel creeped out, these things aren’t going to get a negative reaction all the time.
It’s just fascinating to me how much room there is here for comparison. Obviously autistic people don’t have a monopoly on disability-as-creepiness, and even a lot of these specific tropes/characteristics apply to other disabilities, too. The overlap between “horror movie villain/monster tropes” and “characteristics of disability/mental illness” is really big overall. I’m still just a little amazed, because I didn’t expect this list to be nearly this long when I started.
I don’t really watch horror movies, but I still feel like these are all things I’ve seen a Creepy Horror Movie Child do– even though my main exposure to that trope is solely through advertisements.
Wikipedia on the concept of the uncanny valley
TVTropes on the uncanny valley in media
TVTropes on creepy children and creepy dolls in media
TVTropes on the creepiness of overly formal grammar and monotone voices, and when nursery songs are scary