Someone or something you can’t communicate with through writing (a baby, a pet, an object) can understand every single word you write today, for one day only. What do you tell them?
I compose a lot of angry letters in my mind to various people but I rarely actually write them down and if I do I never actually send them. This time I think I may have to, I don’t think I can let this particular issue go. But before I get to that I have to get my first point out of the way. Last year for this prompt I wrote to the internet and to Joachim Löw. This time around I’m going to do something a little different, though I do have a Löw related point to make. As it turns out I don’t need to repeat my plea from last year for Jogi to never cut his hair that way again, because I know something I didn’t back then. Now I know that it wasn’t of his own doing, that it was the work of the nefarious Herr Schneider.
Now I wouldn’t be writing a letter to him under any circumstances, regardless of whether he speaks English or not (I have no idea) or if my German were good enough to compose such a letter. It’s not merely a question of language issues but a question of loyalty (which despite what a certain TV article says I am not short of as a result of autism) which would prevent me from writing such a letter. That and the fact that the topic of said letter is patently ridiculous. Ridiculous it may be but it is extremely important. The point of the letter would be Herr Schneider I don’t trust you anyway but knowing what you did to the Bundestrainer’s hair means now I will never ever trust you. So if Germany are given any reason to celebrate next summer don’t get any ideas as to how to celebrate, do not repeat this:
And if I were to write to Jogi once more I would thank him for being so awesome, for providing so much video footage. But more importantly, please bring Hansi back. Sometimes time really does help, you really do get over someone leaving, it really does hurt less. For example I no longer miss Roman Bürki, Admir Mehmedi or Vladimir Darida. Of course the difference there is I like the replacements even more. I like Alexander Schwolow, Amir Abrashi and Vincenzo Grifo just fine. I guess in a way it’s a good thing that I don’t like the replacement because if I did I would just feel guilty about it.
My second unsent letter is somewhat different in the sense that this one may actually end up being sent and is much more serious. Yes, really, there is a matter more serious than protecting Jogi and his ever perfect hair. Though admittedly there aren’t many more issues that I would deem more important than that.
The issue in question is the character of Saga Noren from the Swedish/Danish TV show The Bridge and the actress who plays the aforementioned character, Sofia Helin.
In an interview a few years back you posited that Saga most be lonely, that people in autism in general must be lonely, because of the way they are always on the outside looking in. In making this assumption you are projecting your own feelings and your own point of view onto the situation. You are doing what autistic people are often accused of doing, you are lacking theory of mind. That is you lack the ability to imagine what it is Saga or any other autistic person may be thinking or feeling. It works both ways, just like autistic people may have trouble understanding things from a neurotypical perspective, so NTs may have trouble with the reverse.
Since then you’ve committed an even greater infraction, one that cannot be let go. First things first people with autism and Saga in particular are not lacking in empathy or loyalty. She has trouble making sense of such things, that’s true. But not understanding your feelings and not being able to show them in a conventional way or indeed in anyway at all, does not mean you don’t have them. As for lacking in loyalty, her partner Martin killed a man in cold blood. Now even if she wasn’t a police officer, what did you expect her to do? You can’t cover for someone when they’ve done something like that, I don’t care that Jens killed Martin’s son. That or nothing else would give Martin the right to murder him. Doing so was an extension of Jens’ logic, getting back on people, settling scores by killing people or hurting the ones they love. In fighting the enemy you can’t let yourself become him.
Saga neither lacks empathy nor loyalty, after all she let her sister live with her to escape their parents. If what you say were true she would not have done that. Though it seems you are not the only person to think this way. When discussing it in real life I was accused of lacking loyalty because I not only said that Saga did the right thing but because when asked what I would do in such a situation I refused to confirm that I would lie or cover for a friend in such a scenario. Loyalty to your friends is important, but if that loyalty involves compromising not only the law but your own moral code then you have to question what kind of a friendship it is.
The person I had that conversation with said that me and Saga have a lot in common in terms of mannerisms and non-verbal cues and that we both stop dead in the same way. Even that we sound alike which is interesting when you consider the language difference. Point is I took it as a compliment, now I don’t. Now I don’t want to have in anything in common with Saga, my appreciation of her is tainted by all of this.
With that in mind it pains me to note that in the second episode they actually got something right and they did it very well. I’m even more annoyed to note that I do a similar thing. Saga got stressed out over the appearance of her mother and to calm herself she took to aligning the books on the shelf. To taking them out of place so she could put them back again, making sure they were all perfectly lined up. I do that when I’m stressed out, though not with books. I do it with DVDs or games, and sometimes I do a similar thing with trading cards and stickers.
My next point relates to the fact you’ve decided not to mention the fact she has Aspergers in the show because Hans Rosenfeldt has decided that it means you’re free to do what you want with the character. I don’t agree, as long as you don’t mention it there will be people online who will make the argument that she doesn’t have AS, that she’s just emotionally damaged from what happened with her parents. And that people with autism just want to claim her as one of theirs, that she’s just the latest addition to a long line of quirky slightly autistic detectives but who don’t actually have autism. If there’s nothing wrong with having autism, if it’s not something to be ashamed of then name it. Like you say it’s not such a bad thing for her, it’s part of what makes her so good at her job. Just one damn line, just allude to it. That would be enough. And no what Thure Lindhardt’s character said does not count. “I think she has some type of medical condition” is not the right way. And whilst we’re on the subject, stop saying she has a “special kind of personality.” I just hope special is not an insult in Sweden the same way it is in English.
It’s obvious that a lot of research went into Saga, both by the writers and by you yourself. Which is great, it’s good to see someone take this seriously. Someone who doesn’t read an article on Wikipedia, read a book like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and decide you’ve done enough research. Apparently you met some people with AS too, as well as spending some time in character in the real world. All of that is great, especially the latter. But please don’t make the assumption that because you see how other people react to her, because you’ve spent some time playing her that because of this you know what it’s like to be autistic. That you can get into an autistic person’s head. Because I don’t think that’s something you can replicate.
I remember online someone once said in a discussion that they could understand a little what it was like to be autistic, that in fact most people could, because everyone knows what it’s like at one point or another to not get the joke or to be a little confused in a social situation. Because that’s all autism is, misunderstanding social situations. It was pointed out to them that it’s the equivalent of saying we all know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair because everyone has sat in a chair at some point.
You say that when you are Saga that you are less emotionally present, that you have to force yourself to think that way. Did you ever think about why she is such a creature of logic, about why she appears to have no feelings?
Because for some people, it’s not a question of not having any feelings but of having too many. Of them being too powerful to deal with, to understand and to express. It’s easier instead to shut them out, to act like you don’t have any, to rationalize everything and reduce it all to pure logic.
My final point relates to something that infuriates me so much I feel the need to quote the offending comments here: “I love her, I care for her and I can’t stand her at the same time. She would be annoying in real life, but as the viewer you love her. I don’t get a good feeling being her. She’s tense in her body, she moves fast. She exhausts me. I think of her a lot when I am not playing her. She’s like a relative, a close cousin you are forced to hang out with all summer even if you don’t like her. Because I wouldn’t want to hang out with her, who would?”
Wow, just wow, and I get accused of lacking empathy. Did you not consider how an autistic person may feel reading this? I get that you like and can’t stand her at the same time, I know people find her annoying. I know all this because people in real life feel the same way about me. But saying that you wouldn’t want to hang out with her, essentially saying why would anyone want to do that. That is something else entirely. Thanks for essentially saying there’s no reason for the few friends I do have to spend time with me, or to even like me at all.
And no, I don’t have so few friends because most people don’t like me. Although for the sake of honesty I’ll admit that is true, a lot of people don’t like me, not at first. But it’s not the reason why, the reason is that I find most people exhausting. In particular people like you. Because you talk so much and often about nothing at all. You’re so chatty and sociable it’s infuriatingly exhausting. You should keep in mind what the great Detective Fitch once said “it’s ok to have an unexpressed thought once in a while.”
I understand why a lot of people don’t like me, I know I’m too intense sometimes, a little too strange and random. I know that I make people nervous because they can’t read me, that is they can’t tell how I’m feeling or whatever from any non-verbal cues. But then I find lots of things about NTs frustrating, so I guess we’re kind of even.
To answer your question who’d want to hang out with Saga, I would. I would choose to work with her over you any day of the week. In fact I would choose her over you in any scenario. And one final thing, happiness is not a rare commodity in Saga’s world. Just because she doesn’t show any visible signs of happiness and just because you don’t understand the things that may make her happy, does mean she does not experience such things. I know even the people who know me well don’t always understand the things that make me happy. They don’t understand why something like an extra five seconds of Jogi footage can make my day, or why I collect football tickets or why I like stickers so much. Nor can they make sense of why I’d rather spend an evening with any of my characters than anyone in real life. Which makes my point really about you not being able to truly know what it’s like to be Saga. Because of all the people in question know about my quirks, they are well acquainted with many of them but they still don’t really understand them. They know but they don’t understand.