Category Archives: Politics

Diarrhea, Mechanical Horses, Ghost Taco Bells And More: 10 Sarah Hit Stories

Sarah in Portmeirion, where The Prisoner was filmed.

Sarah in Portmeirion, where The Prisoner was filmed.

Sarah’s first book I Overcame My Autism And All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder: A Memoir is being released April 18, 2020.

Below is a small list of other notable pieces she has contributed to various publications around the world:

Dysfunction, Drama, and Diarrhea: The Making of ‘The Magnificent Seven’
Diarrhea comes up in the Risky Fuel household quite often. The throughlines for this being a) Sarah’s Robert Vaughn fandom, b) Vaughn and the rest of the cast having diarrhea on the set of The Magnificent Seven, and c) Sarah finding this really funny.

Requiem for a Small-Town Taco Bell: Welland, Ontario
A Taco Bell in a small town. This impossibly bright beacon would shine forever. But nothing lasts forever.

Depression-Busting Exercise Tips For People Too Depressed To Exercise
Sometimes just doing anything is what counts. This piece was incredibly popular and incredibly valuable when Sarah wrote it a few years ago. It’s probably more valuable right now.

Time Is Running Out for a Beloved Mechanical Horse-Race Game in Vegas
In which Sarah and a billionaire casino owner consider their shared love for a mechanical horse racing game, the last of its kind.

Fire Walked with Me: Living a Real-Life Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks eerily paralleled the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka in the Niagara region. The impact these crimes had on a 10-year-old girl from the area linger still.

In Memoriam: That Time Daisuke Sasaki Had A Sword
Japanese professional wrestler and troubled dirtbag Daisuke Sasaki won a ceremonial sword in a match. And then a short time later he lost it. It was a journey.

Delta Let Someone Steal My Luggage And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
What happened when Sarah’s luggage got stolen at McCarran International Airport.

When the Way You Love Things Is “Too Much”; or: Why I Went to Portmeirion
Reflections on a journey to Portmeirion in North Wales to pay homage in the location where idiosyncratic spy show The Prisoner was filmed.

Nothing Has Prepared Me For The Reality of Womanhood Better Than “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”
Sarah was told that films like this exploited young women, but for her it didn’t feel degrading — it felt familiar.

Real Autism
This is the piece that kick-started I Overcame My Autism And All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder into existence.

 

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Filed under Art, Books, Comedy, Culture, Health, Jock Stuff, Music, Politics, Recollections, Television

Critics of Hannah Gadsby Don’t Understand Autism

When comedian writer Hannah Gadsby debuted her new work Douglas it was meant to provide a lens into her world of high-functioning autism.

Predictably, some critics didn’t get it.

Sarah explained how these critics missed the point in a piece on Medium.

Read it by clicking here.

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Filed under Comedy, Politics, Shameless Promotion

Samaritan News 19 Pack: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Ellen, More

David Gilmour, ex-Pink Floyd

Here are 19 pieces I contributed to the charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag:

Lana Del Rey Releases New Anti-Gun Song, Proceeds Will Support Three Mass Shooter Victim Funds

Sonic Unyon, Jillard Guitars Creating 25 Custom Guitars To Support An Instrument For Every Child Charity

WATCH: Roger Hodgson and Young Musicians on Autism Spectrum Perform Give A Little Bit

Gilroy Garlic Festival Has Donated Millions of Dollars Over 40 Years

Tenille Townes’ New Single Supports Homeless Girl Scouts

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund Report Reveals Organization Has Supported Reconciliation Efforts In 561 Schools

Grammy Museum Gives $200,000 To Music Science, Archive Projects

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sells 120 Guitars, Raises $21.5 Million To Fight Climate Crisis

Eagles Rising Billboard Campaign About Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Taylor Swift Releases Video For Pro-LGBTQ Song “You Need To Calm Down”

Radiohead Use Ransom Threat To Support Climate Crisis Group Extinction Rebellion

Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” Reimagined For 25th Anniversary To Help Find Missing Children

Ellen DeGeneres Backs Virtual Reality Game Used To Protect Gorillas In Rwanda

National Music Centre Unveils Indigenous Music Week Programming and Permanent Exhibit on Musician Activists

Sufjan Stevens Releases Two Songs For Pride Month

Apple Expands Number Of Locations To Recycle Old Devices

Prince Harry and Meghan Do Instagram Purge Then Support 16 Mental Health Causes

Royal Conservatory’s Signature Fundraiser To Honour Rock Legends Lighthouse

Hardcore Punk Vets D.O.A. Declare Time To Fight Back With New Video

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Health, Music, Politics, Shameless Promotion

TIFF 2019: The Laundromat Means Well, But Doesn’t Advance The Class War

The Laundromat

Meant to be some sort of parable about the Panama Papers and the financial industry and the machinations of the greedy, what The Laundromat boasts in good intentions it misses in actual execution.

Put it this way: it’s not going to be the movie that motivates the masses in the forthcoming class war. At least that’s how Sarah feels.

She reviewed the film at the Toronto International Film Festival for Consequence of Sound.

To read her review go here.

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Fake Autism Treatments Are Both Dangerous And Insulting

Despite being thoroughly scientifically debunked, there continue to be be substantial numbers of parents who hold peculiar beliefs related to a) the causes of, and b) cures for their children’s autism.

In a piece for Vox’s First Person essay section Sarah explained why this sort of thinking is both dangerous and insulting.

To read the piece go here.

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Samaritan News 15 Pack: Ryan Reynolds, NHL, Metallica, More

Ryan Reynolds vs. Hugh Jackman

Here’s a collection of 15 posts I contributed to the charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag:

Vancouver Act Galactic Hobos Donating Proceeds From Two New Singles To Parkinson’s Research

Canadian Music Industry Rallies To Support Veteran Music Journalist Lenny Stoute

Girl Gang Goodies, Tonic Blooms Team Up To Support Sistering Toronto

Stephen Marley Tour To Raise Money For Ghetto Youths Foundation

WATCH: Feud Between Ryan Reynolds And Hugh Jackman Shows How Coffee Company Is Helping People

Grammy Awards Dolly Parton Tribute, Compilation Album, Memorabilia Auction To Benefit MusiCares Charity

Tim Hortons Co-Founder Ron Joyce Leaves A Lasting Charitable Legacy

NFL To Give NFL Award Money To Colin Kaepernick Initiative

Terra Lightfoot, Lindi Ortega And Begonia Tour To Benefit Four Charities

Bell Let’s Talk: What Bell Media Does For Mental Health All Year Round

Winter Sports Camp For Veterans With Disabilities Kicks Off In California

Snowboarder Mark McMorris Directs Proceeds of His Kiehl’s Cream to Kids Sports Foundation

Arcade Fire, Arkells, Dan Mangan, Peaches Among Many Canadian Musicians Supporting Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders

NHL All-Star Game Jerseys Will Be Made Of Repurposed Marine Plastics

Metallica To Release Acoustic Live Double Album On Vinyl For Charity

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Imagining A Fuller Spectrum Of Autism On TV

Julia, the autistic Muppet.

Julia, the autistic Muppet.

Autism is currently enjoying an unprecedented wave of popularity in film and television. From educational programming to tent-pole blockbusters, new stories have been breaking boundaries, warming hearts, and raising awareness around the neurodevelopmental condition, which is currently diagnosed in one in 68 children. Once relegated to glorified props in prestige Oscar-bait like Rain Man, autistic characters can now be gun-brandishing action heroes, charmingly horny teenagers, and progress-making muppets.

Still, while fictional autistics are being enthusiastically embraced by non-autistic artists and viewers alike, their reception among real-life autistic people like me has been far more ambivalent. Atypical and The Good Doctor both offer portrayals of brilliant young men on the spectrum, and both shows have their supporters among autistic critics and fans. I’m genuinely excited about Sesame Street‘s Julia, a four-year-old autistic muppet, and the positive influence that her visibility will have on the next generation. In general, though, these explicitly identified characters rarely become as popular as the other characters that we’ve claimed for ourselves.

Faced with a climate where most mainstream portrayals of autism are crafted almost entirely by non-autistic people—often seemingly for a non-autistic audience—autistic people have been forced to get creative in our search for meaningful representation. Some, like autistic authors Rachael Lucas, Helen Hoang, and Corinne Duyvis have successfully created their own characters and stories in books like The State of Grace, On the Edge of Gone, and the forthcoming The Kiss Quotient. Many more have taken to blogs and social media to offer armchair diagnoses about already existing characters, discussing why we think they might be one of us. These readings are called “autistic headcanons”—the process of specifically adding autism to our personal understanding of a character, all in the context of the story.

As an autistic writer who spends a lot of time online, I find the act of forming and discussing autistic headcanons to be a fascinating look into the way that autistic people can use pop culture to better understand ourselves and the world around us. What I find most interesting, though, is how little overlap there is between the characters that are ostensibly created in our image by others, and the characters that we choose for ourselves.

An enthusiasm for headcanons is not, as I’m sure many non-autistic people might suspect, a desire to glamorize our condition, nor a symptom of our deficient empathy or theory of mind. Whenever there’s a chasm between conventional assumptions about autism and the beliefs of self-advocates, there’s a tendency for a certain segment of the neurotypical population to blame the discrepancy on autism itself. But that argument is often easily refuted by the content of the autistic headcanon discussions themselves. Autistic people aren’t gravitating toward certain characters simply because we are looking for a very specific recreation of our own experience on the spectrum. We understand that people experience the world differently, and that each autistic individual is unique—and it’s that range of experience that we’re longing to see better represented on screen.

As prevalent as autism has become in film and TV lately, it still tends to look, sound, and behave a certain way. With the exception of Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) in The Bridge and Wendy (Dakota Fanning) in the recently released Please Stand By, these characters are almost invariably young men. With the exception of Billy (R.J. Cyler), the Blue Ranger from 2017’s Power Rangers, they’re almost exclusively white. Heterosexuality, cis-genderhood, and savantism are all disproportionately represented. Most of these characters appear to be constructed from the same checklist of common symptoms: no eye contact, a flat-affect voice, and generically awkward body language.

Cherry-pick a few posts on blogs or Tumblr accounts like “Autistic Headcanons” and “Your Faves Are Autistic,” though, and you’ll soon glimpse a much broader spectrum of identities, personalities, and experiences. Claiming Holtzmann — Kate McKinnon’s character in Ghostbusters, for example — allowed autistic fans to discuss everything from her sensory-friendly wardrobe choices to her echolalia-like speech patterns to her queerness. Analyzing the physicality of characters as diverse as Ren McCormack from the original Footloose, South Park‘s Kyle, and Disney’s Snow White brings a much broader view to the kinds of repetitive movements that autistic people employ to stim. Star Trek: Discovery‘s Michael Burnham, a human with Vulcan training, has recently struck a chord with autistic people who have emotions, but sometimes struggle to process or express them. Headcanon after headcanon, autistic people are demanding—and envisioning—more from an industry that’s increasingly profiting from our lives.

In a 2015 post titled “A Headcanon Named Autism: In Defense of Finding Our Own Representation,” the anonymous blogger Feminist Aspie wrote:

I want to see a world where books and TV shows and films depict autistic people of color, LGBTQIA+ autistic people, autistic women, autistic people with other disabilities, autistic people who can pass for neurotypical and who can’t, autistic people who are verbal, non-verbal, partially verbal, autistic people with all kinds of special interests, autistic people who use special interests in their work and those who don’t, autistic people who are hypersensitive and hyposensitive and sensory-seeking, autistic people of all ages and all occupations, autistic heroes, autistic villains, autistic geeks and autistic sports captains and everything in between, with good qualities and flaws that are related to autism and those that aren’t related to autism at all—realistic, multi-dimensional autistic characters that don’t feel hollow or like the butt of a joke. And until that’s achieved, autistic media consumers everywhere will keep working our headcanon magic.

Whether or not pop culture can outgrow the need for autistic headcanons is largely dependent on what non-autistic people — the other 67 in 68 — genuinely think about us. If we are, as I’ve argued before, little more than a challenge or accessory for neurotypical artists and a prop for neurotypical audiences, then their autistic counterparts must continue to forge our own path. If the current wave of autism entertainment is just the start of a greater public hunger for more and better autism representation, then the rest of the world will have to start making more space for a wider range of autistic people on both sides of the screen. If we can expand the conversation and the vision for autistic characters when armed with little more than existing properties and Internet access, imagine what we could do with our own characters and the means with which to share them.

This story was originally published February 22, 2018 via Pacific Standard

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