As we noticed earlier this year with "Black Panther", it really has a strong psychological benefit for people to see protagonists in the media who look or think like them. I never sought that out myself. I never yearned to see any explicitly Aspie or autistic protagonists, probably because I'm a white male and have seen enough white male protagonists to last twelve lifetimes and nullify any other psychological need I might have. But last semester in my Advanced Fiction Writing class, Maria Allen wrote a story with an Aspie protagonist. A male Aspie protagonist who may or may not have been white. And I'm not the litmus test for autism by any means, but the unmistakable similarity of his thought process to mine proved that she had done her research. And it felt really, really good. It healed something in my soul. What does that have to do with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"? I'm glad you asked. Let me tell you.
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" stars an autistic boy named Christopher who loves animals. Huh. I don't want to ruin the play by saying too much about it, so suffice to say that it was really good. Like, I was worried about whether I could set aside my current Legend of Zelda obsession enough to care about something unrelated for three hours, but that turned out not to be a problem. I was able to see it because it was shown for free by a small theater troupe known as the Restless Observers. It was in the USU Fine Arts building, and I've been in the Fine Arts building many times but not in all of its approximately two thousand rooms, so I wasn't expecting such a small and intimate theater to be so small and intimate. There were still a couple spots open right in the middle of the front row, and I grabbed one. Suckers. What possible reason could anyone have for not wanting a seat right in the middle of the front row? So it turned out that one possible reason why someone may not want a seat right in the middle of the front row is that when two characters walk to opposite ends of the stage while holding a conversation, you have to be like
The most impactful thing about this play, of course, was the protagonist. Despite being lower-functioning than me and also fictional, he had some unmistakable similarities to me and I felt a kinship and a piece of his pain. The first time he screeched autistically I felt uncomfortable because, you know, in the real world you don't imitate an autistic person unless you're mocking him. This was different. I got used to it. This is the first and only time in my life that I've seen low-functioning autism portrayed in a positive light. While I have thankfully seen plenty of people sticking up for autistic children against anti-vaxxers, this comes more from a place of pity and isn't quite the same as just acknowledging their existence. To see a non-autistic actor pretend to be autistic just as if he were pretending to be a lawyer or a police officer or a brunette, as if these traits he's emulating are just part of being a kind of person, not something to be vilified or shunned or pitied or eradicated, is more impactful than I can put into words. And I'm usually pretty good with words. So watch it sometime, or maybe read the book, because as good as the play is, the book is usually better.