Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why I'm not excited about the new Deadpool movie, or Neurotypical Emulation Protocols (NEP)*


I was out with my husband last night shopping and doing errands and getting dinner when we started talking about the new Deadpool movie that will be coming out next year. He's excited about it -- likes the acknowledgement by the studios that the former appearance of Deadpool was just dumb, likes that they're being true to the comics with it. I have thus said that, although I can also appreciate these things, I will not be going to see it with him. He wondered why that was, and so I told him, and he suggested I post about it, which I am now.

*For the record, I do not yet have a diagnosis of autism. I have been referred to start the process of getting one, though, and my son is on the Spectrum, and my speech-language pathologist husband is convinced of it, so take that for whatever it's worth.

I have a large hole in my ability to get humor. I know that it's there, I know what triggers it, and I know what thus to avoid. I can tell when other people will find things funny, but I just look at it and try to make sense of it and completely do not feel whatever others feel when they see that. This isn't a case of "everyone's got a different sense of humor," although that is true. It's more about a side effect of coping with autism as an adult.

So, part of growing up and learning to adult as an autistic person is developing an ability to function in the world of other people despite not really understanding how it or they work. People on the Spectrum come to this in different ways at different times and some more than others, depending on what their particular symptoms are, how effective medication is at helping them, and how much they need and are capable of "passing," aka communicating with and reading other people enough to interact "normally" with them, or in other words, seeming non-autistic.

For me, I read. A lot. And I was naturally quiet and introverted, and I watched people and I listened to stories, and thus over the years I developed really good pattern recognition. I can't really tell what someone is thinking or feeling (unless I know them REALLY well, like with my husband and my children), though I have learned a bit about body language over the years, but I can take past behavior, stick it into my pattern recognition "program," and be able to say with a respectable accuracy rate what someone is likely going to do or why someone is doing what they're doing. It's not really reading someone or getting an emotional bead on them, but it's close enough. It does its work sufficiently well that I don't ping people as being on the spectrum unless they know me well and have seen the gaps in the protocol.

That said, it works on patterns. If too many unknowns get introduced, I'm completely lost. If I haven't predicted something happening and accounted for it, I'm completely at sea. And it doesn't account for my own reactions or ability to cope with things -- it's completely outward facing, if that makes any sense. I'm great at big picture as a result, and shit with detail oriented stuff -- unless it's something I can hyperfocus on, but then I lose sight of everything else. It isn't perfect. I'm not perfect -- far from it. It's just a coping tool, but one I've spent a lot of time refining in the name of survival.

So -- humor and Deadpool. So, keeping in mind the pattern recognition filter that I apply between myself and the rest of the world, the "hole" in my understanding of humor is randomness. I can't really abide it. It makes me anxious. Repetition of something that goes on long enough it becomes nonsensical, continuous non sequiturs, things out of order or stream of consciousness... random actions or words that don't seem to have a cause or appropriate response... gah. Even thinking about that makes gives me anxiety, much less being present for it. No pattern to read just makes all the things wibbly and brings out all my autistic brain, because it effectively shuts down that NEP filter and then I have to reboot things, and that takes time and a stable environment. Sometimes I can distance enough that I can maintain it even if I don't get the thing that's in front of me... usually that's when humor is going on that I don't get even while everyone around me is laughing hysterically. But this is why I don't go to chaotic places; I don't enjoy haunted houses, I don't like jump scares, I don't get a lot of non-representational art, and I don't like humor that depends on being random (the Three Stooges is sort of like this; I don't see the funny, I just see people randomly assaulting one another. No bueno). I couldn't watch 90s Cartoon Network, and I don't get a lot of postmodernist work for that same reason. Also certain memes, lots of animated gifs, 4chan, weird movies that play without sound in the background of busy noisy places, and surrealist stuff.

And this is why, when it comes to Deadpool, I'm going to give it a pass. The humor of it, from what I can gather, relies on him being rather random in associations and actions. I know from what past exposure I've had that I don't get it. I don't see an immersive movie of that being something worth buying a ticket for for me. I spend enough time sorting out my "threat evaluation" filter from just stuff that's going on. I don't need to give the poor overworked neurons any more to handle. So yeah.

Now, I'm not claiming that every autistic person does this. I know I've read things from a few that have filters and thinks of them the same way, but hardly enough to form an overwhelming sample. When I tell people that I want a diagnosis, though, and they say, "but you don't seem like you need it," that's because my NEP works. It does nothing to acknowledge my internal issues; nothing to show the stuff I go through, or how it gets in my way, or how it eventually undermines my relationships with people I like who don't know me well enough to understand how tiring it is to have that NEP filter running all the damn time when I'm out in the world, and how it robs me of energy to do other things that I'd like to do, but that need that filter even more. So if this sounds like you, know you're not alone. If it doesn't, but it sounds like someone else you know... a little acknowledgement of how hard they're working at normal goes a long way. Or at least, it does for me. Milage may vary. Caveat emptor.