Why Glee’s portrayal of Asperger’s is so offensive!

I waited for a couple of days to A) give myself time to cool off and B) see if Glee would apologize.  I really liked that show and I really wanted them to apologize.  The funny thing is I H-A-T-E musicals with very few exceptions Grease and Rocky Horror Picture show the only other two.  But Glee just spoke to me.  Maybe because they were the underdogs and were always bullied by the jocks.  I don’t have a musical bone in my body but I could relate to not fitting in and I wanted the kids in Glee to succeed.

This post is about my perspective and why I am upset.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and it is clear not everyone does.  And I am still pretty upset so if I don’t explain something clearly I am sorry please feel free to comment or also go tell Glee why you are upset!   I did try to let the producers know why I am upset.  I tweeted @GLEEonFOX  loved ur show u have handled homosexuality, downs & bullying so well.  Why handle #asperger‘s & #autism in this distasteful way?

And then on their facebook wall I posted the following:

“I have always enjoyed the show and admired how it took on such difficult subjects and portrayed them so well- teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, downs, bullying, but the portrayel of Asperger’s was horrible.  Maybe the producers (loved Nip/Tuck too btw) don’t understand that due to the invisibleness of Asperger’s teachers sometimes actually do think that my son is using it as an excuse.  My son is very bright but has difficulty in certain social situations, and with performing certain tasks.  It is not an excuse for behaving a certain way and he has to work extra hard to get along with his peers.  And I have had to work extra hard to educate teachers and anyone else that interacts with him that he truly does want to do the right thing.  Anyone who gets to know him realizes that.”

I would like to think that the producers don’t understand how bad this was.  Some of the people that posted on the wall commented that because the person said they were “self-diagnosed” that meant it was a joke.  REALLY?  How many people with Asperger’s are self diagnosed?  Before my son finally received his official diagnosis I had to sit in a room with the teachers and say well I know he isn’t diagnosed on the spectrum but how do you handle change with kids on the spectrum because maybe you should do the same with him?  So he was “self-diagnosed” or “mom-diagnosed” or “counselor-diagnosed” for a long time.

I think what really upsets me the most about this is that Glee has handled so many issues in such an insightful way while still maintaining a certain edge.  It was a real slap in the face because I just expected better from them.

Other shows I expect to be crude and I don’t generally watch them.  My son really enjoys watching the show Family Guy.  That show is all around inappropriate and I only started letting him watch it this year after years of begging.  I certainly would never look to that show to provide guidance on how to deal with difficult issues.  When my son watches Family Guy, I say “That is so wrong” and he says “wrong but funny”.  He knows that show makes fun of anything and everything and is not the model for appropriate behavior.   Glee is just different.

My son usually watches Glee with me so I greatly appreciate @TannersDad for being the first on Twitter to sound the alarm. Luckily I DVR things so we were not watching it in real time.  Normally my son would have been watching it with me but after reading the reports on Twitter I waited till he went to bed.  I didn’t want my son to watch anything negative about Asperger’s.  He is still struggling with the diagnosis and what it means.

My son is just learning what his limitations are and that it is okay to ask a teacher for help and to tell them what assistance he needs.  I have had to explain to teachers in the past that he really is not doing this on purpose.  The struggle he always faces is that teachers look at him and think he doesn’t have a disability.  So then when he refuses to do an assignment they think he is doing it on purpose.

We are constantly trying to educate the teachers about Asperger’s and how it can affect his performance.  We fight all the time for them to understand that he is stuck on some part of the assignment and that if they work with him he will do it.

What would “I have Asperger’s I can say what I want” do to undermine all of that work if my son saw that or the teachers that work with him.  Someone may think the teachers now better.  I wish that were true.  There are some really good teachers out there but my son has certainly had his share of teachers that did not try to understand him.

I have posted before that my husband/his father has actually been one of the people over the years to not understand our son.  I have worked very hard to educate my husband, and the official diagnosis has helped.  I must say I was really proud of my husband during Glee when he said “That’s just wrong, that isn’t what he is like.”  I can only hope that other people felt the same way.

All we can do now is continue to educate and raise awareness about Autism and Asperger’s and hope that more people say “That was just wrong”.  I am also still waiting for an apology.  Hopefully someone will tweet me when they fix it because I don’t plan to watch next week.  One Gleek has walked away.


  1. I commend you for looking out for your son an I appreciate you as a parent of an Aspie voicing your thoughts on this. I haven’t seen the show, but everything I’ve heard about this episode is just appalling. The show’s been praised for its anti-bullying messaging, yet it turns around and sets up people with Asperger’s to be bullied, by overtly questioning the legitimacy of their condition like this? Or judging by the replies to your FB say, make it look like a “joke”? Yeah, I’m not OK with that. Imagine if they did this to ANY other disability?

  2. I totally agree! I’m hoping they remedy it this week, or otherwise I think I’ll quit watching.

  3. Jess Roberts says:

    As a psychology major working my way toward my bachelor’s degree, I’m currently volunteering with the special education department at a middle school not far from campus. Some of the most amazing kids I’ve worked with have Asperger’s. It is not something to be mocked for the sake of getting a laugh out of an audience on a primetime television show. Especially not one with a target audience that includes children. I’ve been a Glee fan from the first season in fall of 2009, but now I’m no longer watching the show. Shame on Ryan Murphy for thinking he can get away with targeting those living with this disease!

    • Thank you for stopping by and supporting the cause.
      I am so disappointed because I really like Ryan Murphy’s work!

    • It’s NOT a disease! Ugh.

      I don’t know how I didn’t see this post before. I flipped out about this when it happened… and to date, they haven’t fixed it, or even MENTIONED it again.

      I only know, because – as much as I wanted to quit watching the show – my husband still loves it. He’s mad about the Aspergers thing, but is hoping they address it soon.

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