I still remember those days
Where my mind was my worst enemy,
Not giving me rest.
Held captive by my own limbs,
Marking my flesh to show
But now those days are over,
Now my body is next to yours
I still remember those days
Where my mind was my worst enemy,
Not giving me rest.
Held captive by my own limbs,
Marking my flesh to show
But now those days are over,
Now my body is next to yours
I’ve never been a fan
Of my late night mini existential crises
Awake until 1 a.m
Or until I am
Apologies for not uploading for the last week or so, I had a few things going on in my life and I dropped the ball. But luckily, it’s Easter soon, so I can focus on uploading regular content. Anyway, to start off the posting again, I’m going to be doing #escapril, thanks to my girlfriend for telling me about it
Sitting on your bed, I smell
The sweet scent of shampoo
On your red-tipped hair. It reminds me
Of when I was last happy:
When I was younger.
Playing in the mud, the damp earth
Under my fingernails. Looking
Up at the sky, filling my
Nostrils with the essence of daisies
A blade of grass squeaks between my fingers.
But now, the saccharine fragrance of youth
Is behind me.
It has been replaced, with the mellow
Tang of forever.
Hello my beautiful readers and welcome to the follow up to my #PUPPETGATE post. If you haven’t read it, please spend some time to do so. If however you already have or you’re familiar with the news of it, then this post will explain some of my vague points more clearly.
If you want to see the original tweet thread, then click here
Lets start with writing quality. It’s bad. So very bad. A lot of times, the writer simply forgets to add stage directions or tone of voice, instead relying on the most basic of directions so at least this play contains some level of acting. While this wouldn’t normally be such of a problem, it has far reaching effects on the play as a whole.
I’ll skip over the foreward and get right into the meat of the issue. Throughout the play it becomes obvious that the adults are talking about Laurence instead of to him. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but the playwright often fails to include stage directions for Laurence, meaning that the abuse of the parents is being said while Laurence is in the room. Laurence is also able to understand ‘complex’ English when we’re shown he understands a 20-minute timer going off means he can have pizza. This leads to the shocking conclusion: Laurence understands every bit of abuse the parents throw his way. The fact they don’t understand this is even more disturbing.
Before I go any further, I just want to mention that I read this article on Friday. It has taken me until Sunday to come to terms with what I was reading. Here’s why:
The opening line of dialogue is spoken by the care-taker Gary. He says, and I quote: “Down. Laurence. Get Down.” I hope I don’t have to point out that Laurence is being treated like a pet and not like a human child., all because the characters think he can’t understand English. Even if Laurence couldn’t understand grammatical sentences, it’s no excuse to treat him like a dog. There are plenty of ways you can communicate with someone who doesn’t understand complex grammatical structures without sounding like a dictator. As mentioned before, there is no indication of how the actor should say this. In my opinion, while the dialogue isn’t perfect, I’d at least excuse it if the character was being loving or gentle. Since there is no tone of voice, it makes him come across as some Stalin-ist robot.
While we’re on the subject of dialogue, the parents often say things like “Mummy is spoiling you, yes she is. Is Mummy on the wine again? Yes she is, yes she is.” Laurence is 11. This is not how you talk to an 11 year old, autistic or not. My girlfriend pointed out that when she was in college learning about how parents use language, this simple repetition and sentence structure is used for 1 year olds, and even then it still sound condescending. And this isn’t a one-off. All three adults in the play use this style of speech whenever they talk to Laurence. It’s really frustrating to me as an autisitic person to see adults act this way. I’ll be saving non-Laurence related issues until the end of the post, but trust me, all the adults are scum.
Martin, who is Laurence’s dad (I think? It’s kind of vague) frequently gets Laurence into a lockhold. A number of issues here. First, physical violence and discipline should never be used on a child, no matter how bad their behaviour is. Secondly, Martin himself recognises it’s child abuse, but rationalises it as “the only kind that stops him biting you”. Again, even if your child is biting you, that’s not an excuse to pin them. Thirdly, this kind of hold is extremely dangerous. 2 months before this play debuted, Max Benson, a 13-year old boy from America, died after being restrained face down by the staff at his school. The play never brings this up, nor do any of the characters outright disagree with this ‘punishment’. THESE CHARACTERS ARE VILE!
Martin boils my blood so much he needs a dedicated paragraph to himself, so that will be coming much later. In the mean time, lets get back to Laurence. We open the play and he wants pizza. He’s already had some so Gary refuses. When Martin enters, Laurence leads him to the fridge. Martin also refuses. When Tamora gets in, she gives him half a pizza and sets a timer for 20 minutes so he can have the other half. They also deny him cake. Why do they not feed this child? He’s clearly hungry and even if the characters don’t want him just eating junk food, do they not have anything else in the house? Gary fed him watermelon earlier, so it’s not like they live entierly on junk food. But still, why not just let him eat? There’s nothing wrong with giving your child a little more food if you monitor it properly.
Another thing that bothers me is the parents often saying Laurence chooses not to speak. They clearly don’t understand his form of autism. Laurence doesn’t choose not to speak, he doesn’t know how. His brain is wired in such a way that he’s able to understand language, but can’t reciprocate verbally. The whole idea that ‘he chooses not to’ paints Laurence as a lazy child, instead of addressing the specific problems he faces in life. I shouldn’t have to point out how damaging this could be to parents of non-verbal children.
Right, now onto some of the more vile things. Bare in mind that all of these are being said IN FRONT OF LAURENCE.
Lets start with arguably the more innocent character in all of this, Tamora. Although, that’s not really something to be proud of – she’s still a disgusting person. She talks about trying to “cure” Laurence with toxoplasmosis. For those who don’t know, toxoplasmosis involves injecting someone with a germ that can cause fever-like symptoms. It’s also commonly found in cat shit. Apart from being a completely ridiculous and illogical cure, does she not realise autism is genetic? It can’t be cured, it can only be mamnaged. Autistic people will never be ‘cured’, and in all honesty, we don’t want to be. There’s nothing wrong with us. It’s like trying to cure someone with Down’s Syndrome. There isn’t a cure, because there doesn’t need to be. This promotion of ‘curing autism’ is really damaging.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, she also sexually harasses Gary. She uses her position of power to force him to kiss her. I kid you not, she honestly says “I’m your employer. Kiss me.” Flip the tables, and I’m sure the problem with this would cause outrage. I’m not saying people overlook this behaviour because she’s a woman. I know that anyone with half a brain would see that this is an abuse of power and sexual assault, no matter the gender. It doesn’t seemed to have bought up in conversations much about this play from those who support it.
She’s also worried about her reputation as a mother. This woman is sending her child 200 miles away, and her primary concern is how she’ll look to other people?
She verbally abuses Laurence after finding feces on her pillow (I’ll explain later). She says – to his face – “You little bloody monster. I won’t miss this.” Why? Why does she feel the need to attack her son like this? Again, Laurence understands English, so he understands his mother is angry at him, which is even worse when he’s not at fault. If this was an allistic adult talking to an allistic child, Child Services would be called immediately.
Speaking of CS, Gary needs to grow a sense of responsibility. Not only is Gary aware of the verbal abuse, he has a conversation with Martin about using restraints on Laurence. He knows this restraint is bruising Laurence, and that it isn’t a one off- Martn talks about how he’s upset they won’t be able to restrain Laurence at the institution. Gary, as a hired care-worker, should immediately be reporting these people for multiple accounts of abuse. But why doesn’t he? “I know there’s procedure, I know. But my loyalty is to you guys and I’d never have dropped you in it.” Gary is much more concerned about his friendship with these vile humans than ACTUALLY DOING HIS JOB! Gary also says possibly the worst thing in this play. He proposes his theory that people with special needs are aimals reincarnated into humans. Wrongly. He believes that Laurence, the child he is being payed to look after, was an animal in a previous life. This explains why he talks to him like a dog: he thinks he is one. He even says so himself when he compares Laurence to a puppy. And not in a loving, joking way. He honestly thinks Laurence is a dog in a human body. When a carer says something so psychologically damaging, you know you’ve fucked up.
Now to the devil incarnate: Martin. Martin is singlehandedly the worst villain in all of fiction. He confesses early in the play that he’s the one deficating on Tamora’s pillows and letting Laurence get the blame for it. When Tamora confronts him, the stage direction is ‘Martin can barely contain his grin.’ This man is happy his son is being blamed and verbally attacked for something he knows full well he did not do. He doesn’t step in at all, doesn’t correct Tamora, he just lets Laurence take the full brunt of the abuse. That, in itself, would be grounds to hate this man. But it gets so much worse.
At the start, Laurence is watching Finding Nemo on an iPad. Martin comes in and in front of his child starts talking about Disney porn. This would be extremely innapropriate at any time outside a close friend group, but to do it in front of his son?
Another form of his torture comes when he reveals that not only does he blame the shit on Tamora’s pillows on Laurence, but he also pissed on Laurence’s books, in his iPad battery port and his makeup table. He also lets Laurence get the blame for this later.
I’m going to quickly rattle off everything else he does.
He compares Tamora to a parasite because she has been unable to sell her invention to an investor, but still gets grants. He restrains Laurence with a cushion. He compares Laurence to the Incredible Hulk because he has meltdowns. He accuses his wife of being an alcoholic when he later drinks beer and gets high. He recognises that the institution they are sending Laurence to follows regulations he doesn’t (such as BEATING CHILDREN). He pressures Gary to drink, knowing he’s responsible for Laurence. He, nor Tamora, know what stimming is, so they get angry at Laurence for mushing food into the carpet. He makes a joke about Laurence and E colours. Apparently Martin does want Laurence, but has no reservations about saying his child is “fucked, chemically lobotmized” in front of Laurence. He talks about herpes in front of Laurence, as well as fellating priests. When Gary offers his theory, Martin jokes about quadriplegics being slugs. He forces Tamora’s invention on Laurence, not understanding that his son might not like physical touch. Martin says he loves Laurence as he is. Can you see why I hate this man? He also asks if its possible to love someone but wonder what it would be like if they were someone else. How does this make sense? If you love someone, you love them for who they are, not what you want them to be.
Wrapping this post up to an end, I want to point out one major thing. No one, and I mean no one, in this play acknowledges the fact that Laurence can understand what they are saying, despite the fact Tamora tells Martin not to talk about herpes in front of him. Laurence has several meltdowns throughout the play, and no one addresses him afterwards. In fact, no one talks to Laurence unless they are telling him to do something. It never occurs to these characters that he has feelings, or that anything they say to/about him is upsetting the slightest.
FUCK. THIS. PLAY
Hello all. I don’t normally advocate for boycotts (for reasons too complicated to get into here) but in this case, this is something I would highly recommend. If you’re not sure of what’s happened, I’ll give you a brief story.
A London playhouse has shown a play of a famil with an autisitc child. Seems harmless enoug. Except when you read further and the child is being institutionalised because the mother can no longer cope. I will be giving my experiences with autism at the end of the post, so please stick around for that. Or just skip to the end, either way is cool.
This enraged me no end. For a start, forced institutionalisation is never something to be celebrated, which the play did. It should be critiqued and showm to be an extremely painful and damaging process. However, this isn’t the worst of it.
The child in question is on the far more extreme end of the autism spectrum, leading to violent outbursts due to him being non-verbal. Said child will be played by a puppet instead of an actor. A. Puppet. It’s bad enough that the stigma around autism has gotten to the point that some people list is a reason not to vaccinate children for fear their children will get it, but to be explicitly portrayed by an inanimate, non-human object is disrespectful and degrading.
From now on, I will be quoting from a post made on a Facebook page, which includes screenshots from a Tumblr (I think?) user called ‘cllynchauthor’. I will provide the link to the post at the end.
Firstly, the playhouse recieved justified backlash from pro-autism activists and what cllynchauthor calls “Autistic Twitter” about the choice of using a puppet instead of an actor. The playhouse explained this choice, citing “child labour laws”. I agree with them here: child labour laws would be especially difficult to get over if they decided to cast a child actor with autism to this degree. However, as Twitter pointed out, why didn’t they hire a small adult actor? My advise would be to rewrite the script so the child in question is now an older teenager or a young adult, somewhere between 16-25. This doesn’t give them any troubles with labour laws, and would potentially offer a more nuanced performance by the actor.
Another excuse the playhouse gave for using a puppet was the ‘realism’ they were looking for without wanting to fall into stereotypes. This raised a major issue when I listened to their promotional video (-). A non-verbal child who doesn’t understand social interactions is less likely to be able to use subtle non-verbal communication in their lives. They simply don’t have the mental capacity to understand how a subtle facial expression or head movement can give a range of meanings. This is something the playhouse wanted. They wanted a more nuanced performance. Unfortunately, that’s not how autism works. While autism is on a very range spectrum, and I’d hate to stereotype myself, autistic children can’t understand the complex social communication between allistic (people without a diagnosis/obvious signs of autism) can. They are applying a standard of realism that renders the reality of this type of character unrealistic.
Another reason given was that the character was aggressive and sometimes lashed out. I find it hard to believe that this is an acceptable excuse for using a puppet, considering teenagers can appropriately act out violence and death across multiple levels of media. If you think about all the child and teenage actors who have had to die or fight in their stories, it simply doesn’t make sense to use a puppet to avoid this. The puppet is harmful on so many levels to the autistic community.
Stepping away from the puppet, the National Autism Society expressed the issues they found with the play, and the subsequent performance, which I will talk about more in a bit. The NAS suggested to the producers to scrap the puppet and make other major changes. The playhouse fired back saying that what people had seen was just a script and that “we’ll all feel differently when we see it”. While the act of seeing a visual product can change your perceptions of the written version of it, it doesn’t matter when the script is already harmful enough that the NAS suggest major changes to said script.
Let me be clear: I’m in no way saying that artists can’t tackle difficult subject matter. Far from it, I actively encourage they do so. But it needs to be handled with a degree of delicacy. Saying that seeing it will change our minds is like saying ‘looking at this pile of shit with a flower on top will change how you view all shit’. At the end of the day, it’s still shit.
Circling back to the performance. The playhouse denied free tickets to autistic theatre critics, claiming they couldn’t afford to hand out free tickets. Despite this, an allistic critic stepped in and revealed the playhouse and offered him free tickets. This critic turned down the tickets and said they should be given to an autistic critic. This person is the unsung hero of the story and I wish to personally thank him for his generosity and tact in deaing with the situation.
Flash forward to opening night. The critic who was offered free tickets wrote a review essentially saying all the things the autistic community had been saying, noting that the puppet was far less realisitc than an actual human playing an autistic child.
And along comes this arsehole. In the Tumblr post, they are referred to as Non-Autistic Autism Advocate, who basically says the play was a delight because they ‘forgot Laurence was a puppet he seemed so much like a real autistic child in that he was not human and he didn’t even feature that much in the play’. They also said they had no idea why people were offended by the ‘wonderful play that portrays autism as a family destroying evil’. Let me repeat this. This critic PRAISED the play for not depicting the autistic character as human because autism is an evil. Fuck. This. Dickhead.
Another major issue with the performance was it’s lack of sensory help. According to an autistic critic, both the theatre and performances were non-sensory friendly. There were also no trigger warnings, despite the fact a lot of the play consisted of abelist language and screaming. There was also a part in the play where it’s revealed the husband has been shitting on his wife’s pillows and blaming it on their son. The puppet was placed in a move that’s been proven to be able to kill someone, while the care worker says that autisitic people are animals reincarnated into human form. Surprisingly, one of the less offensive things about this play.
Overall, this play was an amazingly insensitive, offensive and abelist. I can’t even say that it was a project that started with good intentions because every step of the way it became more and more apparent that the people involved in making this play didn’t give a shit about accuracy or the right way to go about presenting something this complex.
Right, let’s talk about my experiences. I was diagnosed with Aspergers and autism in November of 2016. I, along with my family, had suspected for a while that I had it, but I personally didn’t want a diagnosis because of the stigma that came along with it. It was only when I was 17 and thinking of university did I think to get a screening due to the support I could get from uni.
Even though I am no where near the level of the character in the play, I can sympathise with the treatment and struggles. I hated secondary school since I was bullied and harassed constantly, even though I had no idea why. I came from a loving, supportive family, so I can be greatful for that.
I can only imagine the pain this character goes through with the abusive parents he has, as well as the treatment he was given by the writers.
Despite this, I don’t particularly mind the story. Yes, it is harmful in its own right, but I could excuse that if the writers made it obvious the behaviour of the parents was something to hate and feel disgusted at, instead of remaining neutral.
What I find the most horrendous thing, and hopefully something I’ve said repeatedly over and over throughout this piece, were the comments made by allistic critics and the playhouse. It’s all well and good making something in the hopes to ‘start a conversation’, but the only conversation you start is the conversation that spawned the very stigma you’re trying to comabt.
Please, please, please don’t see or support this play, or anyone who increases the stigma around autism. It’s important to talk to people living with conditions, be that depression, anxiety, autism, or any other mental illness. That’s the only way we will ever progress past the point ‘these people are evil, let’s not focus on them’.
I just wanted to make a little post showing my appreciation. If you don’t know, during this first week and a bit, I’ve totalled over 120 views on my blog.
I wanted to thank you all for the support you’ve shown. Every view counts, and I’m grateful for everyone I get. Thank you for enjoying my mediocre poetry, there’s plenty more to come in the future.
Until next time
Walking to St Peter’s Street
My heart leaps at the thought of
The Golden Arches
We enter the double sliding doors
And a wave of grease
Assaults my senses
Which is a good thing
Considering we’re Sandy and Danny.
We unclasp hands
And see our temptations:
All my troubles fade away at
The sight of a quarter pounder.
Before our turn,
A drunk couple turn around
And tell us we’re cute.
I awkwardly break their gaze
And notice a man whose
Blind in his right eye,
A faint scar dissecting his eyebrow.
The drunk couple are enclosed
In an alcohol-smelling
You turn and whisper
‘Who gets this drunk at 3?’
I shrug and, thankfully,
Before I need to form a response,
My salvation arrives.
Since I have quickly ran out of ideas, I’ll spend this time explaining a poem I wrote in an afternoon
I’ll start with the title. As usual, this poem didn’t have a title, and rather than come up with an interesting one, I decided to take a leaf out of my girlfriend’s (exploraytion) book and come up with a title that just states what the poem’s about
I was wanting to create the feeling of the sublime in this poem: a feeling of sheer awe and appreciation. I also wanted the themes of escape and potential, which is why the horse broke free and tried to escape
I wanted the writer to feel a connection with the horse, but not have the cliche of the character ‘wanting to escape’ Instead, I wanted them to have put that dream deep in their mind and forgot about it because it was unrealistic, only for them to remember they have that desire when they see the horse
However, the falcon points to the cliche of birds being free and flying away, so I wanted to make that theme obvious without making it the main focus of the poem to avoid full-on cliche territory
While I wrote this over the course of an afternoon, I have had this in my head for a while. For some reason, a horse running in slow motion, and all the ideas associated with that, have been in my head for as long as I could remember, so it was nice to finally get it down on paper
I hope you’ve enjoyed this explanation. Until next time
I took a languid gaze
Out the window on the 2:40 to Dorset.
A holster caught my eye,
Trying to control a silver colt
In a fit of defiance,
The animal broke free.
From the carriage window,
The bubble of Time ceased to be
And for a moment, I was entwined
With the equestrian dance.
I saw in his eye a dream
I had long forgotten
I noticed the legs, thin and feeble
Atop fleshy pistons
Driving the raw desire,
Loosely chained in silver skin
The trot evolved into a gallop
While a falcon,
Perhaps sensing an ally,
Swooped to join the ballet
The two brothers
Separated by miles
But connected by will,
Ran into the horizon
Before the horse could escape
The holster, sweaty
And one layer removed from his steed,
Pulled the creature back into conformity
I could see a single tear
Run down that silver muzzle