Female on the Spectrum: a Life of Double Standards

Many have asked me what it is like to be a female with aspergers. So I’ve finally decided to share.

While men on the spectrum are generally celebrated for their brilliance, women are more likely considered weird for possessing the same traits.

Society has come to treat the tech bro on the spectrum like a rock star. Artists like Tim Burton are celebrated worldwide for their eccentricities. Can you name me a female savant? Can you supply me with the name of a female high functioning autistic celebrated for her odd brilliance?

Sadly, I cannot.

We believe that the traits of bold persistence, blunt talk and free-thinking unbridled creativity are uniquely male.

Particularly this is true in the case of persistence. When those on the spectrum want something, they will work harder than anyone to achieve that goal. HFA/Aspergers kids are relentless in pursuing their passions. When it is a man pursuing a career, to work for another man he looks up to in his field — this is fine because it is rewarded as flattering persistence. The same persistent behavior in females is often sexualized and mostly treated as possible insanity.

Of corse both male and female would never cross the line. Autistics recognize boundaries because they are socially awkward not mentally ill. Although we may not always successfully gauge how we may come across, we strive for self awareness. We understand our persistence and passion, though others may not.

Women are also expected to be feminine, warm and understanding. While autistics try to be deeply empathetic people, make great partners and are overall the most nonviolent people imaginable, our generosity is more likely to be taken advantage of. Autistics are more likely to be the victims of violence and abuse; male and female. So in the case of females on the spectrum, we’re ripe to be taken advantage of. After this sort of abuse, the person is likely to shut down and turn introverted. Most of all, they will probably blame themselves. Autistics are prime targets for narcissists. Since narcissism runs stronger in men, it is more likely to be a female victim.

Sexually this has deep ramifications for women too. Not always the case with people on the spectrum, but often: Many don’t like sex the way neuro-typical people do. Oftentimes folks on the spectrum see sex as demisexuals, and need to develop a relationship before we can be intimate with someone. When so many relationships today start with hookups, this makes finding a partner hard. Especially so for the women, who are expected to put out. An aspergers man on the demisexual spectrum is more in control of that urge and if anything he is more likely to find a woman willing to take it slow versus an aspergers woman finding a man to take it slow. Women usually end up giving in and then shutting out the man because they no longer feel comfortable, they feel violated.

Women are expected to behave a certain way according to societal bias, both conscious and unconscious. Autistic women violate this societal framework. Women on the spectrum are Tomboys, more often interested in the same kind of creative expression and things as men. They are more likely to have male friends. They are not especially feminine, and thus are often punished for that.

Women are not celebrated for the things they should be. Aspergers and high function autism is not a mental illness. It is a developmental delay often accompanied by savant-level IQs and intellectual ability. Not rain man, nor Jim Parsons. Rather Tim Burton, Dan Akroyd, Mozart and Warhol.

Yet if a woman were to be like any of those men, they’d be criticized. They’re not feminine enough. They’re weird and therefore because they’re a woman who is weird, they must be insane. The woman must be mentally ill.

This is why it is so much more difficult for women on the spectrum. I won’t say it’s much easier for many men, but they are not held to the same societal expectations that women are. It hurts when you admire someone deeply and want to work for them, but your persistence is questioned as possible insanity. This is not fair. As much as it’s not fair, as much as we try to be more self aware, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because society will always judge women more harshly than men. Being a woman with aspergers just makes it that much harder.

10,000 Hours or More

Malcolm Gladwell wrote his famous book detailing how it takes 10,000 hours devoted to a particular task to become good at it.

While by no means a scientifically accurate number, the point is that to get anywhere you must invest an insanely high number of hours to achieve your goal.

When it comes to working full time in the Film/TV industry, that is no exception. In fact, for most people, to truly get anywhere in this industry it will take close to ten to fifteen years.

Back in 2013, two years removed from college, I had a difficult conversation with a mentor. He was a producer who read my work and encouraged me to continue writing. When I got the words “good luck” from him, I knew that I had exhausted any opportunity with him for the time being. Yet I persisted nonetheless until he told me it takes ten to fifteen years to really break in — I didn’t want to believe it.

Here is a guy who was a CEO of a major production company by the time he was 35. How could I believe this?

Of course Malcolm Gladwell also spoke about outliers. For some it will take less time, for others it will take longer. These statistical anomalies are outside the norm.

Also, these outliers still had to put in tremendous amount of work. If you want to get technical about it, that promotion to CEO still came almost 15 years removed from college. I’m sure he had to bust ass on set for long hours. I’m sure he had to sacrifice his social life to put in extra time required to be noticed so young. He was a production manager on an international blockbuster by 30, a full producer within ten years. He didn’t get there by slacking off.

Now five years out of college, and three years removed from my conversation with him, I understand he’s right. Where am I at this stage? Only just netting interviews with companies such as Warner, NBC and HBO. Even then, those interviews are for assistant level positions. Entry level in the world of film/TV.

Provided I even move from my small production company job as a development assistant to one of the industry giants, I still have at least five years to go before I can imagine a junior executive track. Maybe even more in terms of hoping to option a script of my own.

It takes years of work experience and networking to make headway in this business.

I busted my ass on sets where I didn’t make a cent. I volunteered at film festivals and interned at companies until I proved myself good enough to be paid as an assistant. I spent countless hours writing and networking for readers. I worked two office jobs to support myself on the side. I spent five years of my life watching friends make more money, get promoted and have families. Only now am I looking at the start of a career track.

The sacrifices are immeasurable. The poverty you will endure unbearable for many without a place to stay or with financial assistance available. The lack of a social life will make you depressed at times. You will question your choices often as people tell you to give up. The feeling that you are succeeding at a slower rate than your peers who played it safe will make you feel a failure.

Before my mentor was promoted to CEO he told me of a time where he slept on a foam mattress on the floor. It is to those like him that the rewards will come to.

Regardless what happens with my next round of interviews, I am where I need to be. It took five years just to get to this point. Whether he ever calls me to work for him when he does so again, I am eternally grateful for his advice.

There is no avoiding 10,000 hours. There is no avoiding the struggle. You will get NOWHERE playing it safe. So if you have chosen the hardest industry in the world to break into, know what you’re up against. Know that it can only happen with an insane amount of sacrifice and hard work.

Best of luck to all. Keep piling on those hours.

Over and out ~ MK

When We Feel Too Much

When feelings become too much…

When you’re extremely empathetic, the weight of the world and all its sorrow sits atop your shoulders. This is not an easy weight to bear.

When you feel so strongly, emotions are tough to keep in check. Logic is replaced by reaction, impulsivity. Empathy turns to sorrow, sorrow turns to anger — anger because of hopelessness. Hopeless to do anything at all.

Then we catch our breath. Breath in and out. Distraction — find a distraction.

We pause. Think of what matters, family, friends — love. Love, that feeling so strong that when it is for someone you can never hug, or maybe someone you can never hug again, sorrow returns. You wish you could embrace someone you cannot.

Distracting yourself from sorrow, you find happier things to occupy your mind with. It works… For a little bit.

Then a truck goes down your block, then a plane flies over your house too low — a fire cracker sounds like a gun shot — and that fear, sadness sets in again.

The empathy. The heartache. The feeling that we cannot do anything to stop the violence. Political talking heads take the stage to assure us never again but the only never is knowing we will never see the dreams of Lennon’s imagination come true.

I don’t want to feel this way any more. I don’t want to feel this weight any more. I don’t want this heartbreak any more. I don’t want to feel this way any more. I cannot take this any more. My shoulders are broken…

Why Are Millennials Childish?

image

While Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm the past week, not everyone is happy about it. Those who didn’t grow up with the first generation of pocket monsters in 1997 cannot understand why those in their 20s and early 30s would flock to such a “childish” game. The reason behind its success shouldn’t be surprising at all — it’s about nostalgia. More so, it’s about escapism for a generation that has largely known nothing but misery the past decade.

Millennials grew up in the 90s, arguably a time when it seemed that economic prosperity was all but guaranteed. The internet seemed poised to deliver profits through to eternity. It was a fascinating time for all technology including that which gave us handheld games like Pokémon, A&R tech which gave us a new generation of pop acts, and CGI technology which gave us memorable blockbusters of a different scale.

Our Boomer parents all but assured us that if we studied hard, we would be able to participate in this profit taking too. We were destined for success. Then, 9/11 happened and the Dotcom bubble burst. Years later, the big one: the Great Recession wiped trillions from the economy in 2008. Suddenly my generation graduating college was left with little economic prospects. The aching pain for nostalgia, a time when we still believed all was possible reigned supreme.

Before you accuse Millennials and the Buzzfeed listicles that cater to their sense of nostalgia of being childish, let’s take a trip back in time… To the 1930s.

The only generation that can truly understand the economic and emotional pain of the Millennial generation is The Depression generation. Much like the seemingly unstoppable 1990s, the 1920s too made it seem as if the gravy train would never stop. Until it did. They too were about as penniless as my own generation.

The only real difference between then and now is the modern conveniences which make it seem not as bad. We don’t have shanty towns and dust bowls — but the younger generation in both cases has very little money or wage earning potential. Both mostly live(d) at home because they cannot afford rent or property. Both sought out nostalgic forms of escapism.

Three things became very popular in the 30s: movies, radio and baseball. Since very few avenues of technology existed, these three things were the main source of escapist entertainment. People could spend an entire day in the movies for very little money. Baseball offered cheap seats, and minor league teams were also a popular attraction. If you were lucky enough to afford one, the golden age of radio was a way to escape to lands far and near — or just to listen to a favorite comedian.

The things these methods of escapism have in common is that they’re all populist. Yet, we still have these populist forms of entertainment today, so why are Millennials instead into “childish” things like PokemonGo?

Well first let’s take a look at the word childish. It assumes that what Millennials are into is made for children. But is it? Nostalgia is big business. When Niantic was doing market research for this game, they tested the waters with my generation, not 10 year olds. Why? Because they knew it was my generation that would be most interested. Nostalgia — it’s practically what turned Buzzfeed into a billion dollar enterprise. It’s what added $9billion to Nintendo’s stock price in days.

But it’s still childish you may say. But is it? Is it any more or less childish than the super hero movies coming out every few months, movies 40-somethings are also attending? Is it any more or less childish than adults who read comics? Is it any more or less childish than grown men buying up Star Wars and Marvel action figures? Is it any more or less childish than all the 80s remakes so obviously catered to Gen-X?

No it isn’t, and it’s also had a very positive impact on the generation it’s aimed at.

Millennials can’t afford many of the escapist forms of entertainment once pursued by the Depression generation. Studies continue to show Millennials aversion to dropping $15 on a single movie. Baseball and other live venues have become wholly  unaffordable to anybody not sitting in company seats. Yet we still seek out entertainment which allows us to check out from how awful things are.

PokemonGo, a free phone game, has had an incredible communal aspect. It’s brought people together from different socioeconomic backgrounds and races. It’s gotten people out of the house and walking around, exercising — like geocaching apps before it. It’s social enough to get people to befriend others they wouldn’t have before. Perhaps it’s even a possible networking tool too.

Many in Gen-X making fun of us would rather say it’s leading to robberies and data abuse. The underlying cynicism is that Millennials are not responsible enough to be treated like adults. Somehow, it’s easy to overlook that robbery, data abuse and walking into things on your phone long existed before PokemonGo and will after too. Street smarts will always evade some.

What those with economic opportunity fail to understand is that Millennials are not childish. We just need to check out sometimes. We have seen a decade of stagnant wages prevent us from fully appreciating all that adulthood offers us, things like home ownership, financial independence or starting a family. Instead of getting cynical and moping about because of that, we’ve instead chosen to invest in nostalgia.

If that nostalgia has the power to bring people together, I say that’s a good thing. So instead of criticizing people for being “childish” how about assessing your own proclivity for childishness? What things do you like which are also allegedly aimed at children? Probably a lot, because nostalgia is a happy feeling. If something makes someone happy, something that is largely benign apart from your hatred of it, why be that curmudgeon? If something appeals to multiple generations, isn’t that good?

Instead of criticizing Millennials for walking by your home hunting Pokemon, how about be grateful you can afford a home? Instead of shitting on Millennials for catching Pokemon near your workplace, be happy you have a job — one which likely pays a lot better than anything we have available to us.

The Millennial generation has a lot to be unhappy about. So too did the Depression generation. I’m just of the opinion that if something makes someone happy despite the miserable world in which we live, that’s a good thing.

Trending off Tragedy

image

This widely circulated post made its way around Twitter and Facebook yesterday. It made people feel good, it was a lesson in morality. It got 11,000 shares in 11 hours on Facebook, and close to 5,000 RTs on Twitter.

And it’s totally fake.

Never mind that the story pictured above uses long block quotes, indicating the authors incredible memory — but I’m curious as to how she can ID a Romanian or a Gay man on the F Train. Did she ask them? It isn’t mentioned. Most surprising of all is that if this belligerent man did board an F Train, nobody would acknowledge him. New Yorkers encounter crazy and belligerent people all the time and make a habit of ignoring them out of concern for their own safety. I’d know, I’m writing this post from an F Train right now. Nobody would stop a train for this mans behavior.

So? What’s the big deal if it’s fake, it made people feel good.

It is a big deal for the intention of the post and posts like it. The author wanted to insert themselves into the headlines.

When people write these fake stories or create these fake memes, they’re deliberately taking advantage of a tragedy in the headlines to make their post trend. More specifically, they’re trying to make themselves trend.

As the post went viral, the author on Facebook relished in the attention from friends and family — “you’re famous” “remember us when you make it big.” She even had a fan girl moment on Twitter as MSNBC journalist Chris Hayes retweeted the screenshot of her post.

This is narcissism. If the first thing you think of after a tragedy is how to write a Facebook status or tweet that will garner attention, you’re everything that is wrong with social media.

Instead of sharing fake stories written on behalf of someone craving attention, how about sharing real feel good stories?

There are countless examples of people coming together after the horrific tragedy in Orlando to take a stand against hate. We don’t need to share fake stories when there are real profiles in courage to share and celebrate.

So think before you share a story that is obviously fake, whether it made you feel good or not. We shouldn’t be enabling someone’s narcissism. This isn’t the first fake post to trend off tragedy and it won’t be the last. But let’s make it the last time we share it.

On Writing Science Fiction Well

All genres require diligent research on the part of the writer, but none more so than Science Fiction.

Working in development, one thing I look for in reading a script is how well-researched the writer is. If the subject matter is convincingly conveyed, then the story will generally flow better. Having a well-researched script or story is all about world building. In making your world more believable, your research should inform that world to make it more convincing.

With that said, I want to use this post to go over some reasons why this is more important with the Science Fiction genre, along with some common mistakes made writing it.

Science Fiction Done Right

As a writer of science fiction, you’re truly dealing with a blank slate. There is no template for which to build your world on, because for the most part that world does not yet exist. Yet, to make your world convincing it should still conform to a certain understanding of science available and trends that could impact such a future.

The best science fiction writers also use current and past events of cultural and political importance to inform their work. From Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov to Neill Blomkamp, science fiction writers try to dissect societal problems using the genre.

Philip Dick’s When Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the book that became Blade Runner) tries to address a future where artificial intelligence is a potential threat to humanity. Asimov is commonly credited with the “three rules of robotics,” which tries to dissuade fears of rogue AI by proposing a humane foundation for the basis of a sentient android; a subject which would be explored at length in I, Robot.

Science Fiction need not always inform the future. South African filmmaker Blomkamp is well known for his film District 9, which profiles apartheid through the POV of a government worker and the alien refugees he is sent to study in a segregated community. Blomkamp more recently worked on Elysium, which addresses how future technological advances could fuel wealth inequality.

What all these films have in common is a well-researched story that addresses something larger than the CGI effects it may or may not employ.

What separates these works from the kind I tend to pass on are three common mistakes…

Misunderstanding Science

A relatively new field in science and technology, it’s easy to see why misunderstandings could arise with science fiction subjects like artificial intelligence. Currently, most AI relies on machine learning. Most writers commonly mistake machine learning for full AI.

The difference is that machine learning is programmer-based, whereas strong AI is sentient and thus learns on its own. This is why many computer scientists use the terms AI vs. strong AI, sometimes also referred to as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

While machine learning is an important step to getting programs to learn on their own, it is not the final result. It is still reliant upon programmer input. Commonly, I see Machine Learning programs presented as AI, and vice-versa.

A good example of this done well is the movie Ex Machina. Writer Alex Garland does an excellent job of using actual industry terms and coding to show us what actually constitutes an artificial intelligence. Both the script and the final film are incredibly well researched and presented in a believable way.

HER is also a less technical illustration of AGI presented well.

As a writer, you should attempt a well-versed understanding of the field of science which you plan to write about. Half-assing the subject matter or avoiding it entirely is not a convincing illustration of your world. If you don’t know your topic in and out, it will show. Make the reader believe what you are trying to convey.

World Building Overload

Many people who try to write science fiction tend to imagine giant set-pieces and stunning visuals first and foremost. The problem with this is that it often comes at the expense of character or story, and it’s also EXPENSIVE. While visualizing the world is an essential component of the genre, it is important to keep it in perspective. Spending too much time on visualization detracts from critical space that could be spent building the backbone of the world: story.

We don’t need non-essential descriptions of a room. While this is the case in most genres, it also applies to science fiction. The more the writer tries to describe something, the more he/she may also fall into clichés. Keep it simple.

Where possible, a good way to enhance your world is to include unique devices or references that may touch upon familiarity.

A good example of both of these things can be found in Blade Runner. The Voight-Kampf machine plays an important part in the story in how it assesses whether someone is a man or machine, but it also reminds us we are far into the future.

The iconic skyline in the film doesn’t overly emphasize its height or darkness; it emphasizes its saturation in ads. Specifically, the ads are in Asian text. This was written at a time in the 1980s when Japanese electronics were dominant in the American consumer landscape. The Asian ad-saturation presented both a familiarity, but also a social anxiety at a time when Americans were concerned with the beginning of mass-importation from the Far East.

Remember that your script if made will eventually attach a director, cinematographer, FX producer and production design team. So try not to get too bogged down in the details early on.

Clichés and Stories That Don’t Say Anything

This is probably the most grating of all the mistakes I find when reading science fiction scripts: genre clichés. If you’re a writer, you should be giving me something new to read and imagine, not a re-imaging of your favorite films of the genre, or themes.

Some quick examples of clichés I find: labs in a far off place for no apparent reason, see also space settings because “Space!”; mad scientists/corporations bent on world domination; sentient computers/robots bent on world domination; scientist who fears his/her creations; post-apocalyptic climate dramas; military controlling new technology to weaponize it; Male POV – one day I’d like to actually read a script featuring a female.

In addition to clichés are the films which aren’t really films. There is no quicker way to loose me as a reader (of any genre) than to write something which lacks any apparent narrative – like a big bombastic CGI imagining. Ask yourself why you’re writing this. What is the apparent conflict? If the conflict is any of the clichés above, just don’t write it. It’s been done a million times, and probably better.

Takeaways

What makes science fiction such an alluring genre to read and watch is to experience something new, something unsaid – something futuristic. Having a passion for the genre will always show in the writing, and the research will come easier.

Science fiction is not for everyone.

It is a very difficult genre to write well, and to avoid clichés. If you’re going to write it, I hope this post is helpful. Just know that with any writing, conveying your topic with mastery is important, in science fiction it is essential.

A Quick Guide on How to Prepare for Rejection

Rejection hurts. There’s no avoiding the fact that you will get more No’s than Yes’s pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. However, there is a way to make No hurt less: that’s by assuming the worst.

Don’t get your hopes up!

Keep many stokes in the fire!

All of these old sayings remind us to have many options. The more options you have, the less likely you will focus on a single outcome. Since so much in this industry is unpredictable, having many options is also a smart bet.

Of course, that doesn’t negate the fact that you want one outcome more than any other. There’s always that dream job, dream project or dream person to work for/with. Even if there is a slight chance that outcome could come true, you have to assume it won’t.

Don’t ever wait around for a phone call!

I made that mistake, waiting to hopefully hear from my (then) mentor. Instead I could have been gaining experience in the industry, not focusing on a single outcome. Finally, he told me not to wait for him, to go out and get any job I could. Eventually I listened. I only wish I had listened sooner.

Chances are that you may be a perfect fit. I doubt James could find someone more grateful, someone who would work harder than I would if I got that call from him considering my long time admiration of him. I have amassed great experience, most recently as a development assistant where I’ve begun to focus on a genre: SciFi. He also has a primary passion for SciFi, a genre I also write. It would be a strong match, because not only could I take from my executive assistant experience to do all the standard assistant work (+ I know France/French!), I could aid creatively as well. I could write and help develop future projects given my interest in producing as well.

Hooooooold on! This is exactly the mindset you don’t want to have. Why? Why ignore the fact that you’re a perfect fit? Because the best thing you can do to avoid the pain of rejection is to assume why you’re not the perfect fit.

I outlined a good reason why he might not call me in another post on handling rejection here. I took things personally and didn’t act professionally as a young writer. For that reason, he may be reluctant to hire me even though I’ve matured. Sure I learned better, but you have to assume that they think you have not.

So I assume he will send a list of job requirements to WME, the agency he works closely with. Most likely he will pull from a pool of mid-twenty somethings that have put in their time on some agents desk. Most of those kids are eager to produce and thus want to assist a producer. Even if they don’t care about his creative preferences, even if they never heard of him prior to googling — they’ve been groomed for this role. They will likely get the call. Even if they quit after one project to move up to a more well-known producer or to a studio role, this is the standard Hollywood career track: intern – agency – personal assistant – mid level job – your long term industry goal.

Rejection sucks. Focusing on it makes it suck even more. So the only way you can make it suck less is by not focusing on a single outcome.

Assume the worst, so that way if it does happen it means more.

Every time a major director gets a dream project, they say in interviews they never imagined it. That’s because they knew better than to get their hopes up. They focused on their work and made a good impression, so when that call did come through it meant so much more.

Focus on your work, keep chipping away and maybe one day you will be recognized for it and maybe your and my dreams will come true. Until then, give yourself options in case they don’t.

A Guide to Internet Assholes 101

It doesn’t take more than a few moments scrolling through your timeline on Twitter or Facebook before your realize “wow — there’s a lot of assholes on the Internet!”

Sure, but are you one of them?

Surely, you’re not. It’s always easy to police tone in your own head. After all you didn’t mean it that way — or did you?

Your opinions are easier to digest because you already agree with them. This self-confirmation bias and ease of communication across social platforms lends itself to a whole fuckton of Internet assholes, and like it or not at one point or another you and I may have been one of them.

So I devised what I call “The Guide to Internet Assholes 101” as a helpful guide to avoid continuing to be one.

1. Twitter Bullies (see also FB/Reddit bullies)

The obvious Internet asshole. Whether you agree or disagree with him, the first person that likely comes to mind is Trump. However, this asshole exists on the Left and the Right (and beyond politics) and needn’t have millions of followers to qualify. All that is needed is a large enough platform to allow a pile-on effect (where the bullies followers join in on the bullying).

I encountered one such asshole today, a member of social justice Twitter. Since I’m not an asshole, I won’t name them. However, they made an inflammatory characterization of a respected Progressive and I politely disagreed in my tweet, which featured an autocorrect typo. They proceeded to latch onto that instead of addressing my reply, and insulted me to their 50k followers. Bullying quickly ensued. I would have liked to reply, but they blocked me after their hit-and-run attack on me.

This is Twitter bullying 101. Despite her goal of social justice, she is of no help to that movement by belittling everyone in her path. Her goal and the goal of those bullies like her is not to engage, but to serve as a sort of flamethrower, insulting and arguing with people as a part of their brand. Their brand is asshole.

Next!

2. The “I Disagree!” Asshole.

This one comes in all forms. Most common in egg-accounts and those accounts with sub 20-follower counts, their main agenda on social media is to argue pointlessly with those who will never agree with them. Essentially this is troll behavior because it is pointless. It is a form of harassment.

At the end of the day, these people aren’t looking to debate or positively engage, they’re just looking to say “I disagree!” as pettily and annoyingly as possible to get a rise out of the person they disagree with. Assholes, all.

3. The smug asshole

Most common in comedians who wouldn’t even disagree with being characterized as an asshole, this is also a universal category of Internet asshole.

Delivering sick burns for Internet high fives, this intelligent prick delivers put downs to smug satisfaction. This guy or gal is all about not only feeling superior, but showing they are. They relish in their intelligence and flaunt it to where it comes across as supremely smug. Sure those “I disagree!” trolls often prove easy fodder for this kind of (often funny) smug put-down, but it doesn’t make you any less of an asshole than they are. We know you’re smart, but you can be smart without also being an asshole.

4. The I’M RIGHT! Asshole

Among the most insufferable assholes of the entire net is the person who can never loose an argument.

Let’s say you’ve gotten into a respectful debate, one where you exchange your POV, presumably backed by some facts. Now you’ve won the argument, according to others as well, but Jeff45621 can’t admit defeat. In a land where facts and figures do not apply, good old Jeff is ready to fight to the death knell even after everyone else has already left the debate. He’s still posting biased links and stupid YouTube videos long after.

You blocked him, but in his wake 3 new egghead accounts popped up to continue the assault. Hey Jeff! Get a life, asshole.

****

I’m sure I could find more examples, but this is just a 101 guide and not at all comprehensive. It’s merely a primer on Internet asshole that certainly seems to get at quite a few repeat offenders. If you saw yourself in any of these examples, reevaluate yourself because chances are people think you’re an asshole. Even if proud of that, that branding comes with a lot of social responsibility and you better respect that even if you don’t always respect others.

over and out! — MK

What Does a Writer Look Like?

guy-in-grey-hat.jpg

So you’re sitting in the waiting room of a production company and in walks a writer. But how do you know they’re a writer, one might ask. Perhaps a few things might tip you off…

Maybe it’s the casual shirt, especially the ironic graphic tee worn underneath a button down. Maybe it’s the beard, with the optional hat. Dodgers hat or fedora? Or is it the Vans slip-ons that have started to wear thin around the soles? The jeans — you’re not sure what color they were meant to be when originally purchased, but that fade is definitely all natural.

So you’ve concluded they’re a writer. Writers may not all dress this way, but those who do more often than not seem to successfully fit the description. What they all have in common beyond their “I found this in a pile in the corner of my dorm room” sense of style, they’re all male.

****

We would hire more women if they were as nerdy about the medium as some of their male counterparts.

About a month ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is an independent producer based in the UK. We were discussing an initiative meant to encourage talent reps and studios to promote and hire more female writers and directors. My friend was in attendance when it was a woman working for one of the production companies who actually made the most controversial statement of the evening. She said, matter of fact, we would hire more women if they were as nerdy about the medium as some of their male counterparts.

Shocking, I know. However, she vocalized what a lot of people truly believe. It is assumed more often than not that men tend to be more interested in the sort fare that is voraciously consumed by nerds to the tune of hundreds of millions in box office. Males are assumed to be auteurs, whereas women are rarely if ever associated with that term. Male writers are seen as sensitive, brooding, intellectual — women are not often discussed in that way.

Of course, anyone who has spent any considerable time with female writers and directors knows this isn’t true. Last night, I helped out with NY Women in Film and TV (NYWIFT) to host a reading of several scripts apart of Meryl Streep’s Women Over 40 writers lab. The writers were a diverse group of women, on top of their game. Many had placed highly in contests, others have already produced work. All scripts were diverse in subject matter, and genre; including action and science fiction (both genres typically seen as the male domain).

Let’s go back to that writer who’s just walked into the production company…

****

They created the writers uniform.

What does it say about our assumptions of what a creative must look like? The young white guy, who casually struts into a major production company for a pitch meeting in an un-ironed shirt and worn shoes — the ultimate nerd of the medium. It really is a statement of confidence to walk into an establishment dressed like you haven’t washed your clothes in three weeks. It shouts that this person is comfortable in their creativity, confident. They’re not worried about how they’re dressed, they’re a creative, their work will speak for itself. As a white guy, they will never be judged as harshly for their appearance. They created the writers uniform.

Now, I still think it’s important to dress to impress, male or female. However, there is this attitude by many male creatives that the casual crumple is apart of their very essence. It informs a certain subconscious bias when we think about “what does a director look like” or “what does a writer look like.” We think of a young white guy in a ball cap, or dressed in a faded tee over worn jeans. They are the nerds that woman from the UK speaks of when she thinks of who to give a green-light.

Why are you so dressed up?

Sitting in a major production company the other day, one such man walked in wearing an X-Men tee with faded jeans over old boots. He was immediately followed by his writing partner, dressed business casual. “Why are you so dressed up” the casual male asked his friend. The man replied that he was at a funeral. Shortly thereafter, an assistant came out and escorted them in, she too was surprised by the suit.

I was sort of dumbfounded by that statement, sitting in a form-fitting summery blouse, tight capris and designer shoes — I even had on jewelry. I too am a writer, and yet I often get made for a publicist or producers assistant. The women who attended the reading the other night, they also were impeccably dressed. That’s because despite wishing we were more nerdy, women aren’t  permitted to dress like those men. It’s not feminine. It’s not our uniform, even if I would rather wear my Led Zeppelin tee and walk around in my adidas shells, or Vans slip-ons — because hey I own those too!

Ultimately this is a very subtle but important observation. Subconscious bias is a huge reason for gender disparity in the industry. While the work should speak for itself, the way you dress for those meetings is essentially important. It is a small but essential component of how you work that room. When you can’t wear the uniform, or are judged differently for when you do, it’s essential points lost in that pitch.

So next time you spot that writer-type, ask yourself  What does a writer look like… and consider why it is you arrive at the description. Chances are, you’ve just uncovered a subconscious bias within yourself.

 

 

Social Amnesia

Imagine the greatest disappointment of your life, the worst rejection, the most negative of No’s. Now imagine that feeling recur, endlessly, as you try to make apologies for it.

This is what it is like to experience disappointment and rejection on the autistic spectrum. It’s what I have come to call social amnesia.

There’s a common saying, that you never get a second chance at a first impression. This is universally understood. It is also universally loathed, particularly by people on the high end of the spectrum. Most people upon encountering a person they like or admire will be nervous. The neuro-typical members of society, aka the developmentally normal ones, will handle this nervousness by being cautious with their choice of words.

The opposite is true of people on the spectrum, aka the neuro-atypical, the ones with developmental delays (note: not a mental illness). Encountering someone we greatly admire or like is a very difficult social scenario. It often ends in us not making a good first impression. Either we wind up coming across as overzealous, muted or just odd. And we all know the saying about getting a second impression…

Folks like me on the spectrum are generally always well intentioned. I was greatly upset at myself for expressing my disappointment with my former mentor; namely how he dropped off the face of the earth. I even apologized for being too overzealous prior to that, assuming I even was. Yet, all this time I could still see he was reading my work… More specifically my apologies.

Without making this a personal story, I will quickly say that over the course of a few years I probably wrote the same blog post at least ten times, hoping he’d read it. Usually he would. For whatever reason, he’d continue to look. Only up until recently, he stopped altogether.

Social amnesia.

I repeated the same apology hoping for acceptance, pleading my admiration and hoping he’d understand I am a good and well intentioned person. I wanted another chance, I didn’t want him to walk away. I just wanted to work for him, or at least be friends. So every time I forgot the last post of this nature, I’d write another. And another. And another. And… Another.

I just wanted another chance.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way. After a while, that social amnesia wears thin. You sound like a broken record. To the person on the spectrum, all we can assess is how we feel and the legitimacy of wanting to write or say how we feel in case it wasn’t clear we were sorry for our oddities the first time around… even if it’s the twentieth time we’ve done so. For us, it’s always the first.

Life on the spectrum with social amnesia is kind of like a video game with check points. It may take us five times to get through to the next part of the level. When it comes to my mentor and most others, I usually get it on the third pass. Sometimes the second, more frequently these days on the first. The level featuring my mentor just happened to be on the hardest difficulty.

It requires tremendous patience to give another chance, something most people don’t have. I never got a third chance with James, and as he looks to finally work again, I doubt I’ll get a call… Likely leading me to write an eleventh apology (or something like that) when it gets a green light. I.e:

((I’m sorry James/Paris, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to push you away. In fact I’m really not sure what I’m even apologizing for any more.))

Of those people in my life who have been patient with me, it’s been nothing short of loyal and rewarding friendships, hard working professional relationships and dedicated romantic partnerships. I would stop at nothing to give back to those who I care about, and I am a harmless person to those who haven’t given me the chances I needed to prove myself. Never once did I say, stalk, my former mentor. Ever. It’s a line I know not to and never will cross. That’s because I am autistic, not mentally ill. We get boundaries, even if we have social amnesia.

However, for those I’ve apologized to 30+ times, they’re no more likely to be patient with me than they were upon the first apology. It’s just not something which is easy for me to be self aware about given my social amnesia.

Slowly I’ve learned to become more self aware. Now in my late twenties, I’ve had a broad enough exposure to various social situations to know how to not need a second chance. In fact, most people don’t even realize I’m autistic from interacting with me (until they discuss a topic which I’m deeply passionate about!)

I have learned a great many personal lessons from my experience with James alone. Now that I have, I just want to apply those lessons learned. However, no matter how much I try to revert history and change course, I cannot with him. Social amnesia will not alter the effects of time, no matter how much we try to will it. Thankfully, I have less and less need to employ such errors in social interaction. But in case you were wondering why I or others on the spectrum tend to repeat themselves, I hope this satisfies as an explanation.