A Horrible Dismissal

“She was sent to Auschwitz and was going to be experimented on by [Josef] Mengele and was observing his work and started correcting him,” Levine tells me. “She was a high-operating autistic savant. She said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you might as well do it correctly.’ The morality never entered into it. It was her love of science.” Tenenbaum’s story takes a sharp turn as she begins to help conduct the horrific medical travesties in the camps.

That same disconnection from empathy is what allowed her to manipulate young girls into the ghoulish creatures known as Little Sisters. “She never brought the moral angle to any of her scientific works, whether it was her helping experiment on Jews in the camps or working with the Little Sisters,” Levine says. “Because of her autism, it never cracked through. She was disconnected from any human aspect or any sense of empathy. Then she had this moment and her empathy comes rushing in as she’s able to see what she’s done for the first time.”

That is a passage from an interview conducted by Mike Futter of Ken Levine for this article on Game Informer

I am pretty grossed out by this.

Autism is a spectrum condition that people are fighting very hard to have understood. There is for it, as there is for most disabilities both mental and physical, a lack of knowledge and understanding from the public. Many people fear or hate those with disabilities, many think that they are less of a person and deserving of violence or harassment.

A condition like autism, which is very wide ranging, is one that people attempt to boil down to an impossible simplicity, a simplicity that often creates a negative portrait of the individuals who have it. Having a character commit incredible atrocities, involving her with some of the most famously awful acts of all time, and saying they’re capable of it because of their autism isn’t a protective blanket on the character. It isn’t an excuse that renders their actions less power, it is something that paints a very negative target on autism. It suggests that autistic people can be dangerous because of their condition, that they’re a strange other who is capable of something unthinkable.

I’m not happy with how this was presented, and I’m certainly not happy the flippant understanding of autism that appears. It’s an insult to those with autism and a plot point that has no real need to exist.

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