The news that Susan Boyle was on the spectrum was greeted with a variety of reactions from “Wow, really?” to “Well, of course. You didn’t know?” to “Who cares.”
My son hadn’t yet been diagnosed when she first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, so I didn’t really have functioning “autdar” at the time to notice. I just thought she was quirky, mousy, sweet but strange. Her voice was simply amazing, surprising, moving. I don’t remember much else from that long ago, just how fun it was to see the judges and audience members faces when this mousy, awkward person blew them away with her talent.
I had to go back and watch the clip again because I remembered how it made me smile the first time, and her performance still does. It’s lovely, and I tear up a bit and smile when I watch her. And my autdar goes ding-ding during her interview, when I see her physicality, hear her speaking style (one that I recognize a bit in my own child).
But then I listen to the comments of the judges and I feel a small cold ball form in the pit of my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, they LOVED her performance. They were blown away. And they were kicking themselves for being cynical when she walked on stage and stumbled through their Q&A. But what they said after her performance, before they gave their unanimous YES, brought into focus how damn obnoxious and judgemental we are as neurotypicals toward those who we see as “not quite like us” – (Transcript from Luke’s English Podcast)
Piers M: …When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said “I want to be like Elaine Page”, everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now! That was stunning! An incredible performance. Amazing! I’m reeling from the shock. I dunno about you two, but…
Amanda H: I am so thrilled because I know everybody was against you. I honestly think we were all being very cynical and I think that’s the biggest wake up call ever, and I just want to way that it was a complete privilege, listening to that.
It seemed hurtful to bring it up the derision, the cynicism, the “haha, funny strange person” reaction that the majority of the audience had. I get the judges were trying to be nice in a way, and that they were feeling pretty stupid too – and maybe pointing out the stupid in everyone (which is a good thing). But it took the shine off to hear it – Susan seemed somewhat confused by that part of the comments, and she didn’t really seem to recognize how much they loved her performance till they actually gave her the “YES” votes.
In her recent interview, Susan Boyle says “I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”
I’m just really disappointed that she’s felt she had to have a diagnosis/explanation for that to happen, and that we don’t just treat people better, with a little more understanding, in the first place.