Author Archives: Trevor Sundelius

Sundelius, Analysis 5

“With the Light” makes me think very much of arguably the most popular shonen manga around; Naruto. This series has been around for now 14 years in anime, and the manga since 1997 where the main protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki first appeared in 1997. 20 years since his first manga appearance, the manga and anime will be ending in a few comparatively short months. The way that the mangaka, Masashi Kishimoto refused to westernize the series the way that other anime shows such as the Dragon Ball series, the Pokemon series, among others really challenges the status quo of the United States’ programming standards. Naruto has been infamous for it’s suspenseful, violent, bloody but honorable battles, not afraid to push the western countries’ moral lines in the sand. “With the Light” touches on a topic, that as we’ve noticed in class, isn’t so directly referred to in fictional literature.

“With the Light” is centered around raising a child with Autism. That is the main theme in the manga, and it is done wonderfully, in my opinion. The fact that Japanese culture is accepting enough of this, considering it has been translated to English, is extremely fascinating. Thus, through this main idea, it serves a similar purpose to the Naruto franchise. It brings up a topic that is held more-or-less hush-hush in the US, and shows the various dynamics involved in raising a child with autism through the viewing lense of a Japanese family. Culturally, this coincides with Japan’s apparent idealistic approach of no topic really being too “mainstream,” boring or provocative enough to make into manga.

Is it a big gimmick? I don’t believe so, because perhaps the emotions, styling and events in the book may not be perfect representations of otherwise neurodivergent children in any one society, it does help bring awareness to it. And it shed some positive lights on the experience too, right down to the cover. Smiling faces, light blue and white colors suggest a more holy or divine outlook on the contents inside. After all, Naruto was a bullied, outcast orphan and could be argued as being neurodivergent based on his behavior throughout the entire series. Yet, he became a pop-culture icon in Japan, the US and many other countries around the world. He isn’t directly labeled as autistic or even being any other kind of neurodivergent, thus we assume he is neurotypical and just “quirky.” Yet it is implied by various villagers, comrades and enemies alike that he is thinks different, fights different and is more fixated on his “ninja way,” or creed more so than any other person they have ever been around.

Regardless, the point remains that the kind of refreshingly blunt, approachable manga we were assigned is definitely not a “westernized” version. For example, these kinds of foreign programming or other media is often watered down heavily, removing a lot of things like blood, cursing, any kinds of sexual innuendos and even sometimes cultural signifiers such as flags, symbols or body features in order to make the media in question more “appropriate for the general population.” Naruto and “With the Light” are two examples of the cultural difference between the US and Japan, and why perhaps the US could use a little more influence from Japan from a manga and overall media censorship standpoint, so that topics like autism and neurodivergent individuals as a collective is a more approachable and understood part of our society.

Sources: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/23529/20141012/naruto-manga-comic-book-series-end-15-years-will-anime.htm

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409591/

Analysis 4

Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip brings up many ideas that challenge the modern-day stereotypes of autistic, schizophrenic or otherwise neurodivergent people in society. Jack Bohlen was suffering from bouts of schizophrenia and fled to Mars in order to escape his bouts. Married with a son and a business mogul of a father on Earth, Jack works as a repair technician. This position is very critical and extremely imperative to everyday life on the newly-colonized Mars. Also on Mars we find Manfred Steiner, an autistic boy that is believed to be able to predict the future or alter time and enter through time portals.

The main plot aside, Jack and Manfred pose a very interesting topic as far as Dick’s representation of the two characters and having neurodivergence be a focal point of his novel in a time (published 1964) where autism and neurodivergence were still misunderstood, and the treatments for mental illness lacking research and scientific backing. Having a the “good” guys of the story both be neurodivergent is fascinating, as is the idea that Jack is married throughout the novel, and despite both Jack and his wife Silvia having had affairs and Jack’s schizophrenia, they choose to remain together, something that even neurotypical couples struggle with.

Another main focus of the novel is Manfred’s savant-like abilities, something seen in other, typically fictional novels, and movies like Rain Man. This can be a double-edged sword, as these characters can set extremely high bars for the neurodivergent that may never be possible to reach, while also raising awareness and empowering neurodivergent to an extent. Also seen in other plots with a savant character, Kott attempts to abuse the gift that Manfred has been given to alter time in order to stake his claim in the land that Jack’s father had already purchased so that the United Nations can install apartment complexes. Just like in Rain Man, the neurotypical antagonist is attempting to wreak havoc through the companionship of a neurodivergent protagonist or main character.

Another point of emphasis is the idea that is presented in the book, that both schizophrenic and autistic people have a different sense of time, having time pass them by extremely fast and much faster than a neurotypical person or at a snail’s pace. The main point brought into play is that these people are essentially trapped in their own brains, which could lead to why Jack originally attempted to “flee” from his condition by moving to an entirely new planet. Manfred’s ability can also be explained by this theory for the book’s sake, with an older Manfred coming back thankful to all of those whom helped him as a boy.

In summary, these two characters represent the challenges as well as the positive characteristics of neurodivergent people. Jack being married, staying married through tough times and assisting Manfred through his journey to Manfred himself coming back in time, in a wheelchair with breathing devices hanging on him just to say thank you to those of whom helped him in his journey show that Dick was writing ahead of his times as far as neurodivergence and that some of these topics are still extremely relevant to this day.

Sundelius, Analysis 3

This week’s reading really sparked an intrigue for me to think deeper and more critically of why mental health institutions then and even in minor remnants today chose to attempt to continue “curing” their patients through the method that if most civilians acted such ways, would be considered attempted murder, if the perpetrator was lucky.

file_000This was also prompted by a post I had seen (see left) on social media which from an anonymous author reads: “A child with autism is not ignoring you. They are waiting for you to enter their world.” Which I feel has implications in this text, as well. Not only with Chief Bromden’s pretending of being deaf and dumb to try and go unnoticed despite being 6’7 but also with how most of the patients were treated by the wicked Nurse Ratched. They were put into two metaphorical baskets; chronics who were un-curable and acutes whom they believed could still be cured.

The neurodivergent in general are sometimes just waiting to connect with others in a specific way to be because their view on the world could vary greatly from the neurotypical. The idea this can all of a sudden change by means of electroconvulsive (ETC) therapy is not all so bad, after some research into the therapy. I had been under the impression, like many, that this procedure even today was done under little or no anesthesia and the patient was in excruciating pain and that it had little positive benefits. This isn’t true by today’s standards based on information provided by the Mayo Clinic. In fact, quite the opposite is true today, however, with more research, this hasn’t always been the case. Back in the days when this book is set, ECT was still a therapy that was out-dated in terms of how it was being used at the time. Those days, the treatments were much more like that in which I described.

The second method of curing the patients that tickled my curiosity was the now-debunked concept of lobotomy, or literally removing parts of the brain, specifically the prefrontal lobe, that are seen as causes of the mental illness, as seen with McMurphy. He was paralyzed and essential in a “vegetable state,” and was suffocated by Chief Bromden in order to end the protagonist’s misery in the conclusion of his back-and-forth denial of Nurse Ratched’s reign in the institution whom also represented the conformity and societal stereotype that Bromden called the Combine. The curiosity of mine peaks most from it being only used to treat mental illness, and no other conditions, and then I found out the horrific way in which the procedure was performed through npr.org. An ice pick looking object is inserted into the patient’s brain via the forehead though pulled-back skin after sawing two holes inside of their skill, an extremely inhumane way of conducting such a surgery even considering the technological and medical limitations of the past.

This, combined with the imagery of patients being bound with wrist cuffs with connectors on their heads to receive unnecessarily high levels of electric shocks was disturbing for me, and then I realized this was all a very brute show of strength by the staff considering even in the time this book is placed, they had already been aware that ECT and lobotomies were not as effective as they had originally thought when the treatments were introduced into the scientific world. It was Nurse Ratched and her aide’s way of maintaining their version of order and squashing the attempted and on occasion brilliantly successful rebellion of McMurphy and his fellow patients. A cruel, torturous power against those who needed special attention is a frightening idea, and luckily enough we have made progress in that area and continue that trend today.

Sources Cited:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/electroconvulsive-therapy/basics/definition/prc-20014161

http://www.npr.org/2005/11/16/5014080/my-lobotomy-howard-dullys-journey

Sundelius, Analysis 2

Is Sherlock Holmes setting up a unrealistic role model for young people on the autistic spectrum? There is a lot Sherlock Holmes is able to do intellectually, and is garnering even more respect for his acute observation skills in just the first chapter. Dr. Watson is even given credit, however Sherlock Holmes proves almost every conclusion of Watson’s wrong, further proving that his attention to detail, acute observation skills and seemingly random and sporadic knowledge base could show how Holmes is arguably on the autistic spectrum…

However, is this something that young children and adults should look to as a realistic role model? If Holmes is on the spectrum, he is extremely high-functioning. Most whom are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder are not so fortunate. Some are mute, do not respond to commands or requests and show other very, very different symptoms than Sherlock. Autism Speaks, Inc. wrote an article titled “About Autism,” in which they don’t give any specific percentages or demographics, however states:

    “Some children diagnosed with autism remain mute throughout their lives. Some infants who later show signs of autism coo and babble during the first few months of life, but they soon stop. Others may be delayed, developing language as late as age 5 to 9. Some children may learn to use communication systems such as pictures or sign language.” (Autism Speaks, 6)

    Sherlock Holmes is a grown man, which while this doesn’t disprove the argument that he is on the spectrum, it does hinder it slightly. However, in the next sentence in the article, it is also stated that a lot of them who have communication difficulties that do speak struggle to form coherent sentences, in which Holmes has no trouble with, regardless of the situation being inappropriate or not.

Sherlock is an intelligent man that many neurotypical or neurodivergent people should strive to look to as a role model for his observing, problem solving and determination. Yet, even for those whom are very intelligent either way, Holmes sets up a very high standard that many will find isn’t a realistic feat for someone in the general population. He also has some negative characteristics, such as his inability to diagnose an awkward or inappropriate social situation, some of his habits such as drug use, and his competitiveness that often offends and portrays a large ego.

This trend is also being seen more now in the current decade. In personal experience, movies and TV shows with a neurodivergent character is often a hero or heroine of sorts, a moral compass for the “right thing to do,” and I haven’t seen one where they are mute or unable to form complete, meaningful sentences. This portrays all kinds of different neurodivergent characteristics, and many struggle from a combination. Sherlock Holmes arguably is one of the first who is seen as neurodivergent, or on the autistic spectrum; yet he is more than likely not someone most people would go to for an example of someone to strive to be like, giving them an unrealistic bar to reach for, neurodivergent or otherwise.

Source:

Autism Speaks. (2012). About Autism. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/sctk_about_autism.pdf

Sundelius, Analysis One

“Raymond must tightly control his environment and daily routine or he becomes frantic.”

“But soon afterward, the new tenants of the narrator’s old offices come to him asking for help: Bartleby will not leave. When they oust him from the offices, Bartleby haunts the hallways.”

Analyzing the annotated quote above further, I am drawn to a conclusion that Bartleby was in fact Autistic. We don’t know exactly how any brain really works, on or off of the spectrum first and foremost. What we do know, is that thought processes between the nuerodiverse and the neurotypical are very different. This, combined with the simple fact that this story is narrated in first person as someone who doesn’t understand the actions of Bartleby, leads me further into this conclusion.

The names of the two staff members on the narrator’s staff are named Nippers and Turkey, which even for that time could suggest a method of reading this with Autism being considered could prove very useful to dissecting the characters, including the narrator. Both Ni have these very difficult problems, one being indigestion and one being alcoholism. Ironically, Turkey and Nippers seem to coincide just enough to maintain some fluidity at the office,but never at the same time. Nippers is irritable because of his indigestion in the morning, and Turkey has gone from sober at that time to drunk by the time Nippers is calmer. It was almost as if the narrator was trying to describe some of the challenges that people like Bartleby face in real life, anecdotal.

This is similar to how bipolar disorder can be. As sited by psychologist Andrea Witwer, PhD and psychiatrist Jessica Hellings, MD bipolar disorder is “over-diagnosed” in those on the Autism spectrum, yet also claimed that both share many common symptoms. Different thoughts and mind processes, struggling for control yet able to maintain what could be called a “normal day”, with one mood suddenly shifting and replacing the other but still working in conjunction with each other.

Delving deeper, the narrator starts noticing Bartleby living in the office, giving very similar answers, and overall behaving strangely with no rational explanation as to why. Later, after attempts to remove Bartleby from the premises fails he eventually winds up haunting the halls. This is similar to how Ray Babbit from Rain Man acts in the sense of routines being imperative and needing to be adhered to with a very punctual schedule often times. These lead me to believe Bartelby was in fact Autistic and at the time, nobody understood Bartleby so he ended up where most did during that time period; in an institution. Bartleby’s being the prison he dies in.

Bartleby also showed signs of Autism when he refused to review documents and eventually starve from always saying “I would prefer not to.” When forced to do something, harsh consequences followed for Bartleby. Imprisonment, which was very common before the 20th century occurred from refusing to break his routine of being at the old office. This was common for Autistic people before there was more awareness and more specific symptoms were diagnosed more effectively. Most went into mental institutions or prisons from acting out as a reaction to another’s action.

Bartleby and Ray shared many different prejudices and stereotypes, the most common themes being their institutionalization from being misunderstood, their outbursts from breaking routine and the lack of awareness and people’s impatience with them all being common themes to argue that Bartelby was most likely an Autistic character.

Sources Cited:

MenuDramatica®The Next Chapter in Story Development. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2016, from http://dramatica.com/analysis/rain-man
Hellings, J., MD, & A. W., PhD. (n.d.). Is There a Connection between Autism and Bipolar Disorder? Retrieved September 19, 2016, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2014/05/22/there-connection-between-autism-and-bipolar-disorder