maybe it’s just not for you
extra ordinary (whiteness &) attorney woo
A rant, but it needs to be said.
[ID: “Extraordinary Attorney Woo”, is a show with a Korean autistic character. Woo has bobbed dark brown hair, wears an oversized beige suit jacket, her hands grasp the strap of her bag. She looks slightly away from the camera. End ID]
I have a whole list of problems with some posts I’ve seen lately written by white autistics declaring that the K-drama autistic representation in Extraordinary Attorney Woo is problematic (etc) AND THEN deciding that Quinni on Heartbreak High is such an incredibly fabulous example of representation for autistics in the next breathe (I’ve got no issues one way or another with Quinni at all by the way, so let’s not fall into that nasty habit of centering whiteness here).
Then, I scroll the comments of said posts and see actual Korean (and other East Asian) autistics who are spending their emotional labour trying to explain or dare defend this show and it’s representation, get ignored. Here they are sharing their autistic experiences based within the cultural lens this story is told thru - their own, and it was rarely if ever acknowledged, let alone heard.
Can we please sit with the racist undertones of these action for a minute?! I’ve been pissed off about this for two days trying to find my words on this. This whole situation is not sitting well with me. I’ve never talked about this before, but I have a very real soft spot for my East Asian autistic and ND friends. But none more so that my Korean ones. I spent 2 years living in South Korea when I first ever lived abroad. It holds a very special place in my heart.
I have a lot of thoughts on the show too, but even I know better than to have the audacity to think that I could possibly decide that I know what makes good autistic representation based within a culture that is not mine. Those who had posts/stories on this show, speaking over actual Korean (or East Asian) autistics and not asking for their opinions, uplifting their stories and experiences, missed the mark on this one. And then those who went further as to center their favourite white autistics characters and actors in comparison, were ultra wrong too.
It was also racist. I’m calling them out on that.
You see, we can’t separate Attorney Woo from Korean culture in order to determine how this representation can be understood. She was created within this context, understood from within this context, even with the stereotypical parts to her representation, there’s still a context that is NOT white or “western” that we must stop to consider this from too.
Yes, she’s autistic, but she not separate from HER CULTURE. Much like how Black autistics often have stims that are taken from our own culture, we need to consider Woo from the lens of being Korean too. When thinking about what this autistic representation means, we must be listening to actually Korean (and also other East Asian) autistics first and foremost.
It’s been wildly unsettling (to put it mildly) for me to watch how easy it’s been for many (predominantly) white autistics to swiftly strip (or for lack of a better word, erase) the cultural influence from the character while deciding if she’s a good enough match to their white centered autistic expectations or not. But then again, it’s East Asian culture and whiteness is expert at erasing it, right?
Maybe what’s problematic isn’t always the representation, but how it’s decided who’s worthy of being represented or not by some within our own community, instead.
This writing piece comes after getting forwarded some posts by (predominantly) white autistics giving opinions on this show. My heart just broke because this wasn’t just about being autistic. I knew right away the significance of this show for Korea when I first heard about and later watched it. I lived and taught in South Korea for two years. But it’s still not my place to speak over who this show was for and how it sits with them. It might be a show representative of many autistics, but it’s the Korean autistics who matter.
If you choose to comment please respect this.