Dan Harmon talks about Asperger’s syndrome – Why Abed is a shaman [SubEng] [SubIta]

Let’s talk about – as we jump all over the
damn place – your sudden realization, as you sort of crafted Jeff a certain way… at some
point during the run people are writing to you that Abed, he’s got Asperger, clearly.
You find yourself somehow taking an Asperger test on the Interwebs, and finding out that
maybe you’re closer to Abed then Jeff. Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. A bad
way of putting it would be that I… It’s such a hip illness, I didn’t mean to diagnose
myself with Asperger, that’s a terrible thing to do.
It’s the new autism, let’s be honest. Yeah, exactly… it’s the new gay, it’s the
new black – Hey, I’ve got Asperger! – I think that’s a very accurate way of saying it is
that… what happened was the character of Abed was being well responded to by the, kind of… call it the spectrum community, I don’t know.
Sure. The audience. I was curious about it, I was sort of googling
around and I would… I found this forums and chat rooms and things where people with
so called affliction were really responding to this character. And I say so called affliction
because I think one of the most interesting things about it is that… with spectrum disorders
is that, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who don’t consider it an affliction,
because the definition of an affliction should be that it somehow inhibits you, where…
actually the inhibition is on the part of other people. That’s why, these are people
who… they’re different. And they have what’s called a disorder by a mob of doctors who
are basing their standard of perfection on you know, a bell curve.
And they are in the pockets of the pharmaceuticals anyways.
Sure, fuck those guys… Yeah, I mean let’s get real! But the… So I was like, ok this
are cool people, this are my kind of people, because they’re nerdy and they… traditionally
they love them some Spock and some R2-D2 and some Mork from Ork and any character that
you come up with that has one foot in and one foot out and that is weird, and people
are trying to tell them: -You need to be more like normal people! – And then they’re like:
– I wish I could but I can’t – Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. What I noticed
is that they really liked this Abed character and they considered him a refreshing portrait
of someone with their so called disorder because he… One of the most important things about
him to them was that he wasn’t, he didn’t have Pinocchio syndrome, he didn’t wish…
You know, he wasn’t like – I really, oh if only I could have an emotion chip, and
be like all the normal boys and girls – He was what he was ok with it and it was up to
other people to figure out how to deal with him. And they really liked that a lot. Something
about it just rang with me and I was like: – I don’t wanna let this people down, ever –
They don’t get a lot of role models on tv, and I know how important that is. What happened
is alongside to that, the interesting personal thing that happened, I think is the… Yeah,
I didn’t wanna disappoint this aspies, who were responding so well to this character,
so… I also didn’t wanna diagnose him on camera, I don’t, I mean… It’s incredibly
difficult to diagnose adult aspergers, it’s not… It can take forever, it can take a
decade, because you can recognise it in children, but what happens is this is a disorder that
is a functional thing like, people aren’t handicapped, they’re just different. And they
learn to blend. The same way you, if there’s something wrong with your leg and you kinda
like, you start walking differently, they just become like this weird personalities,
they cope in all this different ways, you can’t tell one from another, there’s not similarities
among them They adapt, assimilate.
You know… so it become like this thing where it’s like: – Well, is it a disorder at all?
Or are we just diagnosing being weird, being exceptional? – You know, they talk about that
in their communities on the Internet, and I… As I said I just didn’t wanna do wrong
by these people. And so I researched this thing just to make sure I never did something
like to have Abed say he love pikles and then it’s like: – Everybody knows that nobody with
any form of mild autism or any spectrum disorder, you can’t stand any briny food or a cucumber
based product, now he blew it – I just… That was the impulse, it was like, just
make sure you got this right, you got an handle on what this is. And so I researched it and
it just started sounding awful familiar. But I do think that we’ve all done this before,
if you google “Bump on my neck + cancer” because you got a bump on your neck, you’re gonna
find out the bump on your neck is cancer, whether it is or it isn’t. The Internet is
real good for that. So I… I know I’m not normal, but I… I think the important thing
is that I, as you put it I think is the best way to put it, I started to discover that
I had a lot more in common with Abed then I did with Jeff. Jeff was originally me, the
idea… the sexy version of me, it was the idea that as I said before like: – Oh if talk
long enough I can make anything right or wrong, I have this, like ??? mouth that I can just
activate and I just like mesmerize people. I have to learn how to… even though that
makes me not believe in God or not believe in right or wrong and not believe in love,
I’m gonna learn all this things because I’m with these knuckleheads – You can see the transition
happening in the chicken fingers episode in the first season, it’s a conversation between
Jeff and Abed in the kitchen at the end of the episode and… They’re talking and they
make a deal that Jeff characterizes as: – Well, let’s be like Knight Rider – Meaning that Abed
can be the car and he can be the David Hasselhoff. It’s like : – let’s help each other, like
you be smart and weird and I’ll be human., like you help me… Point me in the right direction and I’ll do
the talking – And Abed misinterprets it… It’s a real hoot. But it’s in that moment,
in that conversation that the transition happens. Right.
I don’t walk away from that scene identifying with the sexy Irish guy anymore, I am now
the weird Indian kid, after that episode. And then second season started and I was kinda
like, him the whole time… But Abed sort of represented a lot of what
you were describing in terms of where you were at when you met Rob, what your interests
were, that part of you that has evolved, and he rapresented the Trojan horse of getting
you inside the network sitcom world. That part of this story is absolutely fan-fuckin-tastic.
No, truly, it is. It allowed you to thrive creatively and also to sort of transition
away from the fantasy of being Han Solo to celebrating being Abed
R2-D2. No, no, no, but I mean being the far more
complex… And also, by the way, Abed is crazy charming, in his way. Of course. Everybody wants to [be his friend] yeah. I mean, he doesn’t have self esteem
issues. That’s the interesting thing about him, is that he likes to be the way he is,
he’s just frustrated with his alienation. He loves people. Every… This is the thing
that I think is the most important profound thing… And please somebody tweet in or call
or correct me if I’m wrong, but… Out of all… There are disorders, afflictions whatever
you call’em, head injuries that can cause people to like eating poop, there are people
who sleep with corpses, there are people who get turned on by women stepping on their face,
there are people who wanna fuck teddy bears, there are peole who eat dirt, there are people
who murder children, there is no such thing, there is no twisting of the mind possible
that has ever resulted in any person wanting to be alone, liking solitude. You take hardcore
rapists, serial killers, homicidal maniacs, and you put them in solitary confinement and
they immediately start losing their mind, they beg and cry to be put around other people,
though rape and kill them, but they want the company. We are social mammals taken to such extremes
that there’s nothing like it on Earth. You can kinda see similarities in chimps and things,
but even they don’t get along quite as well, they don’t have the sort of natural instinct
for cooperation and compassion. Things that we think are fake conceits, they are genetic,
like they’re in us. We are different because we want each other to succeed, and we don’t
do it all the time, but we are known to sacrifice ourselves for each other. It’s amazing…
So you take a character like Abed… you know, what’s really cool about this is that is not
some dick like… Every single character on that show, the one thing they have in common
is that they’d rather be with each other than be alone. And Abed is… his condition is
he’s just afraid… Kids that grow up with Asperger, the most common link we can find
with them is frustration, fear of alienation, fear of being outcast, because we all feel
that, they grow up with it. Their personalities are formed in this crucible of constantly,
they just have every day, five times a day, somebody points at them and says: -What are
you doing?! – And they find out that their pants are on their ankles and you are not supposed
to do that when you pee, you’re supposed to only pull them down enough to put your wiener
out. Some social costume that they didn’t pick up on or understand and they were the
last person to realize that they’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. They feel humiliation,
they feel terror, because there’s nothing worse you can do to a human being the threaten
them with kickin’ them out. Well, the question of: – What are you doing?
You are doing it wrong – Those sort of messages have been sent by family members, either patriarch
or matriarch or siblings, as a way to either judge or compete. So I think there’s this
inherent social disorder that is in all of us, because of that upbringing of someone along
the ways of alleged authoritative plateaus saying: – What the fuck are you doing?
Yeah. We all had to not step in traffic and not touch hot stoves, we all have to learn
that you can’t call a door an elephant, for all the rest of the people won’t know what
the fuck you’re talking about. So we often characterize being told what to do as a bad
thing, but we want our parents to approve of us, and they’re the agents of, like…
All of us, aspergers or not, we all experienced that primal humiliation of somebody going:
– What the fuck, man! What are you doing? But not just doing something incorrectly,
you know what I mean? I think there’s something now inherent, not now, but always, inherent
in the social environment, where somewhere along the way, someone in your life, or several
people, either competitiveness at school… Now it’s this huge bully movement, or acknowledgment
of a forever lasting bully movement… Someone in a position of alleged power, or self imposed
power saying: – You’re an idiot. Yeah. Usually a mob. If it’s an individual
person it’s just somebody who’s been invested with the authority of the mob. You know, it’s
a popular kid, or a bully that everyone fears… How many people you know that do better walking
into a social situation after a drink, or something that relaxes their crack?
Yeah, I, what? How many people? I mean, how high is that percentage? So there’s
a form of human instinct… You say the aspergers come up with frustration basically every day,
about being excepted, so I think I’m venturing into: that’s in human nature already.
Yeah, definitely. There are people that we call kleptomaniacs, but we all know what it
feels like to wanna steal something. There are people that we call stutterers, but we’ve
all been tongue tied. So a character like Abed… the thing that they represent is the
part of us, all of us, feel like weirdos, we all are kept in line by our terror of being
outcast. It’s the force that pushes us toghether. We don’t wanna be that last person left out
in the rain, we know we’ll die.

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