Saturday, March 16, 2019

Everyone Is Human: Prosthetics in Alita: Battle Angel, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Alec Frazier at the theater to see Alita!
The new film Alita: Battle Angel has done quite well at the box office, and many have praised its feminist ideals. However, the film is also quite a boon to the disabled community. It can be argued that it is a two-hour, $200 million treatise on prosthetics. During an interview with disability rights firm Autistic Reality at Lightstorm Entertainment in 2014, Alita coproducer Jon Landau came out with a novel position when asked about diversity in film. “We work on stuff creatively,” he says. “When you push something to the forefront, I think it has much less of an impact than when you play it in the background.” As such, the pro-prosthetic agenda of Alita: Battle Angel does not slap you in the face but is instead an inbuilt part of the film.
Alita Raises her sword towards Zalem.
In the world in which the film exists, a future community called Iron City, prosthetic limbs and bodies are par for the course. In fact, it is rarer to come upon someone who doesn’t have a prosthetic body part than it is to see someone with one. This is typified by a scene early in the film when Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) takes Alita (Rosa Salazar) around Iron City, and we see many people living their everyday lives with prosthetics. Some of these people work their prosthetic limbs to their advantage, such as a guitarist, who has two extra hands on his left arm, allowing him to play a double-necked guitar flawlessly. Ido’s nurse, Gerhad (Idara Victor), is kind and compassionate, and has a prosthetic left arm that is finely tuned to better allow her to assist in surgeries. Some people use prosthetic body parts for sports, such as the much-favored sport of Motorball. In fact, at one point during the film, Dr. Ido fits Alita with prosthetic skates for the sport. Other athletes have prosthetic weapons that they use to gain an advantage in the game. There are even animals with prosthetic parts, and one bounty hunter named McTeague (Jeff Fahey) has an entire pack of dogs that are either robotic or cybernetic with prosthetics. 
Alita tests out her first cybernetic body in the film.
There are multiple amputees in Iron City, and Dr. Ido treats many of them. In fact, Alita’s first body in the film was originally meant for his daughter, who was paralyzed from the waist down. Some in the modern disability rights movement would view the trait of a prosthetic body for someone affected by paralysis as unnecessary, and that that person should probably live with their paralysis. Then again, the film takes place several hundred years in the future, and in a completely different world. One would expect that, as prosthetics became more readily available and more lifelike, people would take to them kindlier. In fact, Alita’s love interest, Hugo (Keean Johnson), is given an almost entirely prosthetic body towards the end of the film, and, all things considered, it has relatively little effect on him psychologically since he grew up knowing that it would always be a possibility.
Bounty Hunter Zapan
Of course, some characters take the prosthetic surgery to extremes. Merciless bounty Hunter Zapan (Ed Skrein) has heavily invested his earnings on a sleek, pretty-boy body and face, all the while engaging in insidious plots to defeat the protagonists of the film. He is cold and manipulative, and undeserving of his beautiful body, and gets his just desserts near the end of the film when Alita destroys his face, leaving him as ugly as his emotional bankruptcy would indicate. An even further example of extreme prosthetic modification is Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley), one of the main villains of the film. He starts out just barely human, with a human brain with a modified human head, and over the course of the film, his cybernetic body is further and further “upgraded”. By the time of his death at the end of the film, it is impossible to empathize with Grewishka, and it is more like seeing a machine terminated than it is seeing a person die.
As Landau mentioned, “…at the end, as we talked about, we want to make movies that, that affect people, and have an impact on their lives, and how they see the world, as they move forward.” Therefore, through it all, Alita remains the most human character in the entire film, even though her brain is the only originally human part of her. She is compassionate, loving, empathetic, loyal, and sweet. The question thus becomes, “What makes us human?” If Alita can be human, then it does not matter how many prosthetic parts someone has. Just because one has prosthetics does not mean they are broken. Everyone is human.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

An Interview with Senator Chris Van Hollen, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Alec Frazier with Senator Chris Van Hollen
Hello! Yesterday, I interviewed the junior Senator for Maryland, Chris Van Hollen. Here are key takeaways from the interview, although the full interview will be on my podcast.

  • Disability Integration Act (DIA): Senator Van Hollen said he is a co-sponsor of the Disability Integration Act to get us in the disability community out of forced institutionalization. He said it is vital for the disability community to be an equal player in society.
  • Disability Education: Senator Van Hollen is drafting legislation to force the federal government to pay its 40% to make education accessible under the IDEA Act. He is also working on measures to provide a great deal more assistive technology to the disability community, whether it be an education or other venues.
  • Disability Housing: Senator Van Hollen is working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and working on legislation to provide more funding for disability housing, in particular Section 8, as well as incentivizing making all affordable housing accessible. He agrees that it is a travesty that affordable housing is not currently required to be accessible for all. Legislation he is working on will address this issue through zoning and real estate law, as well as other measures.
  • Disability Employment: Senator Van Hollen mentioned that surveys show that at least 80% of disabled individuals want to work, and yet in any given place, less than 20% do. He acknowledges that we wish to be an active part of society, and that employers need to get over their bias against us. He is working with the Department of Labor, including the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to improve the situation of disability employment, as well as working on legislation to incentivize hiring us. He is also working with and improving various employment programs such as Workforce.
  • Healthcare: Senator Van Hollen is drafting legislation to pave the way for eventual approval of a Medicare-for-all style national healthcare. He points out that we are the wealthiest country on earth, and have more than enough money to do this, and that it is a travesty that people are dying without it.
  • Gun-Control: Senator Van Hollen is working to close dangerous gun law loopholes, such as the gun show loophole. He is also working on red flag law, to prevent people with known histories of violence or instability from owning firearms. He believes that the United States, as a leader in policy, should catch up with other countries around the world which are safer with lower murder and suicide rates because they have adequate gun-control. He agrees with Autistic Reality in that the fact that school shootings are now normal is a national emergency.
  • Immigration: Senator Van Hollen calls the current policy of the presidential administration “hideous”. He is working on every Congressional resolution and measure to counter the tragedy at the US border, as well as providing humanitarian aid to those detained there. He is working tirelessly on measures to add forgiveness to people at the border and agrees with Autistic Reality that all people of America, including its immigrants, make it great, no matter how they arrive here.
  • Entertainment: Senator Van Hollen agrees that actors with disabilities should be given roles with disabilities whenever possible. Just as we are working to include people with disabilities in the workplace, we should also work to include us with disabilities in show business and creativity.
  • Various: Senator Van Hollen mentioned that he is working with Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania on a number of these issues. On a more personal note, he praised me and my firm, Autistic Reality, for having a pivotal role in saving the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as making sure that Medicaid was not rolled back. He also complimented me profusely on my book, Veni! Vidi! Autism!, of which I gave him a copy. He was thrilled to learn that I used assistive technology to write it.
I am honored and privileged to be on a first name basis with my sitting United States Senator. I promise not to abuse this friendship, and to continue working with him to better the world. We are a great and diverse people but together, we are “E Pluribus Unum”, Out of Many, One.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Our Primary Endorsement for the 2020 Presidential Election, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Hello all! As you may know, I have a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s very heavy in social science. I have belonged to two different usually disenfranchised populations my entire life, the disability community and the gay community. I am the son of two extremely liberal children of the 1960s. I have been involved in political advocacy since third grade in 1994. I have a great deal of experience in politics, and I work with politicians on an extremely regular basis. I am by no means stupid about this. I have been absolutely thrilled at the liberal trend of primary contenders from the Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election. All of the contenders signify a shift to the left politically from the last presidential election, some more than others. For quite some time, I was supporting Elizabeth Warren.

Nevertheless, a number of these contenders do not appeal to conservative, white, male, middle American voters. This is not an election we can afford to lose. As a double minority, I am extremely aware of the potential dangers of continuing the status quo. In addition, a number of these candidates have proposed things they want to do, but not how they want to do them. I was extremely hesitant in making my pick for the primary election. I am horrified by the potential of a repeat of 2016. Nevertheless, as I mentioned, the entire field has shifted to the left.

And yet, one of them is a white, older, male candidate who appeals to middle Americans and a great deal of conservative voters. He has concrete plans on how he wants to enact his policies. He is roughly the same age as former Vice President Joe Biden and is one year younger than our kick ass Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Bernie Sanders
This is why I, and my firm, Autistic Reality, have decided to endorse Bernie Sanders. The man literally marched next to Martin Luther King, Jr. There has been a misconception that most of his supporters have been young male hipsters, called Bernie Bros. In reality, he was incredibly strong with every demographic in the last election, and was the only candidate endorsed by Black Lives Matter. He has more experience in government than any of the other candidates. He has been pro-LGBTQ rights his entire life. Compared to most other national politicians, he is relatively poor, choosing not to accumulate wealth in order to better understand his constituents. He believes that healthcare is a right, not a commodity. He believes in deinstitutionalizing those of us with disabilities. I have heard him speak in person, and it is like hearing my brain given voice. There is no person like him running for the office of President of the United States of America, and he is what our nation desperately needs in this grave hour.

I am perfectly fine with the possibility that he may not win the primary. If this is the case, I will vote for whoever wins it. This is not an election we can lose. While I am personally a democratic socialist believing in a strong government with social welfare, and eventual abolition of capitalism, borders, and currency, I believe in achieving this through peaceful and assured means. I will not vote for a third party with no chance of winning in a two-party democracy, especially when things are so dire. I believe in a powerful, positive future for America and the whole world. In some ways, America is great. In other ways, America needs drastic improvement. The things that make America great are currently under threat, things like our diverse culture, our welcoming accommodation of immigrants from around the world, our desire for peace, and our brilliant spirit of ingenuity. I believe with the proper candidate, these things can come back to the forefront.

Today, I made a donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign to the tune of five dollars and made it monthly. I encourage you all to think carefully about where you want this nation to head. No matter what, we will triumph over tyranny. We have been doing it since 1776!

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Monday, January 28, 2019

What I Do, By Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Where are you currently employed? What do you do?
Alec FrazierDirector of Autistic Reality
I am currently the director of my own firm, Autistic Reality. I do disability and human rights advocacy including but not limited to public speaking, lobbying, peer advocacy, and generating original creative content.

How would you describe your job to a complete stranger?

Cover of Veni! Vidi! Autism!
To elaborate on the previous question, I fight for the disability community and other people who are underprivileged or have had their rights infringed. This takes a variety of forms.

Traditionally, I have been speaking with legislators and their staff to push various agendas, giving speeches at various conferences and conventions, and serving as a mentor for various individuals. I have just been inducted into the National Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. I work frequently with the National Council on Independent Living, As Well As My Local Independent Living Center, Independence Now. Independent living centers exist nationwide, and even internationally, to promote the disability branch of the civil rights movement. They focus on much more than just living, and cover other areas including employment, education, civil rights issues, and personal development. I also work with any number of task forces or other groups that I either agree with him which desire my services. For example, I am currently speaking at a writers’ conference in Richmond, Virginia which I had been invited to after its organizer met me at another convention. Networking is important. I also am starting my own podcast soon, and have several episodes recorded.

While I am a disability rights advocate by trade, most of my recent work has involved writing and editing, and I have come out with a three-hundred-page book called Veni! Vidi! Autism! In addition to that, I have been compiling, editing, and curating a collection of original works by individuals with disabilities. This collection is called Stories About Us, and consists of short stories, poetry, novels, and entire series of books. This work has entailed me traveling to various pop-culture conventions to promote my own work, and speaking at those shows, as well as selling my book and various artwork. There will be further promotional events as new works in Stories About Us get published.

Any uncommon skills/ tasks your job requires of you?

In the Obliteration Room of Yayoi Kusama’s  Infinity Mirrors Exhibition
Believe it or not, the writing load can be quite heavy. I write blog entries frequently with my points of view on everything from art exhibits to films to social decorum to disability policy to travel essays and just about anything. A number of these blog entries make their way into my published works. One of the benefits to the blogs is that I can include images, as well as reaching an audience that is in some respects wider. I include the writing as an unusual task because I have two writing disabilities and require computer software to get any real volume of writing done. In fact, I am using it to write these answers right now. By using this software and being patient with it and becoming an expert in its use, I have written my way to be a published author.

Another unusual skill required of me is the ability to experience pop-culture in depth, with an analytical mind. I do this for fun, too. A typical day off involves photographing the heck out of a museum. I then go home and caption the images thoroughly. I also do this with architecture and, of course, delicious food. There are huge benefits to my work in recording these experiences in such detail, because I can easily write about my experiences. As a result, I have written detailed and evocative chapters on things such as famed artist Yayoi Kusama, the Kennedy Space Center, and even theme parks! Of course, in addition to in-depth physical experiences, I also write about films, books, and other more traditional pop-culture experiences.

How do your personal experiences help or hinder you at work?

With My Friend Senator Chris van Hollen
This keys into the last question. Another set of skills required for my work is social awareness. I know what you’re thinking; autism doesn’t usually lend itself to that. However, over the many years of my life, I have developed quite a knack for social skills. Don’t get me wrong! I sometimes still goof up, and that has caused some of my biggest professional pitfalls. Fortunately, they seem to come further and further between, in addition to being more and more minor. In fact, they often help me get further in business. For example, one time I had a meeting with my Senator, and I spend my time ingratiating myself with him whilst also pushing agenda issues. At the end, I asked him if he would be on my podcast, and he surprised me by saying yes. There are other guests I have gotten on the podcast by using deft social skills. One of them is a civil rights pioneer and independent business owner in Washington, DC who is in her eighties. I realized that her family, which manages her business affairs, may be sensitive if I just outright asked for her to be a guest, so I spent time getting to know her while visiting her business. We chatted and became friends. This helped convince her daughter, who is also her publicist, to allow me to put her on my podcast.

What makes your job interesting?

With Acclaimed Film Producer John Landau
For one thing, the people I meet are truly one-of-a-kind. Every one of them is noteworthy in their own way. Not all of them may be famous, but they all have an interesting story to tell. I work with politicians, artists, caseworkers, parents, and even children. Of course, meeting some famous people has become a given. One time, I met Senator Tammy Duckworth, and it didn’t even enter my mind how impressive that meeting was, because such work is a given in my field. I am also somewhat expert at befriending noteworthy personalities. It is my policy that it can’t hurt to try! If they have a personal Facebook profile, often, I send them a request. You’d be surprised who I have amongst my social media contacts!

The most rewarding part of my job, however, is when I make a noticeable difference in someone’s life, whether it be one person or many people. I don’t care about awards or official recognition. In my experience, those often goes to people who game the system. Instead, I the deepest impact upon me comes when someone tells me I have changed their life for the better. This means the world to me.

How does your job impact other professions/vocations?

Speaking on Capitol Hill
As mentioned in the previous answer, I often hear people about the differences I have made upon their lives. My advice impacts several professionals and their various vocations, including but not limited to rehabilitation counseling, editing, writing, public speaking, healthcare, education, workforce inclusion, and much, much more. As for how my job impacts these professions and vocations, I provide an optimistic yet realism-based disabled point of view on all these various facets of life.

In one notable example, I was in a group of about ten people who lobbied Senator Chuck Schumer to help create a federal agency on Independent Living and disability civil rights. Our voices were very clearly articulated to him, because the next day, he walked into the Senate chamber and proposed legislation to do so. By the next summer, I was having a meeting with the head of the Administration on Community Living, the agency that I was in small part responsible for founding. I recognize that thousands of people over the years who have had roles in promoting the establishment of such an agency, however it was my group’s talk to his staffer that provided the final impetus to get it created. In this way, I have had a small but vital role in the establishment of the current state of affairs in Independent Living.

Sometimes other people ask me about anything from healthcare benefits to housing options to employment choices and even about recreational activities. I recognize that my knowledge is not as in-depth as a specialist in each matter, but I help provide basic jumping off points for them to look for benefits. I cannot even begin to count the number of people I have helped in this way. Nonetheless, I am humbled when they come to me, and always put their own needs and wants first.

If you were trying to “sell” what you do to a potential collaborator/colleague, what would your elevator pitch be?

With Astronaut Mike ForemanMike is one of the recipients of my elevator speech.
Hello, I’m Alec Frazier. I have autism and several other disabilities, and I run a human rights advocacy firm called Autistic Reality. I do public speaking, lobbying, benefits advisement, peer mentoring, policy consulting, and editing and writing. I work equally with people with disabilities as well as parents and other family members, caregivers, other professionals, and even politicians to make sure that the rights of the disability population are heard. I consider myself a compromiser, and I am willing to work with almost anyone in order to pursue these goals.

If you are a writer, and you have disabilities, I’d like to tell you about the Stories About Us anthology project. I am the Managing Editor on this project to get writings by disabled authors published. I will be happy and proud to provide you with the publication of your own copyrighted book. I will provide the necessary fees to copyright your works, as well as layout and some publicity materials. I strongly believe in the right of everyone to get their stories told, and publishing should not be restricted only to people with a great deal of time, money, and resources.

A note on the second paragraph: we are still working out the particulars of Stories About Us as a sustainable, long-term project.

Do you think we as a society are making progress when it comes to understanding and accepting autism?

Talking with a Group of Developmentally Disabled Kids at the Rebecca School in NYC
I absolutely do think that we are making progress on the front. Family members, caregivers, other professionals, and peers are constantly learning about autism, and along with that learning comes understanding. When I was younger, many years ago, a peer of mine said that I couldn’t be autistic because I can talk. That was the first and yet only time I have heard such gross misunderstanding. Today, everyone knows someone with autism, and everybody has a basic understanding of the inherent worth and dignity of the autistic individual. Whether or not they choose to act on that understanding is up to them, but I find that over 90% do.

It should be mentioned that, as a more moderate advocate, I do not see the world as pessimistically as many more radical autistic activists do. Those radical activists often harp on the negatives, and perceived lack of understanding. To them, lack of understanding is ammunition and business and perhaps even money in the pocket for them. I have asked several of them whether they want to be happy and more optimistic, and many of them have mentioned that they choose to be negative and combative. I work for an opposite standpoint, and choose to see the glass as half-full, and that everybody has a potential to work together toward a better future. I think that most of the people who are not understanding of autistic individuals want to learn and be more respectful.

What kind of stigmas do you face while doing your day-to-day work?

With My Friend Joe Quesada
Joe is the creative head of Marvel comics, and sees me as an equal, without stigma.
None! Maybe it has to do with my skill at socialization, but I almost never encounter negative stigma when doing my advocacy work.

In casual situations, I try to ingratiate myself, and often bring up advocacy after we have been talking a while. People’s reactions in casual situations are always positive, and they frequently mention that they know someone or have a family member with autism. We build on that. These people often end up becoming proud supporters of my work, and even friends.

In more businesslike situations, people always seem to understand where I am coming from. One of the key things I do in the middle of conversation is let people know that I am not as radical as some of these autistic activist groups, and that I recognize that they are trying to help no matter how they do things. This immediately puts individuals and organizations at ease. Many of them have reiterated that they are used to hostile, militant, stubborn, and closed-minded groups of radicals who refuse to consider multiple viewpoints. I tend to win people over by being tolerant and accepting of diverse views.

Now, there are some organizations and individuals that I dislike more than others, but, if business were to have me work with them, I would do so on a professional basis. I am a compromiser, and I will not automatically hate you just because I disagree with you. There is only one way to make me hate you, and that is to treat me or countless others like garbage without a basis. More of the radical disability activists tend to do this then the people without disabilities. One needs to come at things with an open mind, not with hate in their heart.

You said in your initial email to me that you were pushing for legislative change on forced institutionalization, even planning on taking the case to Congress. What happened? What was the response?

Senator Chuck Schumer Reintroduces the Disability Integration Act to Congress
We, the disability community, have been pushing to eliminate forced institutionalization for those with disabilities and in the aged community for quite some time now. In fact, ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1991, various groups have been pushing further to allow people in these populations to live in the world at large. Accessibility is very desirable indeed but cannot be had when a significant portion of the population is forced to live in situations without their consent, set apart from the rest of society.

I know you may be thinking that people in the disability community may not have it that bad but let me tell you a story. I was living in Buffalo, New York, where I was working for the independent living agency in town. One gentleman was being taken out to eat by the institution he lived in. It was a halfway house sort of environment. He had his own money and wanted to go to McDonald’s. It would have been an easy stop for the drive through and would have cost about five bucks. However, the halfway house staff said that they had agreed that he could only have healthy food, so they did not allow him to eat what he wanted, even with his own money. I’m sorry, but I tend to view such a horrific lack of self-agency is nothing other than slavery. Most of the rest of the disability community agrees, which is why we are trying to pass this bill.

To this end, we have been pushing something called the Disability Integration Act (DIA), which would set up a rigorous system for people with disabilities and elders to live under our own self-determination and terms. This would use almost no additional funds than are currently in use by the federal government, and in fact, in the long run, it would save the government and society endless amounts of money. It costs a lot more to keep people locked up than it does to let us live on our own. This bill would allow for home care aides and would add sections to the Affordable Care Act to allow us to determine our own destinies.

This bill is currently being considered by Congress and has a much greater likelihood of passing now than it ever has before. It has been written by people in the disability community, and we will continue to push this bill until it passes. Luckily, we have some very powerful supporters in Congress.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018 Holiday Greetings and Year in Review, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Hello everyone, and a merry Yuletide!
Me and my best friends Heidi and Kenny at the National Zoo Lights.
This year has been one of the best in my life, if not the best! Here are some of my professional and personal developments!

Professional Developments

The front cover of Veni! Vidi! Autism!
This year I continued working with Jd Michaels, Executive Vice President of BBDO New York, the world’s oldest and most reputable ad firm. He specializes in diversity issues, as well as creativity, and we have been creating like mad in order to emphasize the diverse disabled population. One of the biggest developments has been the publication of my book, Veni! Vidi! Autism! For much of the year, I was busy promoting the book and going on a four-state book tour, traveling to cities such as Rochester, Buffalo, and New York City in New York, locally in Takoma Park and Silver Spring in Maryland, Washington in the District of Columbia, and Richmond in Virginia. I keep on generating new content for future editions of the book and other publications. It is almost as if it is an accident! The chapters keep flowing! I have also given a number of talks on the book, keep getting invited the new speaking opportunities. I have more stops to promote the book as well as creative writing next year.
With my team at work, BBDO New York.
In addition to my own book, I have been very busy helping a number of disabled authors get published. The disability population has often been kept back from achieving what others have over the years, and publishing is not an exception. BBDO New York including Jd and I have been working with Tari Hartman Squire on a project called Stories about Us to get a number of authors with disabilities published. My role in this project is that of Managing Editor. Many, many people have stories to tell, but have lacked the resources to do so in the past. We are busy enabling them to create to their heart’s content. One of the goals is for my firm, Autistic Reality, to take over publishing these stories by authors in the disability community after BBDO is done with this round, so that it can continue in perpetuity.
Me with Senator Chris van Hollen in his office.
In addition, I continue my regular advocacy related endeavors. This past summer, I mentored an intern in this year’s class of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). We had a lot of fun together, and we also met with some very important people, such as the Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Johnny Collett, seasoned disability journalist Joe Shapiro, representatives from the Department of Labor, and much more. In addition, I have met with a number of legislators over the past year, in order to promote the disability agenda. The disability agenda may seem complex, but it can be boiled down to this simple thought: we must be able to achieve and be treated like anybody else regardless of our disability. Finally, an announcement has been made as to my induction into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame, as part of a mentoring circle including Jd and Tari. We have all taught each other so much in our working partnership, and will remain friends for a lifetime.
At the national March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, the biggest protest ever held in our nation’s capital.

Personal Developments

With my friends Andy and Kristin at the Washington, DC Christmas market.
This year, I have continued making friends in the Washington, DC area, as well as having thriving relationships with the old ones. I am very proud to live in such a diverse, rich area filled with so much life and wonder. In addition, some friends from out of town visit Washington and I host them and I show them around. I have become quite the tour guide! I was also very proud to visit my friends in Buffalo, including my dear friend Megan, who is like a sister to me, and my friend Alyssa, who now has an adorable son, Deklan, whom she calls my nephew! I spend quite a bit of time at various museums and libraries, all of which are free, and world-class. In addition, I keep on discovering wonderful places to have a rich, diverse smorgasbord of food!
With my friend Lissa at the FDR Memorial.
My brother Nick is always busy. He is still working to promote his music festival in Ithaca, New York, the Finger Lakes Thaw. He also helps our mother out with a number of random chores. Of course, the best benefit to having him live in Ithaca instead she gets to see him, and I also get to see him whenever I visit her. Nick also has a wonderful girlfriend named Kendall, an adorable kitten, and a feisty puppy! I love my brother very much, and am very proud of him for everything he has achieved.
With my dear friend Megan on a trip to Buffalo this year.
Mom’s energy is being taxed by her illness, so she has to stay home more than she did before. Nonetheless, she still manages to go out to visit friends, go to restaurants, and play games. In addition, she often hosts very fun activities at her home. She will tell me that I am lying through my teeth, but I am absolutely amazed by the power and energy coming off of her. Relatively speaking, she is very sick, which makes everything that she does incredibly impressive. She sometimes has a busier schedule than I do, and I did not say that lightly, given all the work I do and the things and people I see. My mother has always been an absolute powerhouse, and that continues to be the fact. Her love is tremendous, and I always feel it, no matter where I am.
Dad conjures Roscoe the rooster, the mascot of my new hometown of Takoma Park, Maryland.
Dad has had a somewhat quieter time this past year, with less traveling than some years in the past. Nevertheless, that does not mean that he has not had a ton of things to do! Like me, he is always busy with appointments, meetings, and written work. I am very pleased that he came to visit me recently. In addition to being my father, he is a dear friend, despite the fact that we live far away from each other. I can always count on him to talk to when the going gets rough.
With my friends Andi and Chris and the national Thanksgiving turkeys, Peas and Carrots, at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.
I am very thankful to know all of you, and I wish you all a bright and beautiful future.
My nephew Deklan with the squishy cheeks!
I wish you a Merry Christmas, and happy holidays, and a glorious new year.

Alec Frazier
Autistic Reality
BBDO New York

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

I Get Interviewed by The Movie Mom!, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality


I was recently interviewed by The Movie Mom, Nell Minow on my book, Veni! Vidi! Autism! Without further ado, here is the interview!

As I looked at your table of contents, of course the first chapter I turned to was called “Truly the Worst Film I Have Ever Seen.”  Tell me what that film is, why it is the worst, and, if you could have given them advice about how to make it better, what you would have told them. Was there anything in the movie that wasn’t terrible?

The film was an MTV production starring Andy Samberg called “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”. It is a mockumentary based on the various documentaries following musical talents of their journeys of creativity. Andy Samberg’s character is the popstar in question, and his comedy troupe serves as the writers. I would say that the film is in bad taste, but there seems to be absolutely no taste in the film. It is horrifying and humiliating to watch. I am quite ashamed that they would think of putting it on screen. How do we make it better? Well, we can turn it into actual satire of modern-day pop musicians and our fixation with them. I seem to recall other mockumentaries like “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” which seem to do that quite well. There is even a very entertaining humorous documentary on Tammy Faye Bakker called “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” which could have been used as a more realistic template. From another angle, Penn and Teller used to have a show called “Bullshit” where they satirized idiotic concepts by interviewing those involved in them and catching them in their stupidity. All of these ways of making documentaries or mockumentaries would be preferable to the absolutely tasteless drivel that we got instead. There are a few acting talents in the film that had the potential to be good but suffered from tremendously poor writing or their own lack of interest. In my opinion, the film is utterly unredeemable.

I was very touched by your essay about the Power Rangers. Why did you like them as a kid and what did it mean to you to have an autistic character in the recent film? What did you think about the portrayal of autism in the film?
Billy Cranston, the Autistic Blue Ranger
To be honest, I am not even sure why I liked Power Rangers so much as a kid, other than liking the action and explosions! I stopped watching after a few years, but I grew up with the original cast. I am very thrilled with the new movie, because it is not just adventure, but there is plot development and character evolution as well. I have been around pop culture long enough to know about and critique disability portrayal. After all, a great amount of my book deals with it! I was already at the point where I knew of autistic characters in pop culture; my chapters on Tim Urich, the first autistic superhero from Marvel comics, deal with this major revelation to myself and my desire to share it with others. However, I had not seen a realistic autistic hero or more importantly, a superhero, portrayed in film until I saw Billy in the new Power Rangers film. In many ways, it was like watching myself! Billy displays many behaviors that I have had myself, even his counting of colored pencils, which I used to do in high school. Most importantly, it shows Billy with a group of friends from among his peers. It took me many years to develop friends amongst my peers.

Is there a movie or television show that you think portrays autism accurately?
Vincent van Gogh in Loving Vincent
Aside from Power Rangers, there are a few others. Alan Turing, the World War II code breaker who invented the computer, was homosexual but he was also autistic. The film “The Imitation Game” does not mention the latter but portrays it quite well. “Loving Vincent” is a wonderful film about Vincent van Gogh as told by those who cared for him most. It is also most noteworthy for being the first-ever completely oil painted film. When you listen to the accounts of van Gogh’s friends and family, it is quite clear that he has autism. As I mention in my Without Fear essay, autism doesn’t need to be mentioned in order to be present in a narrative. Of course, people were not aware of autism until the late 1940s, so it shouldn’t be mentioned in most historical narratives. As for television, Sylvia Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery often comes across as quite autistic, but that has not been officially revealed…as of yet. I have yet to watch The Good Doctor, which is about an autistic young man who becomes a physician. I have watched the television series Westworld, and the characters of Dr. Ford and Bernard come across as quite autistic. Forgive me for spoiling the show, but Bernard is actually a robotic host who is patterned after Dr. Ford’s deceased business partner, Arnold. It would make sense if Arnold also had autism. In the case of Dr. Ford, the portrayal is only natural, as he is played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is autistic himself, and was diagnosed as such at age 70. One of the best portrayals of autism so far in pop culture has been the character of Tim Urich in the Daredevil comics. I cover this portrayal heavily in my book and have talked to some major players at Marvel about it. They brought up my talking points about autism, disability, and comics at their annual planning meeting this year.

What do you wish people understood about autism?

There are many, many things that I wish people understood. I wish that people understood the great variety of people with autism. Some of us are nonspeaking, and some of us speak a lot. There are autistic conservatives and liberals, optimists and pessimists, and people of every race and gender identity. I find myself between extremes. I am not fundamentally conservative, and yet I believe in realism over hyper-politically correct culture. I consider myself an optimist, but I also temper my expectations with past and theoretical experience. Many of the more visible autistic activists are often busy waving placards and getting arrested for political change. Then again, on the other end of the spectrum, some of us stay home frequently. You will find me out and about trying to achieve political and social change by negotiating, meeting, and using diplomacy. I want people to know that autistic individuals are capable of all that I have previously mentioned, that we use a wide variety of methods for being in touch with the world around us.

On a more basic level, I want people to listen to us when making decisions about our lives. In 1505, the Polish Parliament passed constitutional legislation saying that they would have to be consulted in any decision about the public, thus taking the power away from the monarch. The bill was called Nihil novi, and included the Latin phrase, “Nihil de nobis, sine nobis”. Roughly translated, this means “Nothing about Us, without Us”. This has since become a motto for many groups and individuals in advocacy and activism. In fact, it is the URL for my website. As a rule of thumb, any individual or group of people deserves input into any decisions made about them. This includes autistic groups and individuals. Don’t get me wrong! Loving parents should be able to voice their concerns, but autistic individuals should always have power to decide our own destiny.

You seem to have a special affinity for low budget films. What is it about those films that appeals to you?
A Promotional Image from A Grim Becoming, An Independent Film Made in Buffalo, New York
These films do not usually appeal to me any more than Hollywood films. However, for six years, I lived in Buffalo, New York, which has approximately fifty independent film studios. I was an active member of the creative culture in that town, which is absolutely booming. As such, I became very interested in independent films being made there. There were several screenings that I attended, often in support of friends of mine who made or were in the films. It was phenomenal to see such a tangible product of local arts and ingenuity. I have always been in favor of supporting local, independently made products. As such, I wanted to support these films, and I found that the best way of supporting them was by giving honest reviews on my blog and on film review sites. These reviews have since made their way to my book.

You’re a fan of the Twilight series.  People seem very intensely pro and con the series.  What is it that provokes such strong reactions?  Which do you like better, the books or the movies?
The Revelation of Edward Cullen, from the Twilight Comics
You are right. Some people are incredibly appreciative of the Twilight Saga. In fact, I am friends with a great number of them. We hold meetups, attend films together, and interact online quite frequently. These people, who are mostly women, are my dear friends. Some of them are almost as close as family, and I have adopted one in Germany as my aunt and we have visited each other. Our strong feelings for Twilight come from the inescapable romance of the Saga, as well as the characters, plot, and feelings of empathy we have for the said characters. Twilight was never intended to be primarily about vampires. It is primarily a great romance story, with vampirism as a major plot element. Twilight fans, who are called Twilighters or Twihards, understand that. We also understand the great underlying feminism of the plot. Bella, the main character, is very determined to be with her love interest, Edward, and to become a vampire, and she gets what she wants. She even saves his life several times during the Saga. Many of the facets of romance with a vampire are quite different than romance with a human, leading to a different dynamic and different actions, and Twilighters understand that.

However, a great deal of people have an irrational aversion to the series, even going so far as to insult and harass Twilighters. One time when I was quite emotionally distressed, I was told to kill myself because I like Twilight. If I may be brutally honest, in my opinion, many people, including women and people who may identify as feminists, are actually extremely afraid of the Saga because of how brazenly it depicts a powerful, self-determined female character, and because of the great, wondrous romance depicted in the Saga. Many people have an aversion to romance, especially idealized romance, because theirs can never measure up. I would even be as bold as to say that some hate the Saga because they believe that their love is inferior to that shown in Twilight. Furthermore, many people are disappointed that Twilight is not more action-oriented. Action was never the point of the Saga. Many are also disappointed that the mythology in Twilight, particularly the vampire mythology, is not consistent with a great deal of formerly established mythology. Do these people know that the modern concept of the vampire only dates back to Brahm Stoker’s 1897 book Dracula? Do they know that many more established concepts of vampire mythology only date back as far as the 1922 film Nosferatu? Mythologies evolve over time, and Twilight even includes explanations for why its mythology is different. Nevertheless, the most hateful detractors of Twilight seem to be irrational and make it their goal to insult and even threaten those who do like the Saga. These threats, this hatred, this harassment and bullying will not stand. I know that my defense of the Saga is coming on strong, but we fans have been unjustly attacked over the years just for liking a good love story.

I have seen and loved the movies very much. I appreciate the casting choices and the camaraderie between the actors and the filmmakers. As for the books, I have read great portions of the books, but not the entire set of novels, because I have ADD, and my attention can’t hold that long. However, with the advent of the smartphone, I find myself pulled into the world of fanfiction, and I read that frequently. I appreciate the great many possibilities that the Saga allows, and how easy it is for fans to show their love for it by inventing new stories around it.

What is AvatarMeet?  What do you like best about it? What are you hoping for in the next movie?
Me on Pandora at Disney World
AvatarMeet is a group of people including myself who meet up each year to celebrate James Cameron’s film Avatar. We have a thriving online community, and I have been to two of the meetups. One year, we met up in South California and went to Lightstorm Entertainment, where we were given a tour of the studio, and got to interview the filmmakers. The next time I went, last year, 2017, we went to the theme park in Florida, where we were given a tour by the head of public relations for Disney Imagineering. While there, we also went to the Kennedy Space Center, where I had a truly moving experience. You can read more about both experiences in my book. What I like best about AvatarMeet is the wonderful group of friends all over the world who love this film universe, and the ideals that it promotes. I have met truly kindred spirits through AvatarMeet. In the future films, I hope that we continue experiencing the messages of diversity that were in the first film. In the that film, the main character had a disability. While I was at Lightstorm, I got to personally question producer Jon Landau about diversity and the messages of the film, and he assured me that these facets of storytelling would be promoted in the narrative going forward, and we have already seen results. I include my interview with Jon in my book.

Why was Love, Simon especially meaningful to you?

A Promotional Image friom Love, Simon
Love, Simon was especially meaningful to me and to millions of others because it mainstreams LGBTQ romance. It is the first mainstream teen romantic comedy about a gay person falling in love. There is absolute love for this film and endless positive feeling amongst those who have watched it. There is a Facebook page dedicated to fans of the film which has optimistic followers around the globe. Many people in the world do not yet have the freedom to love who they wish in public. This helps give them hope. In addition, watching the film with one’s family members and friends helps open the dialogue about coming out, and I have heard that hundreds of people have come out to their families while watching this film. This is truly feel-good way to start conversation about a very important topic. The motto of the film is, “Everyone Deserves a Good Love Story,” and finally it is out in the open for everyone to see.

I should mention that my family and friends have all been extremely accepting of my coming out, and I realize that I am lucky in this way. In the film, Simon has many moments with his family that remind me of moments with my own. In addition, despite initial bumps, his friends are very accepting of him, as mine have been. Heck, my friends have been known to introduce me with the following sentence: “Yeah, this is our gay, autistic friend Alec. He’s weird, and very smart! Once you get to know him, he’ll be your dear friend, too! He’ll never betray you.” Yes, someone once actually said that. Actually, multiple people have said some variation of that sentence. As an autistic person who did not have authentic friends for much of his life, I treasure my friends’ opinions of me greatly!

What is Autistic Reality?  What are your priorities?  What are you proudest of?
Alec Frazier Speaking in front of the US Capitol Building
Autistic Reality is my advocacy firm. Through it, I focus on advocacy via public speaking, peer mentoring, lobbying, and other consulting services. Soon, Autistic Reality will have a podcast as well. In it, I will be interviewing people from many walks of life, including disability advocates, actors, artists, and others, about their points of view on the disability cause. In addition, we are getting set up as a publishing imprint, with the goal of getting works by authors with disabilities into the world at large, something we, the disabled population, have usually struggled with. Currently, I am working on this last point with BBDO New York, the world’s largest and most prestigious advertising agency. As part of that job, I am the managing editor of Stories About Us, which is beginning the work of publishing disabled authors, so that I may continue it afterwards. In addition to all this, I promote my book in meetings, such as with Marvel editorial, and at various pop-culture conventions. Soon, I will be giving a talk at a creative writing conference on turning disability into a creative asset. I am always looking for wonderful new opportunities to present and share disability advocacy and information.

I consider myself and my firm’s work to be quite liberal, but still relatively moderate compared to some disability rights activists. For myself, I actually prefer the term “advocate” instead of “activist”. Although I can sometimes support more radical work, I am not one of the people who tends to get arrested or make a lot of public noise for our cause. Sometimes making a spectacle of yourself can decrease your credibility with certain parties. I prefer negotiation, diplomacy, and a sharing of ideas. Even with the people I disagree with most, I try to understand them, and how they think. In this way, we can better promote the disability agenda.

On a side note, I do not believe in posting politics or much religion on Facebook. I post relevant politics on my firm’s Facebook page, or on my book’s Facebook page, but the lack of politics on my page has made my relationships more cordial and my discourse much more civil for years.

These factors help inform my firm’s priorities, by approaching disability advocacy and advocacy in general with a realistic yet optimistic eye towards what can be achieved, and how to achieve it. For example, I do not get hung up on whether people say, “disabled person” or “person with disability”. This is not a huge priority for me. Solving problems like transportation access, access to benefits, education, workforce reform, and representation in the arts are much more important to me.

What am I proudest of? I really do not like to toot my own horn very much. Every time someone tells me I have improved the conditions of their life, I feel like I am achieving my goal. Awards do not mean much to me. Making a noticeable difference does.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!