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Theorising the neurotypical gaze: autistic love and relationships in The Bridge (Bron/Broen 2011–2018)

Abstract

In popular media, autistic subjectivity is most often produced through the lens of the neurotypical gaze. Dominant understandings of autism therefore tend to focus on perceived deficits in social communication and relationships. Accordingly, this article has two primary concerns. First, it uses the Danish/Swedish television series The Bridge (Bron/Broen, 2011–2018) and critical responses to the series as examples of how the neurotypical gaze operates, concentrating on the pleasures derived from looking at autism, how autism is ‘fixed’ (Frantz Fanon, 1986) as a socially undesirable subject position, and the self-interested focus of the gaze. Second, it analyses key scenes from the series to expose and challenge the dominance of the neurotypical perspective in scholarly accounts of autistic sexuality and relationality. Using Lauren Berlant’s (2012) work on love, I argue that the non-normative ways of being constructed by the series do not fit easily within neuroconventional frameworks of love and desire. Consequently, autistic expressions of love are rendered both undesirable and illegible to the neurotypical gaze. The article therefore offers a flexible framework for understanding how the neurotypical gaze functions across cultural and academic spheres and gives vital insight into how autistic love and relationships are narratively constructed.

  • gender studies
  • feminism
  • medical humanities
  • television
  • queer theory

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