The term “headcanons” is fandom slang for individual fan interpretations of a work; they aren’t canon, i.e. not part of authoritative sources or otherwise confirmed by creators, but personal beliefs held by a fan — a “personal canon”, so to speak. Headcanons usually build on elements present in the work itself, for example by expanding on subtext.
Autistic headcanons are widespread: Googling the term yields a fair amount of search results, notably dedicated fan blogs that run on submissions. Coming from autistic people, it’s easy to see why such spaces are so popular, given the lacking representation of autistic people and characters in media. What’s also “popular”, however, is the attacking of people on the spectrum for interpreting certain characters as autistic, all the more so if those characters are popular. Some of the things listed under Mission Statement are part of the arguments these attackers use to justify their ignorance on the matter.
I agree that there are offensive ways to read characters as autistic: Just look at the stereotyping in the first part of the aforementioned list, especially if those readings come from non-autistic people, people who only know about autism from the way it’s portrayed in popular media, and people who mistakenly believe there’s “one way” to be autistic. Reading a character as autistic, however, is not inherently offensive.
This page was created to collect all the characters I’ve encountered across media I’ve consumed in one place — characters that I personally and strongly read as autistic. I mostly stay away from the “male genius with no common sense, manners or empathy” stereotype if that’s what a character comes down to, especially if said character is the protagonist; I’m sick of that portrayal being the face of autistic readings (by non-autistic people) and it does more harm than good. When reading a character as autistic, it’s usually a certain kind of stiffness or rigidity and awkwardness in social interactions that resonate with me: the adherence to internal rules, a “divergent”, fixed and almost egocentric way of communicating, especially in speech (lost in their own words and thoughts), behaviour that may puzzle others.
Keep in mind that just because I read these characters as autistic, other autistic people may not (and vice versa), as people on the spectrum are individuals. Credit for the Malek fanart goes to minuiko!
Fire Emblem 8
Fire Emblem 8
So as not to derail what this page was made for, I’m not going into more detail about discourse regarding autistic headcanons. If you’re interested though, here are some links I recommend checking out! Feel free to share links to related essays with me. If you’re curious about what other characters people read as autistic, try googling “autistic headcanons”!
- A Headcanon Named Autism: In defence of finding our own representation (archived) — an excellent blog post that is a great introduction into the many issues concerning the attacking of autistic headcanons; a lot of these points have only been briefly touched on Waterbound, and they also address typical arguments people raise against these headcanons.
- Neurotypical Headcanons — a Tumblr that collects a wide variety of arguments people make from many different perspectives to shut down autistic readings of characters; also reblogs things in defense of autistic headcanons from time to time.