ME: I managed the impossible: I got you and your sister to watch a Kdrama with me–Extraordinary Attorney Woo(a popular and fantastic Netflix aired show about an autistic attorney). We’ve discussed a few shows with autistic characters and you usually have serious critiques and find them unwatchable. What makes this show not cringe-worthy to you?
SON: To clarify, it was my friend who told me about the show, not you! But Attorney Woo is a full-fledged, interesting person beyond just being autistic. She’s one of the first autistic characters I actually related to, because 1) she’s usually the one doing the narrating/explanations for the audience about what autism is and her experiences, and her descriptions feel authentic and non-pathologizing, as opposed to most other shows where a non-autistic side character is doing it, and 2) she is a full-fledged, interesting character beyond just being autistic. The show also breaks down a lot of stereotypes about autistic people, such as the idea that we can’t feel empathy, can’t be in romantic relationships, etc, which I appreciated.
ME: I love the friendship of Attorney Woo Young-Woo and her firecracker, quirky best friend Dong Geu-ra-mi. It makes me regret I passed my youth without a signature friend greeting like theirs that has been widely imitated by fans and of course by our family. See video and the imitators.
Ready to drum up a signature mom-son greeting?(We don’t have to dab)
SON: Alas, no such greeting will be obliged.
ME: In honor of Attorney Woo’s loyal bestie Dong Geurami we made her sloppy, easy-to-make-looking gimbap that she makes Attorney Woo(the #1 fan of gimbap). Did you like it?
SON: I found this edible and pretty tasty, but I can see why a gimbap purist might not like it lol. It sucks all the essence out of these ingredients: it’s messy and doesn’t have the aesthetically pleasing vibe that I love about a lot of Korean food.
ME: Attorney Woo has special interests: whales, law and gimbap. Is it a myth that all autistic people have special interests? What if any are yours?
SON:I think it’s true that most autistic people have special interests, but the degree to which these interests are distinctly “autistic” as opposed to neurotypicals having really passionate obsessions (eg. you blabbering on about your dream country houses and me exasperatedly trying to get you to stop to no avail) depends on where on the spectrum someone is. In the media, special interests are often portrayed as these all-encompassing compulsions that consume the entirety of a person’s life: Attorney Woo relates everything back to whales, is constantly offering up her rote memorized facts, and is completely oblivious to when others are not interested. Whereas me and a lot of my late- or self-diagnosed autistic friends often have these same joyful, intense interests, but they’re able to talk about other things and won’t launch into a monologue if it’s clear the other person isn’t interested. I’ve never been the kind of autistic who’s able to memorize rote, concrete facts: I remember having a deep special interest in alligators as a kid because I thought they were cool, but not caring enough to actually remember facts about them. My current special interests are: writing, queer literature and theory, frogs, mushrooms (the non-psychedelic kinds for any concerned adults reading this!), social justice and anti-oppressive movements of all flavors, the history of neurodiversity activism, and creative DIY projects.
ME: Having special interests seems like a boon not a liability.
SON: Most of the time it’s a very positive thing! the sheer joy autistics experience when talking about our interests is something I pity the rest of you for never getting to experience. it feels like a soft ball of rice squishing my brain. there’s a really good article by this old, defunct autism blog that explains this joy beautifully:
“I pity anyone who cannot feel the way that flapping your hands just so amplifies everything you feel and thrusts it up into the air. I pity anyone who doesn’t understand how beautiful the multiples of seven are, anyone who doesn’t get chills when a shadow falls just so across a solitaire game spread out on the table. I pity anyone who is so restrained by what is considered acceptable happiness that they will never understand when I say that sometimes being autistic in this world means walking through a crowd of silently miserable people and holding your happiness like a secret or a baby, letting it warm you as your mind runs on the familiar tracks of an obsession and lights your way through the day.”
ME: One episode of Attorney Woo has a sub-plot that involves a female attorney having a poop accident at work. (Don’t groan at my reference, but it reminded me of an episode of Sex and the City when Charlotte pooped in her pants). I’ve heard Koreans are a little obsessed with poop, e.g, they have a popular poop cafe in Seoul. What’s your take on a poop obsession?
Is this poop cafe a necessary stop for our upcoming trip to Korea?
SON: Why not? I’m… very intrigued by what this cafe would look like. Like, is the food actually… poop-themed or is it just that the general aesthetic of the cafe radiates poop? I also like the “anti-procrastination” Korean cafe I saw on TikTok: you tell the staff there what project, assignment etc you’re working on and they take your phone away and don’t let you leave until you finish, then bring you unlimited sweets once you’re done. It seems like a magical place for both our ADHD minds!
ME: I am sold!
Anyways, enough re Attorney Woo (for now). Let’s talk other entertainments.
A good novel I just read, Either/Or by Elif Batuman, discusses Kierkegaard’s same-named work in a way that makes me curious so I’ve been, as you know, all summer hunting for this philosophy book in any bookstore we go to. (I recently on beach vacation shrieked in delight to the alarm of the man behind the cash register when we found it in a tiny bookstore with literally 10 philosophy books). As a philosophy novice with ADHD, what are the realistic chances, I will read this cover to cover?
SON: Pretty slim: devouring dense, complicated philosophy texts does not exactly seem like your area of strength. I’m in the same situation: I’ve been wanting to read Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality for a while now because it’s considered, like, one of the foundational texts of queer theory, but can’t decipher one word of his obfuscating, esoteric language.
ME: What was the best thing we ate at Porcelain (Korean-Chinese fusion restaurant in Ridgewood, Queens whose Korean-American adoptee chef I am interviewing for this blog) today?
SON: The glass noodle dish was SOO good! i have never seen fat glass noodles like that in my history of Korean food consumption. (photographed below)
ME: Were you disappointed we didn’t go to my big college reunion in August?
SON: Not really? Being led around and begrudgingly introducing myself as “Elissa’s son” to all your 40 year old college friends is not exactly my idea of fun. I’m mostly relieved that I don’t have to constantly hear you agonizing over whether or not to go every second of the day anymore!
ME: Best book you have read for summer required reading:
SON: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.
ME: Best non required reading of the summer:
SON: Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Here are a few especially moving/well written parts (I annotate my books because I’m a huge nerd):
ME: In summertime, we always play a silly made up family game when we have pool access; we do a cannonball as we yell “Rock on—–!” sarcastically, e.g., “Rock on Ron DeSantis!”
In that vein, give us a Rock on….
SON: rock on, white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy!
ME: Show me something you crafted recently:
SON: these patches I made for my denim jacket over vacation:
ME: Show us something in your room that you prize:
SON: this mushroom poster!
Thanks for agreeing to do this again! That might satiate me for a while. xoxo