This character (the female one, Jordan) is based largely on a real person (not autistic that I know of), whose friends apparently turned around in the theater and stared at her when the movie (“Real Genius”) came out and this character came on screen. While the movie character wasn’t written as autistic, she was written as having some kind of explicit neurological diagnosis.

My ex (who introduced me to this movie) used to accuse me of, when able to speak, going into what he called “Jordan-mode” — I’d apparently spit out whole paragraphs rapidfire while probably ignoring about as much about social conventions as this character manages to in this scene.

(For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, it’s basically an eighties geek movie. But in many ways about the “cool” sort of geeks, at least a lot of them are, not all. There’s another character that they bully (in ways I don’t find amusing at all, no matter how much of a jerk he was at times), who exemplifies exactly what being the “uncool” geek among “cool” geeks feels like.

Yes, he’s written as doing a lot of things morally wrong. But it often seems like movies showing socially inept outcast sorts of characters write them as also mean or unethical in addition to socially inept, as a way of justifying to the viewer what the “cooler” kids, or even just the “cooler” geeks, do to them. So, if you don’t like seeing that kind of thing, or aren’t up to it, you might not want to watch the whole movie.)

Anyway, I didn’t mean to analyze the rest of the movie. I just thought Jordan might be …amusingly recognizable… to a lot of readers. :-)

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

10 responses »

  1. I’ve been thinking about the relationship between ASD and geekiness alot recently myself. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, the word geek almost always had negative connotations. At least among kids. I thought of myself as a geek but couldn’t tell anyone else that out of shame.

    Real Genius was definitely an inspiring movie to me… geeks kicking arse. Thanks for bringing back those memories.

    I remember sometime in the early 90’s realizing that the word geek was starting to take on a hip positive spin, and I tried proudly telling people that I was a geek. Finally I thought I was part of a cool class of people. I was disappointed that nobody responded “oh, I hadn’t realized you were one of the cool people… hey lets hang out”.

    What I didn’t realize was that by proudly calling myself a geek, I was alerting others that I was an “uncool geek” rather than a “cool geek”. Looking back, a cool geek would use an ironic tone when referring to themselves as a geek, while I suppose my using a proud tone was a sign of an uncool geek.

    I’ve pretty much been surrounded by geeks all my life in college and working in software. But yet they all seemed to be more socially skilled than myself. Perhaps that’s it: socially skilled is the mark of a “cool geek”.

    Now I find the word geek is very helpful when explaining what I mean when I say I have AS. When someone asks what is AS I say it’s essentially the medical name for geekiness, that Bill Gates is considered to have AS… born with innate social cluelessness, but normal to superior brainpower. Where I live near Silicon Valley, most people seem to instantly get that explanation… They say “Oh, I could see that”.

    Much more so than if I started rattling off scary characteristics from the DSM-IV that I have (and can sometimes hide).

    Geek power!

  2. Here is information about “Real Genius”:

    The film takes place in “Pacific Tech” which is a thinly disguised version of Caltech in Pasadena, California.

    If the film had been released now, people would analyse the characters as having some sort of neurological condition.

    I first came across the word geek in the 1990s.

  3. Actually, the particular character I referred to had a neurological condition in the movie — not just in retrospect. The university in the film was based on several different ones including the one you mentioned.

  4. I have read that a few self-identified geeks expressed empathy towards Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School killers, and identified with them. I don’t know if Harris and Klebold were geeks.

  5. Amanda, I leave it to you to decide whether you feel this blurb from MindFreedom is appropriate to post as a comment on your blog:


    Contact: Lauren J. Tenney, MA, MPA, Psychiatric Survivor FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Cell: 516-319-4295

    WE THE PEOPLE Call for an End of Abuse, Torture, and Neglect in the Wake of Ms. Green’s Death While Detained at Kings County Hospital Center’s Psychiatric Emergency Room.

    Advocates, human rights activists, and community members are holding a vigil and demonstration to mourn the death of Ms. Esmin Elizabeth Green. WE the PEOPLE are calling attention to the reported horrific inactions and complete neglect that Ms. Green was subjected to while detained at the Kings County Hospital Center’s Psychiatric Emergency Room, 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203.

    According to the Associated Press, after being involuntarily committed to the institution, Ms. Green sat waiting for a bed to become available for nearly 24 hours before she collapsed on to the floor. She lay there helpless for nearly an hour until she received medical attention, which came too late[i]. Further, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, facility staff possibly falsified documents, stating that Ms. Green was “up and went to the bathroom” and was “‘sitting quietly in the waiting room’ – more than 10 minutes after she last moved”[ii]. The surveillance tape shown on CNN Video portrays Ms. Green dying on the floor as people pass her by[iii]. In fact, on the Internet, one can find a mass of comment on this tragedy by individuals all over the world – a question repeatedly asked, “Where is the humanity?”

    All people must be treated with dignity, humanity, and respect. We must not tolerate violations of human rights that individuals who are assigned psychiatric labels often endure.

    We ask you, wouldn’t you be depressed and possibly even ‘agitated’ if you were going to lose your home and employment? Reportedly, this is what led to Ms. Green’s commitment[iv]. Any one of us could be labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis and subjected to inhumane ‘treatment’ if we are thought to be ‘agitated’, particularly if we are poor.

    How many more people labeled with “mental illness” will be subjected to torture and neglect before something is done to protect human rights within psychiatric systems? David Oaks, Executive Director of MindFreedom International states, “I encourage us all to reflect on the need for a deep nonviolent revolution in the field of mental health, far beyond the “reforms” that have gotten us to where we are today, with televised death via neglect of a mother of six”.

    In 1875, a New York Times article cites abuses of inmates at the Kings County Asylum, spurred by Mr. Nelson Magee, a former inmate. Then-Commissioner Norris reacts to the investigation, “This sort of thing is very common among lunatics; they are always imagining themselves in great danger of being killed by their keepers”v. How many more centuries have to go by before action is taken to end these abuses and neglect?

    WE the PEOPLE stand for change. We have been abused by the psychiatric system. Our brothers and sisters continue to be abused and murdered, as evidenced by Ms. Green’s untimely demise. Massive human rights violations happen every day in psychiatric institutions but this horrific inaction was captured on videotape. We will call attention to the every day tortures committed in the name of psychiatric “help” including diagnosing life’s challenges as ”illness,” forced pharmaceuticals, restraint, seclusion, and electric shock treatment (ECT) with a Vigil to honor Ms. Green’s memory beginning at 2 PM.

    There are many questions as to what led to Ms. Green’s death. Was it in any way related to the toxic and debilitating drugs that people labeled with “mental illness” are intimidated, coerced, and forced into taking? A thorough investigation is necessary to determine the extent of the torture, ill treatment and other human rights violations involved in this case and in the practices of the institution as a whole. We must stand united to demand social justice, equal rights, and environments free from torture and detention.

    On July 25, 2008, we invite all people to join us and stand united in support of the demand that everyone receive the full benefit of their human rights and the preservation of their liberty, dignity and respect.

    Who: All People.

    What: Candle Light Vigil to mourn the loss of Ms. Esmin Elizabeth Green and condemn violations of human rights.

    Why: WE THE PEOPLE call for an end of abuse, torture, and neglect in the wake of Ms. Green’s Death on June 19, 2008, while detained at Kings County Hospital Center’s Psychiatric Emergency Room.

    Where: Kings County Hospital Center, Psychiatric Emergency Room, Building G. 606 Winthrop Street Brooklyn, NY 11203

    Date: July 25, 2008

    Time: 5 PM – 10 PM, Candle Light Vigil, 8:30 PM

    We welcome your involvement as an organizational co-sponsor or an individual endorser of this effort. If you would like to speak at this event, please contact us.



    For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

    Contact: Lauren J. Tenney
    Cell: 516-319-4295

    Contact: David W. Oaks
    Phone: 541-345-9106

    [i] Retrieved July 8, 2008 from
    [ii] Retrieved July 8, 2008 from
    [iii] Retrieved on July 8, 2008 from
    [iv] Retrieved July 8, 2008, from
    [v] Retrieved July 9, 2008 from

  6. I know you don’t generally subscribe to the psychiatric labels (and I totally agree that the character has something neurological going on) but her rapid speech and no-sleep would probably get her labeled as “bipolar” or manic depressive. Reminds me alot of one of my freshman roommates. Her downs were almost as terrifying as her ups.

  7. Yeah, she was I think supposed to have something closer to ADHD (I looked it up and they said “hyperkinetic”, which is a European term that has some overlap with that, similar to the term “hyperactivity”). She never had “downs” and she never had the judgment problems or irrational thinking I’d usually associate with mania. (She had social problems and, obviously, sleep problems, and she couldn’t sit still so she did a lot of things like rocking and pacing and flapping, but that was about all.) Unmodulated speech rates are pretty common in autistic people (and both my brother and I had that problem at different times).

  8. Forgot to mention — for me, it wasn’t just a lack of speed modulation (although that was part of it), it was also that it seemed to take a huge amount of momentum and energy to function to even part of the degree that was expected of me at the time — if I slowed down or stopped I couldn’t easily get started again (and if I got started I often couldn’t easily stop, which is another part of it).

    The main way that shows up today is that there are times when I can either not move at all (or move in very limited ways), or move really fast, but almost nothing is in between. This caused problems at Autreat 2004 especially (because my motor problems were severe enough to cause that problem, but not so severe that running was impossible), because frequently I would go from barely any motion at all, to running out of the room at full speed and with a good deal of force. People often thought I was angry at them.

    When speaking, there were times when it was either talk rapidly or not talk at all, and times when it was either whisper or shout. And I have real trouble typing slowly — I can often pause between words or phrases but not usually in the middle of them. If I do type slowly it’s because there’s some physical impediment to me typing rapidly.

    So there were times when in order to function I basically stayed in constant motion. And yeah, that led to a bipolar diagnosis at one point, because people mistook it for a mood thing, but it’s pretty mood-independent. I’ve got no experiences of the actual states normally considered by psychiatry to be ‘mania’, except while on a few prescription medications that can cause something approximately similar in even otherwise fully neurotypical people.

    The only friend I ever remember making in a psych ward was diagnosed as manic though, and was in far more motion than even me at my top momentum (or Jordan for that matter). She carried on five parallel conversations, all at once, while literally running around the room climbing the furniture and slamming herself off the walls all night. We were roommates. This did get interesting.

    Oddly enough, despite having trouble tracking all her different topics, I was the only person who sat there and listened to her long enough to figure out what she was talking about. She wasn’t nearly as out of touch with reality as staff made her out to be. It was just that she used a lot of shorthand to keep up with a brain that was running so fast that normal language couldn’t keep up. So she’d say a few phrases that sounded totally out of context, but if you waited long enough she’d eventually tell you the whole story the phrases came from. The phrases were always in reference to specific events, and usually a commentary on real events in front of her, comparing them to the other specific events.

    I could relate to this for totally different reasons, related to having trouble finding my own words for things, so using phrases I’d heard elsewhere (like how many autistic kids will repeat lines from movies or sing parts of songs as commentary on situations in front of them). She could make all her own words, they just weren’t fast enough to keep up with her thoughts, so she used abbreviations. And she’d tell you that in plain and unambiguous language if you actually bothered to sit there and listen. (Which I had no choice about, because I roomed with her.)

    She was also one of the few people who ‘got’ my communication style at the time.

    Staff just called her psychotic and incoherent and had a bad habit of shooting her full of drugs that didn’t actually help any. At one point they got so sick of the two of us that they just stuck us in an entire ward of the institution that they didn’t have any other use for (and we were then the only two people in it). And then focused most of their efforts on destroying any connection that we’d formed (when that didn’t work, they kept us both tied down most of the time, and when that didn’t work they kept her in the big empty ward and put me in a room of my own within a ward they used, but didn’t allow me to leave or have interaction with anyone — for a place that complained so often that I didn’t ever socialize, they sure made it hard for me the one time I ever did, and I remember them telling other people off for even trying to talk to me).

  9. Oh, also, I have a habit of overadopting mannerisms from weird characters I see on TV. Really annoyingly. It always happens when I’m in a particular mood.

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