Today we’re joined by Alix Ditto Au, also known as Acting NT. Alix is a phenomenal blogger and YouTuber, who has a couple webseries that comment on specific topics in popular culture. One is called “Autism Sins” and focuses on portrayals of Autism in media. The other is “Madness in Media” and it analyzes why some characters are labeled as mentally ill in various series. It’s clear they’re a very passionate and driven artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking part in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m creating radical explorations of art, culture, and all the social dynamics in between. I always place my focus on subjects that our society either doesn’t want to talk about, or misses the point on. On my blog, I aim to push against dominant narratives by offering new paradigms with new terminology. As radical people, we often have to build our philosophical frameworks out of stone knives and bear skins. My RedBubble store distills these new perspectives into short quips with the potential to turn heads while putting the viewer at ease with humor.
My YouTube channel is where you will find me most often these days. I currently maintain two series themes, with plans for a third. The first is “Autism Sins”, a mashup of the nonsensical “Autism Verbs” titling popularized by the notorious anti-Autistic hate group, and the video format of CinemaSins. These snarky videos focus on fictional Autistic characters and documentaries about Autistic people (and sometimes a hot mess in-between cough Vaxxed cough). Entries so far include The Good Doctor, Atypical, Autism in Love, that one episode of House, that one episode of Arthur, and the Sesame Street “See Amazing” collection.
The second series theme is “Madness in Media”, a more serious analysis of themes and characters that are often considered mad, crazy, or mentally ill. This series kicked off with a first-season recap of 13 Reasons Why, and will soon be joined by a collection of cartoon episodes where the characters are put into institutions.
What inspires you?
What inspired me to start blogging in the first place 4 years ago was searching for resources to help explain disability and especially neurodiversity, and finding that those resources simply don’t exist. I realized that being on a radical frontier of amateur sociology meant that if I wanted an article, video, quote or meme available for use by me and my community, I had to create it myself. Often when I’m sitting in front of a blank page, trying to organize my thoughts on a piece of art or news media, the question I ask myself that gets the words flowing is “how did they miss the point?” Our society makes a hundred assumptions, and I want to challenge the first ten, not the last ten.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My artist identity certainly started young. I’ve been a writer ever since I got my hands on a keyboard, a graphic designer ever since I taught myself to play with GIMP, and a videographer from the time some kids in my homeschool group wanted to make film reviews without numerical scores. It just took a while to find exactly what I wanted to write about. Through madness and neurodivergence, I found “my voice” as an artist. I got a bite from the acting bug in high school, and while I don’t have the time to pursue a career in television, making videos allows me to scratch that itch by letting out the more performative aspects of myself.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
One thing that often bothers me in other blends of comedy and criticism is a lack of follow-through. I feel as the comedy part and the criticism part were written by two different people, and the editor is simply switching back and forth. I prefer to develop content holistically, with criticisms that set up the jokes, and jokes that double as criticisms. I also draw from my improvisational acting background, by accepting every comment as a foundation that becomes absolute truth as soon as it is uttered.
An example of how this increases follow-through is in my Atypical video, when I point out that the main character Sam Gardner looks like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory (because apparently that is now the default look of an Autistic character) and refer to him as “Teen Sheldon” as if this story takes place between Young Sheldon and the Big Bang Theory. I then refer to him exclusively as Teen Sheldon for not only the remainder of that video, but for the entire series. Because That Is Him Name Now.
Callbacks aren’t inherently more funny or more insightful, but they add an aesthetic quality that makes the audience feel an air of importance, as each component is part of a greater whole.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Make mistakes, share your mistakes, embarrass yourself, and fail.
I once came across an inspirational Tumblr post for more paper-based artists, showing a pen filled with “bad art” fluid near the tip and “good art” further back. The author explained that good art near the tip oxidizes into bad art overnight, and that you need to get the bad art out by drawing with it before you can access the good art.
That metaphor applies just as well to any artistic medium you can think of. You need to make a lot of things you won’t be super proud of later before you get the hang of it and improve. You shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes, because they’re not a sign of failure. Mistakes are an inevitable and important part of the process, just as integral as things like planning and editing.
Plus, let me tell you as an actor, embarrassing yourself on purpose is actually not that embarrassing. I dare say it’s kind of fun.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m part of a median system, so while individually I think I would be completely asexual, my other half who I can most closely describe as an aporagender demigirl lesbian bleeds through and the overall result is gray ace. I originally got pointed to an asexual support group on the advice that someone looking for a “low libido support group” will fit right in. Now the way I usually explain it is that I have attraction but not desire. I’m also considering adopting the label of fraysexual because I seem to lean more towards allo the longer I’m not in a relationship.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
My orientation tends not to come up much in media analysis because there isn’t a lot of ace visibility or representation. I’ve been lucky enough not to have anyone actively trying to “cure” me, but have had allosexual (former) friends assume that my ace identity means never ever ever and then accuse me of faking due to their own ignorance of gray sexuality.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
As with most of the minorities I belong to, the idea that it’s a medical condition that needs to be cured. Some people may lose their libido as a result of prescriptions drugs, but even in those cases it’s perfectly acceptable to take on asexual identity and just live your life with it.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Don’t worry if you don’t exactly match every Asexuality 101 definition you read. Those are written for a general allosexual audience, not for people who are questioning, and are incredibly oversimplified. If you personally feel like you don’t perform sexual-ness the way society expects you to, then you’re probably somewhere on the ace spectrum, which is ace enough.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Alix, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.