Saturday, March 3, 2018

Parenting is Hard

Things that make parenting an autistic child hard:
  1. Professionals who refer your child to harmful therapies and services when you don’t know any better.
    • Therapies such as ABA have been known to cause serious problems including trauma in the autistic population.
  2. Professionals who shame you and your child due to their inability to perform the tasks the professionals predetermined are important, even when they are not.
    • Telling you that your child needs more socialization – what if I told you that your child’s socialization will work itself out? That they do social differently? Do we socialize our neurotypical children? No, we do not. And thus this is just another “your child is acting not like the others so fix them” tactic.
    • Telling you that your child must “use their words.” This is unnecessary. Children can be taught to communicate with technology and other means. Forcing language via spoken word is abuse when a child is not ready to do this yet. Autistic neurological wiring is different.
    • Telling you that your child must make eye contact. This is flat out BS. More so it’s just a cultural preference. There is no need for it. It is painful for autistic people. Do not let them force your child in this way anymore than you would let them force your child into bending over backwards, literally.
  3. Schools that refuse to accommodate your child’s differences or recognize your child’s strengths.
    • This might be the #1 reason most families struggle – the schools systems who routinely abuse autistic children because they do not accommodate or even recognize needs. They punish and force children into terrible predicaments that are almost always detrimental to their well being.
  4. Communities that refuse to include your child unless they can pass for “not disabled.”
    • How many times have you neglected to go to that movie because it’s too loud and there are no other options?
    • How many times have you been left off the birthday invite list because of ignorance?
    • How many times have you been given looks six ways 'til Sunday because of ignorance?
  5. All of the terrible misinformation that lives on the internet about autism and its causes.
    • From deadly miracle cures to fraudulent causes, the snake oil salespeople are out to take your money and your soul along with it.
  6. Organizations that profit from fear campaigns that exploit your child’s struggles due to all the above.
    • Autism$peaks is among one of the biggest problems that autistic people face. Several other large organizations are not far behind.
    • The adult autism population all but goes into hiding April 1 every year because it is the month where Awareness campaigns come out to label them as broken.
All of these things are due to others who exploit the disabled or refuse to educate themselves about autism. None of these things are due to autism. None of these things are due to your child. Keep the blame where it belongs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


America is obsessed with singular blame. There is an assumption that it is always one side’s fault in any matter. We pigeon-hole responsibility for wrongdoing on someone or something seemingly to exonerate ourselves or our in-group. Always.

  • If Billy doesn’t score well on his standardized test, well then the teachers or tests are to blame.
  • If our taxes go up, it’s the fault of “the other” political party of which we do not affiliate.
  • Doctors sue pharmaceutical companies for the opioid epidemic as if the physicians were somehow forcibly coerced to prescribe.
  • Single mothers are blamed for behavior exhibited by their offspring.
  • Society’s ills are blamed on the most vulnerable like the poor and disabled.
We are doing blame all wrong.

What if I told you that blame is so much more complicated – that you cannot exempt yourself from responsibility for all these problems? Well that is exactly what this post is about and I’m going to explain why we all share the burden of blame.

Let’s talk about Billy for a moment (poor Billy. Sorry to all my Bill friends out there. I’m sure Tom, Dick, and Harry will thank you).

Billy is an individual.
He has his own age, health issues he was born with or develops (good or bad), disability status (including learning disabilities), gender to which he identifies (male in this case), even his birth order play a role in Billy’s individual self (there’s more of these – I’m giving a handful of examples). These things altogether make Billy pretty unique so far as no one shares these things with him. Billy’s health, disabilities, race, and even his gender play a role in how well he physically and psychologically adapts in any given environment. By environment, I mean anywhere Billy is – home, school, playground, etc. From the moment Billy is born, he begins interacting with his environment.

Billy is an average 10 year old Caucasian without any identified disabilities. He identifies as a boy, currently. He’s the second born to four siblings. He is in the fourth grade at a rural public school for the second year because the school held him back last year.

Billy is also directly affected by other systems that make him even more unique.

Billy’s Peers (and not necessarily just his friends), his family, and all the institutions he attends or works with such as school, clubs, sport teams, churches, etc. also influence how Billy adapts to all sorts of situations. Billy, the individual with his own personal effects, is being influenced now by how he is treated by others and how others interact with him. This is a bidirectional influence, too! That means Billy influences how others will treat him and visa-versa.

So now we have Billy, the individual with lots of baggage starting to accumulate, needing to take some standardized tests in school. His teachers think he’s lazy because he performs below expectations. Billy thinks he’s a loser because the adults in his life treat him like he’s a slacker. He may have a learning disability but no one has bothered to test him because all the adults in his life believe he just needs to try harder. In response, Billy stops trying because “what is the point?” He does poorly in school and tends to act out in frustration a lot so most of Billy’s peers believe he’s a problem-child and steer clear of him. Billy thinks his peers are snobby and sees no reason to be nice or try to befriend them. The few friends he has are also labeled trouble-makers. But wait...there’s more!

Something else that really affects Billy is health and safety.

Does Billy get the health care he needs to be a healthy child? Does he get well-care and immunizations to prevent disease and other preventable health problems? Is he provided healthy foods? Do his caretakers ensure he's protected from media that is inappropriate for his developmental age? Does he live in a safe environment free from harm and abuse? Does Billy get enough sleep for his developmental age? Is his school and home in a safe neighborhood? Well gee-golly-wiz, Billy could have a whole lot of other issues creep up if he doesn’t have health and safety needs met.

Billy’s parents are part of the working poor. They are uneducated about nutrition and budgeting. Billy didn’t have breakfast this morning; he rarely does. His family doesn’t have that much food in the house, ever. Meals are bought and eaten in real time from convenience stores. Occasionally there are toaster pastries in the cupboard but with three other siblings, those don’t last long. Billy has had some of his immunizations from the last time the school said he had to see the doctor two years ago. He hasn’t ever had a flu shot though. Billy is also really tired today. He was up late last night (12 am) playing his favorite FPS video game “Call of Allegiance” live with thousands of unknown strangers online. His game system is in the bedroom he shares with his siblings.

So you are saying right now, “okay, what they hell does this have to do with meeeeeee?” Here’s where you start to come in. But don’t worry – if you don’t see yourself in this section, you will be implicated in the next, I promise. Billy the individual has now been influenced by the things he was born with and the people he interacts with on an ongoing basis. Some of these things have really put some burdens on Billy that he will have to try and overcome.

Next comes the influence of those not directly interacting with Billy necessarily, but interacting with those around him. Billy’s neighborhood was briefly mentioned under safety. But what about the neighborhood’s overall personality? Is this a close-knit neighborhood where people all know each other by name or is it one where everyone keeps to themselves? Are there community areas where people congregate? This sets the tone for social support which is crucial for psychological well-being. How social is Billy’s neighborhood?

Billy lives in rural America. His town is spread out far and wide and he lives on the outskirts which is the poorer section. The next house is within walking distance but there are no sidewalks and so people do not take walks down the road. People tend to keep to themselves and mind their own business.

What about those who run the school? Billy’s school district is smaller but encompasses several small rural towns. The school board is comprised of elected officials who are also the same people who get elected to other posts within the areas. Behind their backs, the town-folk call it “the good ol’ boy system” because it’s always the same men running the town and schools. Very little in terms of progressive change happens in Billy’s school unless the State or Federal Government step in. That did happen last year when Billy’s school was found to be funneling all their disabled children into segregated classrooms against federal law. It’s no wonder Billy hasn’t gotten any testing for his learning difficulties, then!

Extended family also plays a part in how we develop and progress as adaptable humans. Extended family such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles can serve as social support systems. In Billy’s case, his maternal grandparents live 50 miles away. His paternal grandmother is local, but she and his dad are often arguing so they only see each other on obligatory holidays. His paternal grandfather left his grandmother when his dad was a baby. Aunts and uncles have all moved away from this rural town. Billy’s immediate family is pretty much all he has. He would probably tell you that is all he can take with three siblings!

The work environments of the child’s parents also come into play. Though this sounds odd, these environments directly affect the parents who then directly affect the child. Billy’s parents both hold jobs. Billy’s Mom works 28 hours a week as a retail cashier. She gets no benefits because the company keeps her just under the 30 hour full-time mark (though she keeps asking for more hours). Despite having only 28 hours per week, the company tends to give long unpredictable shifts instead of a set schedule. She only knows from week to week what days and times she will be working. It is also tedious work and she often finds herself irritable after a long shift. Billy’s Dad is a factory worker and is on shift work. He has limited family health care benefits that he pays for out of his check. The family sees dad very little because he is often working the night or afternoon shift. His likes the work he does but wishes he could get on day shift; he misses his family and he has never really adjusted to the changing sleep schedules that go with night and afternoon shifts.

Mass media, such as the news and social media also play a part in how we progress. Video games and movies are also part of this.

Billy is only 10 but he has a Facebook page which requires people to be at least 13 years of age. His parents didn’t pay attention to this because they didn’t see it as a big problem. Neither of his parents are tech-savvy and have little time as it is to monitor their child’s social media. Billy has 700 friends all over the world. He has no idea who 99% of them are and some are bots and likely predators. Billy’s profile and pictures are public. Billy likely has several more social media accounts we do not even know about. As already discussed, Billy was up way too late last night playing a violent video game. Though this video game is rated “M” for mature by the rating system, his parents got tired of arguing about the ratings on games with Billy. Billy now gets to play no matter how violent or adult the subject matter. His parents justified the games as a good way to get Billy interested in joining the military someday. His parents also think that if these games were so bad, they wouldn’t put them on display with the other games; every time he turns on his game system, ads appear for these kinds of games. Billy also gets to watch movies that are rated PG-13 and he thought that the Dark Knight movie was awesome. His parent’s have gotten confused over the ratings system. Disney movies are now often rated PG and so his parents figure the 13 doesn’t mean all that much. His parents do their best to keep the graphic televised news off limits, but remember, Billy is on social media.

So unless you live in Billy’s neighborhood, are on the school board, are up playing games with him all night, or are one of his Facebook friends you probably feel like you are exempt from responsibility, right? Wrong.

Culture is the most crucial part of why Billy is going to test poorly. It’s also why Billy is likely to drop out of school and why Billy could become the next mass shooter.

You and I create culture. We bring our values and ideas to the table and mush them altogether to create what is acceptable, ethical, legal, and popular. We don’t always all agree but the mob rules and the mob’s ideas become what is deemed our country’s culture. It is reflected in our media. It is reflected in our institutions and laws. It is reflected in our homes. The culture we have created in this country is unhealthy. Billy’s situation shows us this.

Billy performs well below expectations in school because he is lazy.
translates to: 
People who struggle are lazy or incompetent. 
This is so far from the truth. People are not inherently like this. They are taught to give up like Billy was. A lot of people have learning difficulties that are never addressed or are in bad home situations. We have to stop blaming the child or the person and look at the environment and how we treat the child. It is bidirectional. Always.

Billy acts out in school because he is a trouble-maker.
translates to: 
Some children purposely cause grief. 
No child ever does this until they learn that this is the only way they can get their needs met. We need to start meeting their needs in positive ways so that this does not develop. In Billy’s case, he was acting out due to frustration because he was not learning and being punished for something he couldn’t control. Children and people in general are not islands; we interact and react to others and our environments. Be part of the solution and not the problem.

Our culture also preaches that people living in poverty get what they deserve; that they are somehow lazy and keeping themselves in that situation, willingly. That makes so very little sense. Have you ever met someone who said, “I sure have it good living like this” when they are living in poverty? No, I’m pretty sure not. I’ve heard middle class folk wish they could be doing better. Most people who live in poverty don’t have any idea how to get out. Some are trying really hard to make ends meet like Billy’s parents. And though his example is fictional, it’s based on real situations. Retail jobs often skirt the full-time system to avoid federal full-time laws and also have unpredictable shifts. Factory work is inevitably still shift-work and lots of studies show people never fully adjust to night and afternoon shift sleep habits, especially when they rotate (and they typically do). And it isn’t quite so easy as find another job. Where do you think a retail cashier will find another job – at another retail location with the same problems. Factory work is getting harder to come by each day. And without furthering education, the job market options are scarce. I probably do not have to tell you the costs associated with furthering education. Not only does it require the cost of the education, but the downtime from work to make that happen. Good luck doing all that and feeding your family while working at the local mart with unpredictable work schedules. How is this your problem too? We need to change our attitude about why people are living in poverty. Only then can we start to work toward real solutions.

There are many more variables in our culture causing problems in our society. But most of all, I want to talk about our acceptance of violence as a normal part of life as part of this cultural breakdown. The media markets to whomever will buy. It is not the media’s fault that we are buying. When will we say that enough is enough? When will we determine that virtual reality games that allow for very realistic killing are bad for ourselves? When will we say that the violence that has become the blockbuster movie of the month is too much? When will we stop watching news that shows graphic violence? When will you and I take some personal responsibility for making it easier for Billy to access this kind of violent media? It’s not good for us and it certainly is not good for him. The acceptance of violence is in our culture is driving the violent acts taking place. It is becoming part of our lives. We are desensitized. And worse, violence is becoming an acceptable way to take out our anger. How long before Billy has had enough and gets hold of an AR-15 like the one he uses in “Call of Allegiance?” We must take a stand against acceptance of violence in our culture.

If we are indeed a culture of “personal responsibility,” then let us start taking some blame for the mess in which we have created.


Trying to get through all the bunk? For reputable publications about media violence and children:
American Psychological Association

American Academy of Pediatrics

Media Violence and Social Neuroscience

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Responsibilities of a Self Appointed Ally

ally - a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose
In social justice circles, an ally is better explained as an advocate who agrees to stand up against discrimination at the discretion of those in which they intend to defend. But I believe it is more. Allies are also responsible for bridging learning gaps. Not everyone is granted higher education on  race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious studies. In fact, a lot of people are (innocently) ignorant on the subjects including our Nation’s history. I believe it is also the duty of allies to teach the willing about such matters in hopes of making them future allies. I believe that it is more an ally’s responsibility to teach than the person experiencing the discrimination. Allies are in a much better (more privileged) position to do so.

Taking on the unenlightened is not without risk, however. There are those who I like to call willfully-ignorant. These people do not want enlightened and will fight back in hurtful ways. Allies have to be cautious when engaging for our own safety. But we must also be brave because not everyone is willfully-ignorant. And those who are not will be new allies some day. Perhaps sooner than we think.

I recently experienced a situation where allies turned against each other because of an innocent ignorant person. In this case, the person had said something insensitive on social media that reflected ignorance toward a particular discrimination issue. Instead of attempting to teach, however, the allies used shaming tactics and eventually drove the person away. Later, they pulled in another ally who had not seen any of the activity (the social media post had since been deleted) and questioned them about the person. When the ally expressed shock about the person’s behavior the allies berated them for not using language that immediately denounced the person. They went as far to say the ally must be a “sympathizer” with known hate groups. I was reminded of the phrase “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It was a very sad state of affairs. Not only had they alienated an ally, they missed a chance to convert someone over to the good side.

Where do we think potential allies will go when they are berated by the supposed “side of reason?” Of course, they will turn to the other side who is always ready and waiting for angry, hateful cast-outs. 

It seems like some allies may be forgetting our purpose – to support and fight for the people who have less power than ourselves. It may very well be that some have taken on a victim role and become indignant about fighting for the cause. We, allies, need to remember our place.

Monday, June 26, 2017

$ It's All About the Money $

On the first day Donald Trump sat in the oval office as POTUS, was scrubbed of all things related to disability. Though this wasn't the only civil rights issue removed from the site, it sent a very powerful message to the disability community; you do not matter to this administration.

Few were terribly surprised after having seen this man ridicule a  disabled reporter on national television. But many had hoped his rhetoric on the campaign trail would be restrained once he was done rallying his legion of supporters. Sadly, this was not to be the case. 

It seems crystal clear now that this administration and the GOP in general, do not look kindly upon those with disabilities. Take a look for a moment, at the current push to eliminate Medicaid, a life sustaining safeguard for those with disabilities. And then take a closer look at how this administration treats those with disabilities when they attempt to peacefully protest against taking away their chance for independence and health.

For more information on these outstanding advocates,
visit ADAPT's website or Facebook.

Eliminating health care safeguards for those with disabilities ensures they will not be able to remain in their homes and communities thus forcing them into nursing homes and other similar institutions. Not only does this decrease quality of life, it is extremely expensive and significantly more costly than providing care and supports to keep people in their homes and communities. It also takes people with disabilities out of contributing to the workforce and society, in general. This seems like a no-win situation for everyone - increased costs, reduced productivity, and poor life conditions.

So why then would POTUS and his GOP lackeys want to pursue something that seems to benefit no one? One potential answer is terrifying and it includes eugenics and euthanasia. The likely answer is less sensational, though no less diabolical, and it looks a lot like the failed "War on Drugs" also being revived. This administration exploits those with extensive needs for profit. Privatized institutions stand to profit significantly from those who fill their rooms and cells. It seems the new American motto is:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me" so that I can profit greatly from thee.
Follow the money trail with this administration. Always.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


noun: acceptance; plural noun: acceptances

the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.

“you must wait for acceptance into the club”

For a long time, disabled people have been waiting for this club acceptance. Some have been granted honorary membership in the club over the years. Those who can pass as “nearly normal” and seemingly have fewer needs can gain entry some of the time. Most of the time though, they are only accepted as temporary members and really have to work hard pretending not to be disabled. The minute their wheelchair or service animal causes an inconvenience to the club, they are cast out.

Autistic people are no exception to this club instability. Those who learn to keep their disability hidden sometimes can sneak in unnoticed. Soon, however, autistic behaviors arise and they too are cast out of the club. Does it matter that the autistic person’s behavior is often more mature or empathetic than that of their peers? No. The only thing that seems to matter is assimilation - not appearing disabled in any way.

Organizations have sprung up over the years to enforce this club membership. Oh they don’t tell you that is their goal; instead they tell you they are there to spread “awareness” and help fund “research for cures.” Both of these activities directly enforce strict regulation on club membership criteria, however. Awareness campaigns do so by pointing out and emphasizing people’s differences. By emphasizing an Autistic person’s behavior as different or unusual the idea that autistic people are “not like the other club members” is reinforced. That is, they do not belong in the club.

Then there is the “cure.” When an autistic person speaks out against curing themselves, organizations - especially those who want you to “Light it up Blue” or “Talk about Curing Autism,” tell club members that this is a testimony to how very ill the autistic person is. They use the autistic person’s disability against them by discounting their words and desires as irrelevant due to being disabled. These organizations talk about how very difficult autism is on club members as reason enough to eradicate autistic people. They do not want autistic people to exist because they believe autistic people are a burden to the club. They believe that autistic people are too different. Accepting diversity into a rigid group like this can be challenging. So all of this is for the convenience of the current club members; none of this is for autistic people. And none of this truly benefits the club in the long run.

The club sounds like a really awful group but it is one from which most cannot escape. It is society. And it is time that we remove the exclusivity from its membership criteria. It is time we stop determining who is worthy. And it is high time we stop holding “awareness” campaigns that stigmatize people based on their differences.

In honor of my son, my Prince, I celebrate Autism Acceptance. I do so not just this April, but everyday and will so for the rest of my life.

More on Autism Acceptance:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Progressive People Revise Beliefs

Progressive people are willing to revise beliefs. What does this mean? Revising beliefs means being able to critically analyze and challenge ones own assumptions as new information becomes available. When this happens, progressive people make adjustments to their belief system to incorporate new information. It works something like this:

Jane believes all donuts taste alike because so far this has been her experience. But one day, Jane is approached by The Best Donuts in the World salesman who offers her a free sample.
Jane is certain it will be no better than every other donut but politely agrees to try the sample. She puts it in her mouth. What happens next is crucial. Jane could reject the delectable morsel that is tantalizing her taste buds by finding things that are wrong with it (not her favorite flavor, not her favorite type of donut, it’s an exception – it’s good but could never be reproduced, etc.). This by far is the easiest route to take. It requires no critical thinking on Jane’s part. Jane is able to thank the nice salesman for the free sample and tell herself she has had better. In this case, she walks away fooling herself and missing out on really awesome donuts. Worse, she has helped stifle The Best Donuts in the World from becoming a huge success all because she didn’t want to change her view. Alternatively, Jane could critically analyze her own schema (what she knows about donuts so far) and incorporate this new information – not all donuts are alike. Critical analysis takes a lot more courage because she must challenge her own assumptions and admit to herself that she has been wrong all along. If Jane is a true progressive thinker, she will take the second option and challenge her assumptions, walking away with a dozen or so of scrumptious confectioneries and a new adjusted belief system. The change may be modest: “most donuts are alike but The Best Donuts in the World are significantly better.” Or it may be extreme: “you cannot judge a donut by its sprinkles.” Either way, Jane will have shown critical thinking; she is able to take in new information that contradicts her prior belief system. This is how progress actually happens.

Imagine a world where no one took on any new information that contradicted their prior belief system. Copernicus would refuse to believe the planets rotated around our sun and therefore not bother to investigate. Edward Jenner would have watched his family and many more die of smallpox. Marie Curie would have never discovered radiation and x-rays or cancer treatments might be mythology today. These are just but a few major discoveries that have positively affected our lives on planet Earth. Progress means we must challenge assumptions including our own.

Refusing to accept new information about issues sounds an awful lot like what progressives are fighting against in political circles. Global climate change, gender inequality, racial inequality, disability rights and inequality – to name a few, are things that the more conservative politicians seemingly refuse to believe are problems at all. It seems easy to find examples of the conservative side not taking in new information. But what about when it is the self-proclaimed progressive side?

There is much to be learned from groups not like ourselves. Today, it is easier to hear from these groups thanks to social media. Sadly, however, I do not see critical thinking happening from the progressive side in many cases. Instead, old ideals are firmly rooted and seemingly not modifiable. New ideas that contradict old thinking are dismissed as anomalies or flat out ignored. Take if you will, the recent controversy over the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. This rule was put in place during the Obama administration and was vehemently opposed by disability rights activists. It was opposed not because these groups are pro-NRA or even pro-gun rights. It was opposed because “the proposed rule is the product of a tendency in our society to link disability and violence despite a wealth of scientific evidence showing that there is no link between the two” (ASAN, 2016). Opposing this rule, however, seemingly went against the status quo - that progressives are for strict gun control. But when one critically analyzes the situation it is recognized that the problem is not about gun control. Rather it is about labeling an already disenfranchised group as potentially dangerous adding more stigma to that of which is already an enormous problem. It is really about using people as a scapegoat instead of addressing the real problem. Data does not support that this group as dangerous though you will hear tons of anecdotes from the progressives to support this weak argument. Just because something seems like it should be true, doesn’t mean it actually is, however. People with serious mental health disabilities are no more likely to commit violent acts than the next person (Fazel et al, 2009; Fazel et al, 2010). And though it takes some courage to change this schema, doing so is critical thinking.

Today the world is much smaller than it ever has been. The Internet has brought us close and has given a voice to many disenfranchised groups. Progressive organizations and the people within need to recognize this and critically analyze their prior schemas. Until they do, I have little hope that our society will actually progress past the mess in which we are currently living. Changing beliefs to incorporate new information will not be painless; but I promise it will be progressive.


ASAN (2016). ASAN Statement on SSA Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. At
Fazel S, Gulati G, Linsell L, Geddes JR, & Grann M (2009). Schizophrenia and violence: Systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 6, e1000120.
Fazel, S., Lichtenstein, P., Grann, M., Goodwin, G. M., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Bipolar disorder and violent crime: new evidence from population-based longitudinal studies and systematic review. Archives of General Psychiatry,67, 931-938.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I Hated “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

I am a true Star Wars geek. I saw the original 1977 release in 1977. Twice. I have since seen every movie released in the theater and own them all on some form of media. I can pretty much quote all the lines from Episode IV-VI and even watched the prequels more than once. The Force Awakens renewed my excitement over the franchise and so it was with a heavy heart that I walked out of the theater hating Rogue One. Even Lucas’s prequels did not leave me in such despair (though in my mind, I have attempted to make Anakin 14 in Episode I and remove Jar Jar from existence). Why did I hate the movie that others are touting as “the best ever?” There are reasons. And I think other fans will see those same reasons when they dig deeper.

Major Spoilers Alert.
If you did not see this movie and still
intend to, do not read further. 

The story line – the good.

The over all story was really good. In fact, it explained the womp rat sized flaw that allowed Luke to skillfully blow up the Death Star in Episode IV. And though many seem confused about who stole the original Death Star plans (Bothans stole the second Death Star plans pre-Return of the Jedi), everything about the story seemed fairly water-tight with the original trilogy. Big thumbs up on the story. This is where the good stuff stops, however.

The Characters – the bad.

Where to begin? The acting was good but the actors had little to go on. Character development was seriously lacking to non-existent.

The main character Jyn Erso is exposed to serious trauma as young child. She is abandoned until taken under a stranger’s wing who apparently exploits her as a soldier and later discards her as well. She should be a very complex character but is not. She does not have any convictions which does make some sense until…Ta-Da...they need a rogue leader. She literally goes from not caring about the politics of Star Wars to leading a rag-tag team of rebels who save the Universe. Not only does this change happen within minutes of the movie, but she actually delivers a speech worthy of the patriotic address by the President in the movie Independence Day. This was less believable to me than a 10 year old Anakin Skywalker in Episode I.

Cassian Andor is the supporting male lead who is so unlikable it is maddening. We never get any back story. All we know is he is a miserable soul who apparently hates his rebel job. He kills other rebels we presume as collateral damage. We are led to believe he is used by the Rebel Alliance as a mercenary and he is not really very happy about any of it. In desperation for substance, I tried to read all sorts of between the lines on this guy and came up empty. I actually hated him.

K-2SO is an android. C-3PO he is not and boy did I wish he was. K-2SO did have some humorous quips, but he was not an android in terms of personality. He is an Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed, one presumes, with a sarcasm module. For all the fun we’ve had watching androids like C-3PO and Data from Star Trek TNG, this droid might as well have been a human sidekick named Bill. He was some of the only comic relief in the entire movie and it wasn’t really all that comical. R2-D2’s bleeps and bloops are much funnier and well, believable. K-2SO did not seem like a droid at all. I found myself looking at him like he was a guy in a robot suit.

Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus were presumably our Han Solo and Chewbacca replacements. Okay so they weren’t a space-cowboy and a Wookie but they were close. We figure out pretty quickly that Chirrut is Jedi (who are in hiding now) and Baze, well we are never quite sure his story. He’s probably force sensitive or...something. Who knows? Maybe he’s Chirrut’s life partner? Again, I found myself trying to fill in the characters’ back-stories to make the movie work. These two did add some humor and were a welcome pair to an otherwise complete drab and depressing portrayal.

Bad guy Orson Krennic was probably the least objectionable character. I actually hated him for the right reasons. As the orchestrator of the Death star, he was well developed into an opportunistic bad guy. He schmoozed and connived his way to get what he wanted and gets what he deserves in the end. So yay, for this one.

Honorable mention to character Bodhi Rook. I wanted to know this pilot who was so very dedicated to the cause. He was a hero yet we never really knew him. He was likeable, if not lovable. For shame to the production staff for not giving this character more of a story-line.

There are obviously many more characters whom are never developed. Some are those we already know from previous movies, however. Darth Vader gets a small, very violent (and unnecessary) cameo toward the end of the film (We already know he is a disturbed individual. We saw Anakin turn to the Dark side in Episode III and then cut off his kid’s hand in V. We really didn’t need to see this additional violence). Bail Organa, Princess Leia’s adopted dad also makes a cameo as a member of the Rebel Alliance and we get to find out how Leia gets the stolen plans. There is also some fancy CGA going on with a cameo from a very young Leia from Episode IV. This part was actually kind of cool because it tied the movies all together.

The Delivery – the ugly.

Sitting in the high backed stadium seating with 3D glasses on I anxiously awaited the start. Most of us never noticed, the old 20th Century Fox fanfare had been replaced years ago with a slick version by John Williams and I waited for this intrinsic anthem to begin. Cue the lights. Wait. No fanfare? Okay…that was odd. How about the classic “Dun-Dah?” Nope. Not there either. Well, they at least wouldn’t forgo the quintessential opening scrawl that has been in Oh yes they did. The movie just started like any other Hollywood action flick. No fanfare. No classic opening music. No Star Wars scrawl. What the heck was this?

Deep breaths. Maybe it was budget. My son leans over and tells me John Williams did not do the soundtrack. Does anyone have a paper bag I can breath into?

Cue the violence. Off the bat we are thrown into the most graphic violence of any Star Wars movie to date. We see a child’s mother shot point blank and killed. We see a rebel shoot and kill another rebel because he’s disabled and cannot climb to escape. Soon we are tossed into the streets that resemble realistic war zones where terrorist cells are attacking with grenades and assault style weapons. This is no longer the battles of laser guns knocking down storm troopers. This is realistic war scenes with graphic violence. At one point, we see a very young child in the middle of the street screaming while bombs and gunfire surround them. One can imagine the terror of Syria right now. This is disturbing stuff and it does not stop at any point in the movie. In fact, it gets worse as time goes on.

As the movie progresses, it seems as though the director’s intent was to show us that the rebels were not so noble as we’d come to believe in the past. In fact, they are painted as politicians not much different than that of the original senate from which they came (which makes no sense since Mon Mothma and Bail Organa broke away from the senate for these reasons). They seem to view their rebel soldiers as instruments for their cause rather than people. There is also a new element added that has not been in any other of the Star Wars movies or series – Rebel Extremists. Theses rebels apparently broke free of the main alliance because they did not like the politics of playing nice. These are the ones carrying out the terrorist attacks in the streets. We are to understand there are blurred lines between who is good and evil in the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. This sounds a little too much like real life and it is not what made the original Star Wars universe so great. The original trilogy success was credited with using the aspects of various movie elements. “Star Wars is a Western. Star Wars is a samurai movie. Star Wars is a space opera. Star Wars is a war film. Star Wars is a fairy tale” (Wickman, 2015). While there is an element of war in all Star Wars movies, it is certainly not the only focus. Rogue One does try to incorporate some samurai elements but they are weak and the other elements are sadly missing.

So it seems, this director wanted to put the WAR emphasis into his Star Wars. One shouldn’t be surprised. Hollywood action flicks sell. One can presume money is what this was all about. Or perhaps this director was never a true fan and wanted to change the formula. Either way, it was an epic fail for this epic tale. Say what you will about the prequels, but at least George Lucas did not change the formula.

The Ending – the really, really F-ugly.

So let’s just say you got past the all the rest of the bad and ugly above. The end of this movie just kills it. Literally. Everyone dies and when they did I felt like I was watching an SNL spoof. The cliché death scenes were happening so ridiculously that it would have been laughable had it not been so damn depressing. The only thing missing was some slow-motion camera angles and stereotypical opera music playing. It was just so very awful.

This movie seems to have been made for people who thought the old Star Wars was too unrealistic and campy (what part of fantasy don't you understand?) and just not sensational enough (think Armageddon, the movie). My advice to them is to go see something else. There are plenty of realistic and Hollywoodized action flicks out there. Leave the Star Wars universe alone.

I’m going to file Rogue One: A Star Wars Story under something-that-never-happened.

Wickman, F. (2015). Yes, Star Wars Is the Original Action Blockbuster. It’s Also a Postmodern Masterpiece. Retrieved from