Originally written on April 13, 2022, with the help of my partner
– To start off, let's start with, what, to me, is the most obvious: emotional regulation. Autistic people tend to have more trouble controlling their emotions than their allistic (not autistic) peers do. In particular, this issue is characterized by frequent temper outbursts, rapid mood changes, and a tendency to become easily frustrated. I feel like I don't even have to expand upon this. Red Son's anger and quickness to frustration is one of his most notable character traits.
On a similar note, autistic people are also very blunt. Many people imagine an autistic person's bluntness in the same sort of general vein; very monotonous, very matter-of-fact. However, this trait can also manifest in a way that may come across as 'mean'. Many autistic people don't have that buffer of 'wait, would saying this come across as negative or cruel?', which leads to them rather bluntly stating their negative thoughts. I wouldn't say Red Son's tendency to comment negatively on things is entirely because of this (he also just generally has a negative attitude), but he certainly is blunt when he does so in a way that is reminiscent of an autistic person whose bluntness manifests in this manner.
– Autistic people just talk kind of weird.
Autistic people oftentimes will speak with a different rhythm, stress, and / or volume than allistics. So, even if the words themselves are appropriate for the topic at hand, they may come across as flat, loud, soft, or otherwise ‘different’ or just… Weird. There is actually a phrase for this particular symptom in autistic people; ‘abnormal speech prosody’.
Red Son… Also just talks kind of weird.
His intonations, his little accent thing and even his pronunciation of some words (ie, pronouncing ‘robot’ more like ‘robit’) is just… Off. And we don’t really know *why* he speaks the way he does, either. Both his mother and his father speak in a sort of scarily-calm manner; he’s the only one in his family who talks the way that he does.
– With Red Son’s issues with anger (and emotional dysregulation, if you will indulge me), it is to nobody’s surprise that he is unable to deal with a complaining customer. It goes about as we would expect for Red Son’s character, with him getting easily frustrated with and eventually furious.
However, the thing of note here is that Red Son doesn’t seem to understand that he handled the situation poorly.
After the customer leaves when he’s frightened off by Demon Bull King, Red Son expresses frustration with his father at scaring the customer away… Which, yes, he did do. However, Red Son seems oblivious to his own part in frightening them away with his anger. He even actively wants the business to succeed! He appears to be under the impression that he handled the situation well; it was just his father who ruined it.
This particular type of issue with social interactions seems to be a reoccurring thing with Red Son. He oftentimes doesn’t seem to *understand* that he’s being unreasonable, frightening, or behaving in a socially inacceptable manner.
We see it a few more times; when he tries to politely ask MK’s group to help him defeat the Spider Queen (which we, as an audience, know is a sincere want for him), he asks for them to “let him steal their ship”. And then, when they react negatively to this, he acts extremely exasperated as if he is under the impression that they are being the unreasonable ones in this exchange.
We also see this with Red Son and MK’s exchange while they’re getting ready to sleep. When MK asks for a second blanket, Red Son replied (in a way that clearly reads as aggressive and sarcastic) if MK also wants a warm glass of milk. MK says, ‘Yes!’, which seems to frustrate Red Son… But we, as the audience, *know* that the question was at least partially genuine, as he is later seen *with* the extra blanket and milk, bringing it to MK.
This is an interesting exchange, because it implies that MK’s literal interpretation of Red Son’s request (which most people would assume to be a misread) *is actually more close to what Red Son was intending* by asking. Red Son is clearly aggravated by the request, of course, but the question, again, had to be at least partially genuine; otherwise, he wouldn’t have gotten what MK had asked for.
Red Son also seems to struggle with literality, as MK does. Both of them misunderstand the metaphor of ‘being granted immortality’ as the prize for the great wall race. The audience is also mislead to believe that this is the case, however, judging by Mei literally falling over with laughter at the idea that the prize was literal, it would be considered to be a pretty clear metaphor to anyone within that universe.
Red Son also answers rhetorical questions; answering Demon Bull King’s with a, “Well… Yes?”
We also see his sort of brand of ‘negative bluntness’ coming into effect in this conversation (“I mean, after your recent humiliating defeat…”)… Which is a very interesting point, because *we know* that he isn’t trying to be cruel and doesn’t want to hurt his father’s feelings. It’s more questionable whether or not it’s on purpose whenever it’s with the heroes, but this scene shows that this trait manifests, *even* when it’s with someone who he loves, and *even when he’s not mad*.
– So… Why was it that Red Son said that the cure for the Spider Queen’s venom had to be made with the ingredients being added in a particular order, exactly?
While making the antivenom, he insists that he is the only one who touches anything, and says that he has to add the ingredients in a very precise order ‘that nobody else would understand’. As Mei points out, there were only two other ingredients left at that moment, and when MK just tosses the last two in at the same time (and despite Red Son’s apparent anger at this being done), nothing really happens. There’s a puff of smoke, sure, but we have no idea if that would have happened regardless of the order that the ingredients were put in, and, if it was because of MK throwing all the ingredients in at the same time, Red Son likely would have given him an earful telling him such. And the venom, even when the ingredients were apparently put in ‘out of order’, works perfectly. So… What?
Well, autistic people tend to like routine, and they tend to like repetition. Stepping outside of a previously-established routine can be extremely distressing for autistic people. Even with specifically the subject of ordering things, autistic people are known for loving to arrange and order things. Autistic children, for example, tend to play by sorting, stacking and organizing their toys, because they find it comforting. This desire for things to be in a specific order can be seen in this moment, when there is, quite literally, *no explanation given* as to why Red Son would want these ingredients to go in a specific order, besides him just… Liking it better that way.
On a similar subject, Red Son also has worn his glasses since he was a baby. I’ve seen a few jokes about this in the fandom, but this may also be an example of routine, or even a comfort object (which is an object which, as its name implies, provides comfort, especially used in relation to autistic people). We also see that Red Son actually wears a necklace under his clothes, as well; it’s only visible for a few frames when he’s thrown, but it’s there, nonetheless. There is no explanation given as to why he would wear it under his clothes, where nobody else can see it, thus giving it no real purpose as an accessory. The guess that it may just be another form of routine for Red Son is a guess as good as any, especially as it is already established that he will get attached to and continuously wear an accessory for a long time.
– For our last stop here, let’s touch on the subject of sensory stuff.
Autistic people will oftentimes talk about sensory overload; an experience whereas sensory input becomes too overwhelming, which can result in a multitude of negative reactions from the person. However, have you ever heard of sensory understimulation? This is when there is not enough sensory input. This phenomenon is actually where stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) comes from! Autistic people with issues with sensory understimulation may also have sensory extremes.
Autistic people are also sometimes noted as being ‘picky eaters’. This being a common occurance is typically a mix of being picky with sensory input (preferring foods that hit that sweet spot of ‘not too much’ and ‘not too little’), and a preference for routine eating the same thing over and over). A food that an autistic person eats over and over even has a nickname in the community, being referred to as a ‘samefood’.
So, once again, we circle back to Red Son’s interactions with his and his father’s food stand. It’s a common assumption that Red Son serving extremely hot food and his preference for such is joke about his ability to control fire. Which is probably at least partially true. But, still, it’s quite interesting that Red Son refuses to serve *anything* else, implying that spicy / hot food is objectively the best type of food to serve. This may not only be a samefood, but also an example of Red Son seeking out sensory extremes.
– So, let’s review what we have covered here today.
Red Son has extreme issues with emotional regulation, and he has a tendency to bluntly say negative things, even when he is not mad and is speaking to someone who he loves. He speaks very oddly with an abnormal prosody. He struggles with social interaction, because he doesn’t seem to understand when he comes across as unreasonable or angry, he doesn’t understand metaphors, and answers rhetorical questions. He has a tendency to wear the same things over and over, even when the thing that he is wearing is hidden, and he likes doing things in a very precise order, even when there is no practical reason to do so. He also seems to only like a certain type of food; one which provides a extreme sensory experience.
In conclusion? AUTISM.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.