Ado Annie

Sometime I need to write a thread about how Ado Annie in Oklahoma is clearly autistic, both as shown by the exceptional performance of Gloria Grahame in the 1955 movie but also by the text of her two songs, even if not every performer seems to get that…

Gloria Grahame plays Ado Annie with a kind of classically flat affect and shows clear confusion at the nonsensically inconsistent social rules around her — it’s both hilarious and immensely compelling. I was captivated by her performance as a kid who had no knowledge of autism.

As time has passed, I’ve come to believe I was so immediately drawn in by Ado Annie because she was a form of representation for me — someone like me, someone trying to intellectually puzzle her way through social rules and inconsistencies.

If you look at Ado Annie’s songs, the first one — “A Girl Who Can’t Say No” — is all about being confused by how her own feelings don’t match what’s expected of her, and her inability to perform a false role, even when she knows she’s supposed to.

Ado Annie’s second song — “All or Nothing,” a duet with her fiancé — is all about negotiating the rules of their relationship, based on her own internal sense of fairness, regardless of whether it matches what she sees in other people’s relationships.

This internal sense of fairness and justice combined with Ado Annie’s bewilderment by social rules that don’t match her own experience reads as deeply autistic to me, and I’ve always loved her character.

I recognized something in Ado Annie that made sense to me long before I knew anything about autism or would’ve thought to ascribe it to either of us. I just knew I really liked her and found her fascinating. She meant something to me.

Okay, so I guess now was the time for writing that thread.

In conclusion, representation matters, whether or not it’s labeled.

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