This week’s lessons on Geek Anthropology is a little bit unusual. We’re going to explore Castiel, the Autistic Angel. Autism is a reality to many families, including mine. If you’ve read this blog, you might have found that from time to time I write about my Vulcan, my Mr.Spock. I like to use Spock for him since it’s one of his favorite characters, but I should be using other characters like Mr. Data or Castiel. And you might say, Castiel? Autistic? Yes. Castiel is an aloof and curious angel who saves Dean from perdition. He acts in an awkward way most of the time. However, he is getting “better” under neurotypical standards (the Winchesters, for example, are pretty neurotypical) when interacting with humans. As he learns new patterns, he also learns how to navigate Earth. However, his cuteness and funny quotes can be explained under the Autism spectrum.
Characters that we can find in fandom can help us understand better people around us that might be special or who might have a different neurological wiring. Even if writers didn’t intend to make of Castiel an autistic character, he does show up a bunch of traits. Remember that autism is a vast spectrum where we can find Aspergers and high functioning autistic people (docs have changed the names recently, but I keep on the ones I know more). Not all aspies nor autistic people are the same, but common traits make them special.
1. His face doesn’t convey emotions.
For the most part, Castiel’s face is emotionless. Not in a bad way, but in a sweet one. He seems aloof most of the time unable to show up any emotion on his face. This drives Dean crazy, every time he tries to get some feedback from Castiel. Nods and facial gestures are hard for this angel, and when he does them, they feel awkward most of the time. As time passes, he learns little by little about some gestures, but he has an emotionless face that no other angel has. No wonder the Winchesters have adopted him, since he seems lost, despite having great powers. My Vulcan has problems in showing up emotions on his face as well. He, like Castiel, looks like a blank canvas with big eyes looking back at you most of the time. Pretty much like the gif up there. He is dang cute, but it can get on your nerves when he is on Castiel mode on.
2. He takes things pretty literal, and then he doesn’t know what to do next.
This scene shocked me: Castiel phones Dean to go on working. However, Dean needed to sleep and tells him to wait. Castiel takes it literally, and waits for Dean on the road. I’ve lived this experience thousands of times with my Vulcan. Don’t tell him to wait, otherwise he’s going to be like Castiel: I’ll wait here then (without knowing what to do). He might have tons of things to do, but at the moment I tell him the order of waiting, he’ll collapse and just stay wherever he is and wait. Reasons: not understanding time makes him unable to predict how much he’ll need to wait. Therefore, he starts calculating what things he could do in such time. He can come to the conclusion that, better to stay quiet since he doesn’t know nor understand time. This seems to happen to Castiel. Could have done something else instead of waiting for Dean on the spot? I think so. But nothing came to his mind. He just followed the order of waiting, without really understanding how long that would be.
3. He doesn’t really understand when he is tired, or if he is supposed to rest, even if this is killing him.
As an Angel, he doesn’t really need to sleep or eat. However, he falls from grace, and it’s turned into a human. He learns that he needs to sleep and eat otherwise his body is going to collapse. Then he gets some grace back (by stealing it, and then getting some from Crowley, who kills another angel). As a human, he found the food quite tasty, but from the moment he got his grace back, he starts analyzing it again: it tastes like atoms. Again, he starts to get the line blurred on when to know when his body is in need and when not. If he decides to go on working, despite being very tired, he keeps on working. Alexithymia is what most angels seem to have, being Castiel the perfect example. He is unable to identify emotions in himself and others, and unable to know when he is tired or not. He can even get a boner and have no clue on what’s going on (remember the pizza man video he was watching while the Winchesters were working?)
My Vulcan has alexithymia. Very much like Castiel, he can keep on working during hours till he collapses. He is unable to describe the tastes of food properly (he only says they’re good or bad, and if you ask further, he might give you a Castiel-like answer: it tastes like [insert weird word here]).
4. References and sarcasm scape him.
One of the basic problems of Castiel is that he has a problem in understanding references. It isn’t until Metatron that gives him enough information, that he finally can find the patterns into his mind. This, however, does not mean that he understands the reference completely. Many autistic people are pretty literal, just like Castiel, and despite learning about sarcasm and references, most of the time are lost and still keep on taking things literally. My Vulcan does that most of the time. For every reference or joke that he gets, ten others are lost to him. Very much like Castiel, they both feel aloof but very cute, and they make you laugh a lot when they are unable to take that reference you just stated.
The problem of references is that, because autistic people can take them literally, references or sarcasm are elusive for them. They might get some once they’ve learned them, but new ones can be a challenge.
5. They get creative in the most unusual ways.
Castiel gets creative in a very odd way. The Winchesters get puzzled many times. Interrogating cats? Is that a thing? Even if Castiel explains why he does it, for the Winchesters, two neurotypicals, his actions still feel awkward. My Vulcan has a vivid imagination and a very unusual way to be creative. Most of the time I feel like he is going to interrogate cats if you get the reference.
The good part of this unusual creativity is that my Vulcan comes up with totally unexpected solutions that work most of the times. Others, well… you just keep a poker face trying to figure out how he came up with that idea on the first place.
6. He can be very naïve.
Castiel trusts people easily; thus he can be very naïve. That’s how Metraton tricks him, and how he ends up in terrible messes. Many of his most funny moments in the show are also due to this sweet naiveté that characterizes him. My Vulcan is also naïve at times. The more patterns he learns, the less naïve he looks like. However, learning patterns and acting on them does not guarantee that he’ll come up with some innocent answer or behavior. This is exactly what we can see with Castiel’s evolution. His downfalls are due to his innocence and lack of understanding of others. The more patterns he learns, the more difficult is becoming to trick him.
7. Nobody understands their humor.
Castiel’s sense of humor is weird, and when he does tell a joke, there is few to no emotion on it, so it’s hard to guess it was a joke. The Winchesters don’t get it. Castiel is puzzled they don’t get it. This is what happens to my Vulcan: it might be that his best jokes are in Enochian because they just escape me. What I do laugh about is other stuff surrounding him, not actually his jokes.
8. Order and logic are part of Castiel’s personality.
Castiel has his logic and applies it according to the dictates that the Lord has given to the angels. In this sense, he is very autistic. When he discovers free will, he first gets puzzled. Then, he applies his inner patterns of order and logic to bring some free will to Heaven and become God while killing some of his enemies. This brought him to the downfall of having the Leviathans all over. This is pretty much what happens to an autistic person: when they lose their sense of order and logic, chaos reigns within them, and they explode. Castiel exploded into the water (or so we are lead to believe); autistic people have seizures and rants. Each person will have it in a different way, but essentially what happens is that they’re lost and need to come back to some sense of logic and order to be themselves again.
Castiel learns a new logic and a new order where free will, or the free will he understands, has a place. Humans that’s neurotypicals in the show need free will and a little bit of chaos or they’ll perish. Let them do their things. Meanwhile, he has his own schedule and way of doing things. This allows him to be with the Winchesters and not die because of their torn apart lives.
Very much like Castiel, my Vulcan collapses when his order and logic are threatened. Most of the time it’s Yours Truly making him lose it. In his case, he collapses by sleeping and staring at me with a very aloof face trying to figure me out. The efforts in trying consume his energy and lead him to snore the crisis on the couch.
9. He has a weird way of talking sometimes.
Welcome, colorful ways of talking. Some autistic people are pretty good at mimicking others. The problem is they might come to use these copies at the wrong times, or with the wrong wording. Remember Castiel’s Ass butt? I don’t think that’s a very threatening word to say when you’re about to molotov an archangel. However, here we have Castiel trying to threaten someone, only that he chose the wrong set of words. This not only applies to talking but also to gestures. So, it might happen that you get a poker face many times while dealing with some autistic people.
10. Sex, I’ll do it if I must.
While some autistic people don’t want to be touched, ever, some others are curious about human interactions. So, you have different types of people depending on their autism. Castiel is the curious type. He has no idea whatsoever about it, and if it happens, he won’t say no. He will jump to it, if that’s what they want. Meaning that he’ll pose a great deal of effort making the other happy and satisfied first of all. The funny thing is that he learns about sex from the pizza man (porn), very much like a teenager. And because he seems to have alexithymia, he doesn’t understand that much what’s going on with him. So, it’s funny how the less sexual of all the characters in the show is, in fact, the most sexual of all. When dealing with autistic people, please remember that not all of them are alike when going beyond the hello stage. Some, as I said, don’t want to be touched at all, and might feel threatened if you put a finger on them. Others, are curious about it, in a Castiel’s sense.
Want to know more autistic characters? Find about Sheldon Cooper here.
You can also meet my Vulcan here.