This film analysis of Sharp Stick by Lena Dunham critically explores how the film uptakes representations of the ideas around the vulnerabilities of Autistic women in popular culture, and yet does not explicitly name them as such. This liminality is critical and plays into the intersectional analysis that the author engages around the way vulnerability and Autistic identity is interpreted and read. The author draws upon McDermott's (2022) "neurotypical gaze" in an analysis that shows how traditional tropes around Autistic women’s vulnerability are social constructions that are brought into relief by stereotypes around race, gender, and ability. The author uses the shape of this gaze to then enact neurodivergent subjectivities by finding where the film may move otherwise- into neurodivergent subjectivities that decenter the gaze. The analysis reveals The Plot centers a neurotypical audience via a voyeuristic stance, perpetuating ideas of both vulnerability and redemption as tied to cisheteronormativity, as well as a superficial engagement with the value non-normative interests. However, throughout the film opportunities exist that glimpse at more expansive possibilities. Exploring ideas of communication and solidarity, this article shows how the analysis of liminality can contribute to understandings of both vulnerability and sexual agency; as well as questions of legibility and value.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License