I just want to talk about, well, everything I have to say, using this one scene from Skins.
Basically, JJ (who has ASD and some other stuff) doesn't like the way his friends Cook and Freddie are acting, and they won't listen to his opinions. He can sometimes need a lot of support, and he's not as cool as they are, so they treat him more like a little brother than an equal friend. Then JJ overhears Cook referring to him as a "barmy fucker" and gets even more pissed. He tries to tell Cook how annoyed he is at him and Freddie, but Cook brushes him off as usual.
Cook: Now, are you coming or do I have to keep look out myself when I'm buying gear?
JJ: (softly) Just care, okay?
Cook: About what?
JJ: (suddenly shouting) About me! About me, you twat! You're all fucking twats!
(Cook looks surprised and concerned, and hugs JJ and holds him, stroking his hair. Cook has a tendency to be overly demonstrative and sentimental.)
Cook: I pissing love you, J. Nothing's gonna change that, man. You're my very own little fruit bat. Fuck Freddie. It's just me and you now, J. Feel the love. You feeling it? Right?
--3x07, about halfway through
What Cook says is really sweet, but there's something that has the potential to ruin its sweetness--Cook calling JJ a fruit bat. We see at multiple points in this episode that JJ really doesn't like Cook to use nicknames or make jokes that are based on JJ's disabilities. In context, it seems obvious that "fruit bat" is a reference to "fruitcake," and therefore fits into the category of names JJ doesn't like to be called. But JJ doesn't say anything. He arguably winces at the word "fruit bat" and doesn't look completely satisfied by anything Cook is saying; but he closes his eyes and seems to enjoy being held.
Now, on some level, this interaction--Cook saying "fruit bat" and JJ not responding--is kind of fucked up. And one thing it reminds me of is something that sometimes happens when you belong to a minority that your friends don't belong to. You end up accepting stuff that offends you, because if you spoke up every time something offended you, your friends would just think you were annoying and be mad at you. This can happen to anyone (I love this post about token black friends)--but it's particularly hard to fight when you depend on your friends for support, or don't think you have the ability to make new friends.
When I look at the scene that way, my smile disappears, as does my desire to write a slash fic. It becomes a really sad scene. JJ seems isolated, marginalized in his own friendship, intimidated out of standing up for himself. I think this is a totally correct way to look at the scene; it's not just an interpretation, it is what's happening.
However, even though I think this is objectively true, it's not the only thing that's objectively true. Cook doesn't realize the effect his language has on JJ and, rather than consciously choosing to ignore something offensive, JJ is probably too emotional to let the word "fruit bat" outweigh everything else Cook is saying. And maybe he has a point. Sometimes people close to us say things that are offensive, and that doesn't make it right--but it doesn't always mean they don't care about us. We have the right to say we're offended; intent doesn't make something okay--but if we choose not to say we're offended, this isn't always a sad thing where we're submitting to the dominant culture, or whatever. I mean technically maybe it is. But you know, also our friend is hugging us. Maybe we "pick our battles." Maybe in our personal lives, sometimes we decide how we feel about intent, and maybe in some moments intent is good enough.
Can I say this? Do you know what I mean?