An Open Letter To Jim Carrey

Dear Jim,

Normally one uses surnames for people they haven’t met, but given the appalling way you’ve just behaved and the ignorance you’ve displayed, I don’t have enough respect for you to bother.

Let’s get down to brass tacks.

I am an autistic adult, and I am angry.


At this point, you know what you’ve done, but you don’t entirely know what you’ve done. Yes, you used photos you found on the internet as tools for your argument. Bad form. (Do you not have someone on your staff who understands what fair use is? By the letter of the law, it’s fair use, but by the spirit, you made a huge mistake.) But more clearly, you’ve made autistic people everywhere just a little bit less safe.

You took photographs you found of what looked to you like the most vulnerable members of our community – children – and used them as bogeymen. As scare tactics, as static photos, completely ignoring the fact that they are learning, growing people. Completely ignoring the fact that they will grow up and see this ignorance on full display, because nothing is ever truly gone from the internet.

To see someone as a static image in time is to see them as not human. And dehumanization is the first step toward being able to cause harm to someone. Murder victims are dehumanized by their killers – they are avatars, they are mannequins for whatever disturbing desires they are supposed to represent. What you did was not only inappropriate, it was utterly dehumanizing. It was holding up a picture of a child and saying “If you have your children vaccinated, they could end up like this.”

What? Autistic and alive?

[Image description: A dark haired man looking through the viewfinder of a black camera. The flash bar is raised and the lens cap is off, as the man is about to take a picture.]

[Image description: A dark haired man looking through the viewfinder of a black camera. The flash bar is raised and the lens cap is off, as the man is about to take a picture.]

If you do not grasp why this offends me and many autistic adults (and should offend most allistic, or non-autistic, people), you are a total loss as a person. Especially when you factor in the fact that almost 80 autistic children and adults have been murdered by their parents and caregivers in the last five years. People who are supposed to love their children and protect them from evil. Most recently, Nicholas Richett, a 20 year old man, was murdered in Melvindale, Michigan. His father had become ill and suicidal – and killed his son to “save his family the burden” because he was afraid there would be no one to help him. That was not his goddamn choice to make. 

A burden. Let that sink in. A 20 year old man, otherwise healthy, bright, alive.

Late last year, six year old London McCabe was murdered in Oregon by his mother, who threw him off a bridge after researching “Oregon insanity plea” on her computer. A terrified six year old thrown into a bay to drown. Because he was nonverbal and his mother “couldn’t cope.” One of the major reasons that parents “can’t cope” is because they are bombarded continually with this terror that is autism, this message that autism is the worst thing that could ever happen to their family. Who else do we know that sees autism as an essential death sentence, a thief stealing a family’s normalcy in the night, who ignores the fact that behavior is communication and there are myriad other ways to talk and succeed in life besides making sounds with one’s vocal cords?

Look in the mirror.

As my excellent roommate put it when the story of your twitter ranting broke: “After twenty years, he’s still talking out of his ass.”

Stop. Your. Ignorance. You are directly contributing to our dehumanization. And when autistic people are dehumanized, autistic people die.

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16 comments

  1. Thank you! Not everyone believes as he does thankfully! We recently were hoping for an autism diagnosis as then we’d have an answer and one that is so easily accepted in our community

  2. I don’t have autism, I have been blessed with children who don’t have autism. This pisses me off, the reason for this letter not the letter itself. I have worked with so many autistic kids who are fabulous, amazing little human beings who, if given the chance and the right people with the right tools, will bloom into the most beautiful people with beautiful souls. For all those kids who are growing into adults in this world thank you for this letter. You are a beautiful soul.

  3. I read the BuzzFeed link about Carrey posting photos of an autistic child. The aunt of the child in question shouldn’t have posted the photo online if she didn’t want it available to the masses. Once you post photos online, no matter their subject or content, you lose control of them forever.

    1. I approved your comment because I agree with you, but that doesn’t change the fact that what Carrey did was absolutely reprehensible.

  4. I have an autistic 7 year old son that is the light of my life, I think his autism is a gift, and if any one thinks different they are ignorant. I would not wish for my little boy to be any different than he is, he is smart and funny and loving. Yes he has autistic behaviors he flaps his hands and he has sensory issues with smell, touch, and sound. He has moments when he is rigid. But he also loves geography and airplanes and he has the most loving nature. I didn’t know what Jim Carey did until I read this but I can say it makes me ill, I wont be watching his movies anymore !!!

  5. Thank you for this article and bringing to light issues that are far more important than a non-existent link between autism and vaccines. As a physician, I am aware of numerous evidence based medical articles that have established that vaccines do not cause autism. The single article that established a false relationship between vaccines and autism was disproven by the medical community. As a Jim Carrey fan, I am highly disappointed in his actions. Generalizing those with mental disabilities shows that he really has no knowledge about what he claims to be so passionate about.

    1. I approved this comment because you clearly mean well, but autistic people don’t “suffer.” Or if we do, we suffer not from autism, but from a society that fears us and grossly underestimated our capabilities.

  6. I share your outrage. My son is autistic; however, we did not know that when he was a child. He was bullied, called weird, a creep etc. Today he is a young man having a difficult time making sense of the world, trying to conceal what he does not understand and at the same time deal with racial discrimination. It is hard to be autistic even harder to be Black and autistic.

    Discrimination is the beginning of dehumanization of individuals and groups. Autistic people like people of color are discriminated against through stereotyped narratives repeatedly sold to the public. The media perpetuates the false narratives perhaps it’s time to hold media accountable….not just Carey.

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