“To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
On Saturday, May 8th, Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live and revealed he has Asperger’s during the opening monologue. He prefaces his statement by pointing out that he does not have intonations in his voice, so he sounds like he does not mean something when he does.
So, what is Asperger’s? Asperger’s, according to Healthline, is a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum. Some of the primary symptoms include difficulty with social interactions, engaging in repetitive behaviors, having a firm stance on what they think, and focusing on rules and routines. Some other symptoms of Asperger’s vary from person to person, but the symptoms Musk mentions in the beginning of the episode are having a monotone voice and avoiding eye contact with other cast members.
This announcement quickly led to controversy, however. Musk claimed he made history as “the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL, or at least the first to admit it.” This is not the case. According to Today, the first person to host SNL with Asperger’s syndrome was Dan Akroyd back in 2003.
Another reason was because the term Asperger’s is outdated. In 2013, Asperger’s was merged with a broader term called autism spectrum disorder, and it is no longer in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). According to Spectrum News, the main reason for this is that Asperger’s was a separate diagnosis from autism. By grouping it in with autism spectrum disorder it recognizes that Asperger’s, “is part of the autism spectrum, to clean up a currently hard-to-implement and contradictory diagnostic schema, and to do away with distinctions that are made idiosyncratically and unreliably across different diagnostic centers and clinicians.”
Though Musk’s announcement did receive backlash, it also did some good. According to FR42 News, Dania Jenkel, the Executive Director of AANE (Asperger/Autism Network), claimed that their website had an 150% increase the day after Elon Musk’s announcement. Jenkel states that the increase in visitors is no coincidence and that Musk is inspiring others with Asperger’s by talking about his struggles on live television. AANE is an organization that “provides individuals, families, and professionals with information, education, community, support, and advocacy.”
Elon Musk is proof that people with Asperger’s or autism are just as valuable to society as people without. It is great that Musk felt comfortable to share that to a live audience and with millions of people watching. ABC News reported that the episode brought in 7.3 million viewers, which is the third most watched episode of the season. The topmost watched episode was hosted by Dave Chappelle followed by Chris Rock as the second.