Elon Musk raised a stir on SNL this weekend with an off-handed comment about his own neurodivergence. The controversial businessman claimed he was making history as the first person with Asperger Syndrome to host the legendary sketch show. There are several problems with that statement troubling viewers on social media.
Musk made several jokes at his own expense in the opening monologue, including several playing on his neurodivergence. However, the term "Asperger's Syndrome" is no longer used by medical professionals, who instead refer to the "Autism spectrum," measuring symptoms along with it. Additionally, Musk is not the first person on the Autism spectrum to host the show — the most prominent earlier example is Dan Aykroyd, who hosed the show in 2003 years after he had left the main cast. Another is musician David Byrne, who has hosted SNL twice and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome back when it was a commonly used term.
Still, hearing a successful figure like Musk enthusiastically representing neurodivergence on one of the most popular TV shows in the world meant a lot to some viewers, judging by the responses online. Some appreciated the way he took the strengths and challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder in stride and made jokes that others could laugh with him at.
On the other hand, some accused Musk of "fetishizing" neurodivergence and questioned whether he had truly received an Asperger's diagnosis or treatments. They saw this as another one of the businessman's ploys to distract from his controversial history of mistreating workers and endangering customers.
In general, few people seem to have changed their feelings on Musk after his SNL appearance, and either way they used this comment from his monologue to suit their existing opinions. You can watch Musk's full episode of SNL on Hulu, with a free trial available here. Scroll down for a look at the commentary on Musk's false claim about making history for the neurodivergent community.
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Elon Musk isn’t the first Saturday Night Live host with Asperger’s. Former cast member Dan Aykroyd hosted in 2003 and is a comedy legend. pic.twitter.com/Ks0va4AK6U— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) May 9, 2021
Elon said he was the first SNL host with Asperger's... This is dan slander and I will not take it pic.twitter.com/bOhyzpHYRt— Morgan (@QDoesStuff) May 9, 2021
Lol Dan Aykroyd STARTED snl with Asperger’s, but nice try.— Joshua Simon 🥺 (@JoshuaSimonSays) May 9, 2021
First and foremost, fans thought Musk was doing a disservice to the past hosts who were also neurodivergent, including at least two with similar diagnoses to him. Many even argued that neurodivergent ingenuity was baked into the show's DNA via Aykroyd.prevnext
Re: Elon Musk, SNL
Aspergers is no longer a recognized diagnosis in the DSM because Hans Asperger was a Nazi. When most autistic kids were sent to the the gas chamber, Hans sent “intelligent” autistic kids to the Nazi’s Aktion T4 program to be experimented on and euthanized. pic.twitter.com/hD1EeRnwWf— Dylan (@dyllyp) May 9, 2021
Is it possible that Elon Musk wanted use as many Nazi white power references as possible by calling it Asbergers as opposed to AS: Autism Spectrum? Hence the hand signals later in the show.May 9, 2021
Many users brought up the frought history of Asperger Syndrome's namesake, Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger. Asperger knowingly allowed some of his patients to be euthanized by the Nazi government, though some accounts paint him as a dissenter who saved as many as he could. His legacy is summed up at length in Steve Silberman's book NeuroTribes, which is available here on Amazon.prevnext
“I’m actually making history as the first person with Asperger's to host SNL” — @elonmusk
Really loved that - such an awesome moment re representation of neurodivergent folks 🖤 https://t.co/iTgTf1dwhP— Viv (@flcnhvy) May 9, 2021
Some took strength from Musk's confidence and hoped that other neurodivergent viewers would as well.prevnext
Dan Aykroyd has Asperger’s and was one of the seven original seven cast members who basically started SNL. You’re not even the first shady businessman to host SNL. So sorry, Elon, you made a Tesla but you didn’t make history.
Was no one around to fact check that?— Meredith Lee (@meralee727) May 9, 2021
Considering SNL's close association with Aykroyd, many questioned how Musk's comment made it past the fact-checkers who may have looked at his monologue ahead of time. Some thought that series creator Lorne Michaels at least should have seen it.prevnext
What weird timing. It's almost like he's using it to try to explain why he's a creep.— second nature (@second_nature) May 9, 2021
I’m an evil billionaire villain but hey I have Asperger’s. Cool?— Son of Immigrants (@davidwindycity) May 9, 2021
Smart of Elon Musk to proclaim himself the first Asperger’s host of SNL, and then bring out his mom, to disarm his haters right off the bat— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) May 9, 2021
Others thought that Musk was mentioning his neurodivergence to distract from his personal controversies and gain sympathy in the realm of identity politics.prevnext
Elon Musk is proof that with enough apartheid emeralds, dishonesty, and privilege “Asperger’s people“ can be harmful to society too! 🙃— Rory - ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) May 9, 2021
Not looking forward to the army of white men suddenly claiming they are like him. Might even do more damage than Sia.
Musk coming out as having Aspergers is not a win and this is exactly why. People assume being a jerk is a symptom of autism when it's not. Further we don't use the diagnosis of Aspergers anymore but instead say Autism Spectrum Disorder because Hans Asperger was a Nazi eugenicist pic.twitter.com/pa9u0a4Sx3— 🏳️🌈Kelly Greene ☕🍩 (@Greeninthemiddl) May 9, 2021
Mental health professionals and advocates feared that Musk's proud announcement of Asperger Syndrome would lead to a slew of self-diagnoses among his rabid fan base. They saw this as potentially harmful to real patients.prevnext
im undiagnosing myself w autism this shit is so corny now— dr teddy phd, atsumology and sunaosa studies (@doubletrucks) May 9, 2021
Finally, many people could see from a mile away that the responses to Musk's "announcement" would be awkward, unproductive and cringe-worthy. Some joked about "undiagnosing" themselves and stepping away from the discourse altogether.prev