This post isn't about mad scientists, but I'm going to start there, because I need it for where I'm going.
When you find mad scientists, you'll also find some non-neurotypical fans. It's not that there can't be problematic areas of the trope, but there are also some positive ones. The mad scientist is not in a story to show how tragic they are, what an inspiration they are for neurotypical people, or to be cured. They have a plan and they have an adventure trying to achieve that plan. They can build flying machines or try to take over the world. There are no limits.
This is why I don't mind a bit of mad science, as when it's handled well, I enjoy the wish-fulfilment of the trope.
On the other side, the trope can demonise being non-neurotypical (if always portrayed as a genocidal villain). It can suggest that anything a non-neurotypical person comes up with is inherently unstable, rather than simply being a solution no one else had thought of trying. And it does use the word 'mad', which can be a problem in itself.
This is why I understand when others can't read it, find it triggering, and would rather see the trope disappear.
The point of this mad science summary is it highlights something I wished didn't need to be said: we're not out of the woods yet when it comes to the representation of non-neurotypical people and the use of related words (mad, insane, crazy). It's a sensitive issue because the discrimination is still there, the words are still used as insults and the people it impacts still don't have the power to do a lot about it. Though some tropes and uses of the word can be seen as positive for some non-neurotypical people, they can still be hurtful to others. Discussing the topic means understanding why the hurtful things are hurtful, even if they don't push our own buttons.
We're definitely not at a point where casually using the words to mean other things won't be hurtful. You can argue for reclaiming in situations where it's by non-neurotypical people, for non-neurotypical people and about non-neurotypical people.... but the argument gets a whole lot less substantial if you're using mad to mean fluffy pink horses.
In other examples, you don't call someone a faggot and assume people will think you're likening them to a meatball. If your friend is always happy, you're unlikely to say they're such a gay person, without stopping to consider other meanings. And if you say someone is mad, there are layers to that statement too, because calling someone mad still is a way to disregard someone, justify institutionalising them and otherwise take away their rights. If you mean they are happyfun, you've added a rather dark layer on top.
But there's a lot less awareness of the use of words relating to non-neurotypicality. Even in communities that are open to discussing similar issues in regards to race, gender or sexuality, raising non-neurotypicality terms is often taboo. "Oh, everyone uses that. It doesn't really mean that. You're so over-sensitive. My best friend with an anxiety disorder said it was okay." All the arguments that aren't considered acceptable in other contexts.
This is why my social networks haven't been a happyfun place in the last few weeks, because it hurts to see some terms being flung around so casually, in a context that isn't in any way related to non-neurotypicality. I can understand slips in conversations, because I do it too. When you hear something said so often, it can come out, like it or not*. But when it's something planned, considered, and justified, that's when it cuts.
The big thing that hits me is not simply the word, as I have a generally more positive view of mad/crazy/insane than a lot of my friends. It's because this usage takes it away. There's no potential for reclaiming the word, or attaching it to a positive things, as might happen in a story of mad science, because this isn't about non-neurotypical people at all. It's saying, "So, you want to reclaim this word used against you? Tough cookies. I like this word, so I'll use it. Go get another for your identity."
There's not a lot I can do about that, because I don't have the power. I'm small fry compared to the people involved. So each time I see it come up, I feel a little smaller inside, because I'm too small to change anything. All I can do is feel sad and hope if it ever comes up again, someone might remember this post and use a different word.
* Which isn't to say you shouldn't consider your words in casual conversations. But generally, you say it and you're gone. Someone notes it and you say sorry. It's not going to be something I see everywhere I turn for the next few weeks.