Well, we all saw this coming.
I would like to start off by saying I love that autism is getting a bit more exposure in the media. Did anyone see the debut of the character that had autism on Sesame Street? I was so happy to see this new character. I may not have been able to relate 100% because my brother’s autism is more on the severe end of the spectrum BUT seeing the love and support this character got on her debut made my heart so warm anyway. Any kind of representation is awesome to me.
Now, let’s talk about this new Netflix show.
It’s called Atypical and it follows a boy who has autism and his family. Now, I didn’t think much of it at first. I try not to get too cynical about how a person with autism is portrayed because I grew up with a brother that was on the severe end and I don’t really know if the portrayals of a child/adult with high functioning autism are accurate or not. But, when you have such a wide spectrum with every person acting differently, it might be hard to tell, maybe?
However, I saw a thread on twitter from someone on the spectrum and I wish I remembered her name so I could link it because she brought up a good point. The topics they seem to be focusing on in this show are sex and relationships. It just…rubbed me the wrong way when this girl pointed it out. I’ve never really questioned how an autistic person handles relationships and sex. I know people can go on to be married and have children so it’s never really occurred to me.
But why did it rub me the wrong way?
Because, I think they could’ve done something great with a topic such as autism. There’s still so much people don’t know and there are still so many misconceptions and honestly, I can’t speak for every person with autism, but based on that trailer, it just didn’t feel like an accurate portrayal but I could be wrong.
There are so many levels of severity, so many different struggles with each level. I would want a show featuring three or four different characters, ranging from high functioning to low functioning autism. Get their perspective, their family’s perspective, their school’s perspective, and their friends’ perspective. Looking at the happy times as well as the ugly times. Because yes, there is in fact an ugly side to autism. I see it every day. It’s smeared with blood, shit, spit, self abuse and loaded up with every cocktail of medications you can think of. Of course, that’s not every case but it’s still in some cases. And I think the world needs to see something a bit more meaningful, something to open the world’s eyes, bring awareness to something that gets bigger and bigger with each passing day.
I’m disappointed in whoever created Atypical. It could’ve been…so meaningful and so eye opening. But I just don’t feel the same warmth that Sesame Street made me feel. I feel like Atypical is just going to turn autism into a big joke, something that people don’t need to think about. Yes, they should include the cute quirks, the funny moments, the moments of innocence. But autism isn’t like that all the time. There is an ugly side.
Did anyone see the movie The Judge? With Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall? That movie also featured a character that was autistic coincidentally. But, basically Robert Duvall played RDJ’s father who is on trial for a hit-and-run. Not sure if this is a spoiler or not but Robert Duvall has terminal cancer. And despite the criticism it received for its lack of development of supporting characters (according to Wikipedia) I thought it did a brilliant job of showing the difficult, ugly parts of cancer. You really felt the struggle and the sadness associated with it. If you wanna know what I mean, watch the movie.
I wanna see that for autism. I wanna see real representation. I want some brave filmmaker to get elbow deep in it, showing everything to the world. People may not want the bad parts but that’s the world for you, imperfect, sometimes gross, sad, frustrating.
Perhaps I’m thinking about this too much. Maybe it just isn’t that deep. What do you guys think about the trailer for Atypical? What do you think about autism representation?