A recent season 9 episode of “Namaste” saw Larry David pretending to be autistic in a bid to win sympathy from an African-American mechanic he had insulted.
Nevertheless, this behavior was widely criticized as being inappropriate and insensitive across the autism community as well as blogospheres surrounding autism. However, in all honesty, there is a wide array of entertainment with humor along this line as Hollywood continues its age-old practice of putting out everything on autism.
Further, other high-profile shows such as “Atypical” and “Good Doctor” also follow suit.
Interestingly, autism has become more a part of the mainstream culture over the last decade. It is a subject that is involved in recently televised serials and includes characters correlating with autism spectrum disorder.
Jessica says, “Back in the 90’s when I started being a part of the autistic community, the sole reference to the autism genre was Rain Main.” She further continues, “Nevertheless, today we see more than a handful of movies and television series appearing with popular autistic characters.
The increase in visibility of autism culture is welcome, and there can never be just one single story on the spectrum that is universal in nature.
Jessica explains, “This bodes well with ASD disorder, as it is a common fact that no two individuals have the exact same autism symptoms. If you have met one person who is diagnosed on the spectrum, it means you have just met one person,” adds Jessica.
Even though there has been a recent explosion in mainstream media calling attention to ASD, it should be noted that autism constitutes just a fraction of the mega-Hollywood market.
There are some positive things in the way characters are shown. For instance, on the show “The Good Doctor,” the lead character led by Shaun Murphy is able to successfully diagnose autism conditions that leave other doctors confused, even though they are senior to him.
On the other hand, in “Atypical,” the character possesses the gift of remembering everything about rare fishes— not common knowledge among neurotypical individuals.
To be honest, there are many people in the community who like this. Nevertheless, the mainstream media also aggravate things as it can be guilty of undermining critical aspects, such as social complexities, among many other symptoms.
In reality, autism is more than an endearing behavior that characters in the media showcase as something defining autism. Being unable to understand social signals or failing to make eye contact is just the tip of the iceberg.
Interestingly, not everyone has a negative view of these shows. Some consider autism disorder gaining mainstream media attention as a big positive, as it will help in creating greater awareness among future generations. Jan Johnson, a Silicon Valley-based autism advocate, says, “Any publicity is good publicity.”
On the other hand, some believe that autism-related shows make things more difficult for people working for the benefit of the autism community.
David Platzer says, “These shows highlight autistic people being no less than geniuses. This raises concerns as potential employers set their bar to unimaginable levels, leading to more conflicts to secure decent employment.”