Hey, so I just binge watched Atypical on Netflix (not difficult because eight thirty-minute episodes do not constitute a series by any standard) and I wondered if anybody else has seen it yet and what you thought? Reviews have been mixed so far, but I enjoyed it.
I watched the first episode, but not sure what I think. At times I found it a little bit condescending, and I would really liked to have seen the lead actor portrayed by somebody who was actually on the spectrum. Apart from that, I'm looking forward to the second episode.
I thought it was a really stereotypical at first. I've recently been diagnosed and I'm trying to figure myself out so I carried on watching and I actually ended up relating to a few things that I didn't realise had anything to do with being on the spectrum. Especially the scene where Sam's girlfriend was touching everything in his room and took his jacket. I do wish the character had a bit more depth and I didn't like the fact they made him seem like such a problem and a burden.
If anyone hasn't seen this, it's billed as a coming-of-age comedy/drama for an 18-year-old boy with autism called Sam. It follows his life for 8 episodes, and that of his family, at the point where Sam decides he wants to get a girlfriend.
I watched it with the family and we really enjoyed it. I read a few comments elsewhere where people were complaining it was either too stereotypical or not stereotypical enough :/ I guess maybe the things Sam was presented with didn't match up with those particular viewers' experience of autism?
I thought it was a good representation. It showed quite a neat cross-section of life, both from Sam's perspective as the person with autism, but also from his family's perspective, of what it means to have someone with autism in your life, and how it impacts the family. It was also nice to see the support he had from the people who he relied on, and how he relied on different people for different things, and how this affected his relationships with others, such as (we don't have a <spoiler> tag in this forum to hide content, but this isn't really a spoiler) how he didn't "need" his dad for anything in his life until a few episodes in, and how that had made his dad feel.
I like how it showed the different things Sam struggled with. There were certain things he excelled at, like his technical work at his job, but then he had to rely on his sister to do something as "simple" as hold his lunch money at school: that amazing contradiction we seem to have with the high-functioning. Actually that bit was ambiguous for me; I don't know if she held it because otherwise bullies would take it, or because Sam needed someone else to have the responsibility of looking after it for him so that he could have it at lunch time. How small things can be big and big things can be small.
I like how it showed how Sam thinks about things, and the things he just didn't understand such as relationships that he would have to write the rules down for in his notebook. It showed the really good stuff about autism, and the bad stuff - the dramatisation of the meltdown gave a lot of insight - and the normal day-to-day stuff. What it's actually like to have hypersensitivities, and what "being overwhelmed" actually means. And it showed how people might perceive certain behaviours, such as when Sam was in bed with his hoodie pulled tight around his head and his blanket drawn up to his chest after he'd had an upset, and his dad asking if he wanted him to put the heating on - because he didn't recognise the point of why Sam was doing it.
The family dynamics were good too. Everyone was very distinct and had their own way of dealing with "normal" family life. I particularly liked the dad, and the way his sister really cared even though she pretended not to.
They raised some good points too, especially as seen from neurotypical people who don't understand what it is. Such as with the school Dance, why do we need to change something for everyone just so that one person can join in? I liked how it was about autism, but it wasn't about spotlighting autism itself, it was telling the tale of a whole family where one of the members had autism.
Has anyone else seen it? I'd really recommend it, and I'd like to discuss it some more. But there's no point if it's just me :D
Season 2 has been commissioned, 10 episodes, and we're looking forward to it.
I could see that sometimes he was presented as a burden, where it was 'because of his autism' that people were stopped from doing what they wanted to do.
But, they weren't really stopped. In almost all these cases, people were making the conscious decision that it was more important to them to take care of Sam when he needed their help, than it was to "follow their dream" or whatever. It was about the sacrifices people made, but that's true of family life anyway, and in the context of 'the family' they were all making the choice to support Sam. Even when it was presented as "I want to go out and do this thing right now but I can't because Sam might need me", it was still people making that choice, and yes it might be a hindrance to them in the moment right now, if you asked them later if they'd make the same decision again, they'd say yes.
His mum made more of a "big deal" about this, because supporting Sam was the world she had been 'forced' into for the past 18 years, and she had to give up her dreams of what she wanted for her life in order to do so. But again, she went into it as such a 'Beverley Goldberg' whirlwind because that was the nature of her character, she goes all-in to do it properly.
For me, it wasn't that he was presented as being a burden, it was more about he had certain needs, and it showed the different ways they'd do stuff to help, even if that meant sacrificing something that was also important to them, and the impact all these things had. I didn't get that anyone was really being judgemental about him other than the times when people stated it outright (for the purpose of creating the conflicts which drive the story). Certain things had to be done in certain ways for him, and if these were done then family life would continue as smoothly as "normal" for them. Some things had to be done differently, but they were mostly able to be accommodated as long as you know about and plan for them.
For me, the actor looked like he had autism ;), behaved like he had autism, and sounded like he had autism (like the way he laughed at the things he found funny that no-one else did). He had that confused/"I can't work this out"/"this makes no sense" look often enough for me to think it was realistic :P
It's only a dramatisation. He portrayed it similarly enough to being me that it was believable.
I think that any TV shows which feature or at least portray people on the spectrum are a good thing, because they let other people in on our little secret: that people on the spectrum are human beings with feelings and needs and different talents and strengths and limitations, just like everyone else. That is something that I think is too often forgotten by neurotypicals. I think they basically tolerate us in principle, but I think that some of them give themselves way too much credit for doing so, as if it's some sort of massive chore.
I could be wrong, and I'm not a sociology expert, but it seems to me that a lot of attitudes have been changed just by exposing "ordinary" people (in their own minds, of course) to different groups of people who tended to be discriminated against. Over the decades, once people of all races were seen interacting with each other on TV, I think a lot of people who used to feel uncomfortable with that sort of thing started to think it was perfectly acceptable, or even cool, and, moreover, that it was "uncool" to retain an attitude against it. Once there was a TV makeover show for straight guys run by gay guys, all of a sudden it became cool to be gay, and that's when that "metrosexual" thing came about, making it cool not only to be gay, but also to be straight and be perfectly ok with anyone else's sexuality. I'm not saying that there is now no racism or no homophobia, but there is a lot less than there used to be when many of us were young, and moreover, such prejudice is considered a shameful thing and not something that someone would make public speeches about (let's just forget the current poliitical situation in America for now).
Anyway, now I think it's our turn. I think it will take some time for people to drop the stereotypes, but neurodiversity is no longer going to be considered a shameful thing that should be hidden from mainstream society. If neurotypical people come to recognise neurodiverse people as "people" first, and not drains on society, problems to be solved, or all the same as each other, that is a huge step forward.
That show portrays an adolescent boy coming of age, going to school, going on dates, and following his interests. Perhaps the way he goes about those activities is unusual, but TV viewers are able to identify with his desire to follow his dreams and to make connections with others, even as they watch all the goofy situations he gets himself into and how he reacts to them in such a naive and innocent way.