This month saw the release of a plethora of autism shows/movies. So when it came to writing today’s article, I was spoilt for choice. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth however, this week I have set about the task of narrowing down this sea of releases, to give you the top 3 choices of autistic shows to watch.
[Please note, the choices which I discuss today are not listed in any particular order, as each one of these shows is vastly different to the next. Therefore, comparing one to another, would be like comparing apples and oranges, cats and dogs or one case of autism to another.]
1. The Good Doctor
Last year, thanks to the miracle that is Netflix, I managed to binge watch every episode of House in one session which, I believe, solidifies my status as a student. Though I felt the show ended exactly where it should have (don’t worry, no spoilers here), I couldn’t help but feel hungry for more medical adventures, more witty banter and more stunning doctors under one roof, than I have ever seen during my accumulative time in therapy, pharmacies and at the local GP. Luckily The Good Doctor has arrived to make it all better.
The Good Doctor is everything I had come to expect from an episode of House, except that the lead character is a fresh faced, happy surgeon who has been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, instead of an undiagnosed, angry, middle-aged diagnostician who displays multiple signs of A.S.D.
I did wonder if the Good Doctor deserves to be on today’s list. Despite a well written, fast paced first episode, the portrayal of autism is….well, it’s not great. I don’t want to repeat everything I said in my Atypical review, however, the lead character of this show also depicts the same representation of autism we have seen again and again: ‘he’s very literal, socially challenged and has a narrow obsession’.
Despite this I have included The Good Doctor due to the incredible way in which it demonstrates the struggles a person with autism will face, trying to advance/begin a career. This is done to great effect and provides a very good balanced argument, which handles the concerns of hiring someone with autism (although having the ‘villain’ express these concerns did seem a bit over the top).
In future episodes, I hope that The Good Doctor can continue to tackle different prejudices which people with autism face, as I find the story of an autistic person being judged by an outside perception of autism rather than the presentation of the individual, way more interesting and unique.
The Good Doctor airs in the UK this Friday (27th) on Sky Living at 21:00.
2. Kingdom of Us
Kingdom of Us is a documentary which follows the Shanks family (6 daughters, one son and their mum) as they come to terms with and reflect on, the suicide of their dad/husband. 4 of the children (3 girls and one boy) have a diagnosed of autism. I personally wonder whether the father was also on the spectrum – albeit undiagnosed.
I understand Kingdom of Us may be difficult viewing for some people as, at times, it can be quite uncomfortable, but in my opinion it’s worth any possible upset. Kingdom of Us gives an invaluable insight into the different ways that people with autism handle life extreme situations. In particular, how people who are programmed to love routine, deal with one of the biggest changes a person can face.
For me the most fascinating (and heart-breaking) example of this, was watching how Osborn, the only son of the family, spends hours going through his father’s old notes trying to make his own facts out of his dad’s feelings. I would liked to see more of this, but, if it came at the expense of cutting the documentary’s coverage of his sisters, then I understand the need for the status quo. Raising awareness of females with autism is something which is very rarely seen.
Kingdom of Us can currently only be watched on Netflix. If it does come to DVD I will update this page.
I was naturally curious when I first heard that CBeebies had announced Pablo: a show which not only features a lead character who is autistic, but also an entire main cast who are autistic too. I did wonder whether this was just a promotional opportunity, trying demonstrate that the children’s channel can be diverse and understanding. Wow! what an insult to Pablo.
Pablo is an animated show which can appeal to young and old alike. Where every episode starts with the lead character (Pablo) facing a problem. In order to solve these problems, Pablo escapes into a world of his drawings, where colourful characters such as Noasaurus the dinosaur, Tang the ape and Llama the errrrm… llama, all pitch in with their equally colourful personalities, to give a better, more rounded view of Pablo’s current dilemma.
You would think, as Pablo is predominantly a children’s show, they would deal with subject of autism with a fairly heavy hand. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The words ‘autism’, ‘autistic’ or even ‘spectrum’ are never used (from what I have seen of the show). Other than a small clue from the opening line of the shows theme ‘Pablo thinks differently, sees the world in different ways’ there is little to suggest otherwise (also extra kudos points for saying ‘Pablo thinks differently’ and not ‘Pablo IS different’).
From small things; such as how Pablo escaping into his own made up world demonstrates that people with autism CAN be creative, to larger things; such as how Pablo doesn’t deal with the hardships of being autistic but instead chooses to focus on the internal conflict which get him worked up. In 10 minute intervals Pablo somehow manages to push forward autism awareness further than I have seen a mainstream movie do in the last 10 years.
Pablo can currently be found on CBeebies on weekday mornings at 9:00 and all episodes can also be found on BBC iPlayer.
Carry on the Conversation:
These are three shows I have enjoyed, but now it’s time to hear from you. What shows/movies/books which cover autism do you think people should know about? Spread the word in the comments below. If you have seen any of these 3 programs let me know what you think. I would love to get your opinion (especially on The Good Doctor).
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Thank you for reading and I will see you, next Saturday, for more thoughts from across the spectrum.