This show has given me A LOT of feels. There’s so much to process, but I’m going to try to find the right words.
I’m trying not to give too many spoilers, because I actually do recommend people watch this series.
I’m going to start by saying that finally having accurate, AUTHENTIC Autistic representation on screen is a breath of air that Hollywood has needed for way too long. It is almost laughably tragic that it’s taken until 2022 to get this far.
Albert Rutecki (Harrison), Rick Glassman (Jack), and Sue Ann Pien (Violet) give performances worthy of every accolade, award, and recognition possible. Their truly groundbreaking work will touch the heart and soul of anyone who has such things.
The story arcs for the Autistic main characters involve a lot of ableism, both internalized and external, which adds a realness that could be quite triggering for a lot of the Neurodivergent audience. It certainly was for me.
I laughed, I cried, I UGLY cried, and I laughed some more. I laughed and cried in the same breath a few times.
That being said, I’ve seen a lot of criticism and quite a bit of it’s valid. We’re still perpetuating stereotypes here. I know there is no way to represent the entirety of the Autistic Community no matter how many Autistic characters they write, but it would still be nice to see characters other than the nerdy, socially awkward, often infantilized version Hollywood loves so much.
It would be nice to not have the NT Savior trope over and over again as well. Mandy the Autism Whisperer isn’t all that awesome unless they take her story arc in a direction that leads to her own late diagnosis in a future season, and even then she’s going to need a bit of redemption.
The ableism coming from the families is painful to watch, but the reason it’s painful is because it’s painfully accurate. The internalized ableism the Autistic characters experience is something I think almost every Autistic person has to process at some point in our lives. It’s a bit of a punch in the gut to see these things on screen, but if they’d created some sort of Autistic Utopia for this series, there would be a lot of people mad at how unrealistic it looked. Myself included.
They didn’t overdo meltdown scenes, even though there were a few. They didn’t promote harmful restraints, which I know is a really low bar as far as achievements go, but it’s one that’s been set time and again.
They even shed some more light on how much power and control over our own lives we lose as Disabled individuals under guardianships/conservatorships.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised, even if a few of the subplots hit so close to home that it tore open some old traumas I haven’t really processed yet. I’ll probably watch more seasons that come along.
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