My intention was to do an episode-by-episode review of Netflix’s new show, Atypical, but I struggled after the first two episodes. So the first two episodes have a bit mroe in depth review, but after that it goes a bit broader (sorry). I personally was not expecting perfectly accurate or tactful representation, as nice as that would be. I was hoping for a step closer to that end goal, to making it easier for other shows to start including Autistic characters.
Episode One – It was good. It was interesting. I’m rooting for this show – if they pull this off it’ll open the doors for more examples of Autistic characters. My other half commented that he can already tell that the sister is going to be the more interesting character – she reminds me of Debra from Dexter. Personality-wise, I mean. There’s not much I could relate to at this point, the home situation is very different from my own, and there aren’t many characters that I find particularly likeable, but I find it really interesting from an almost scientific perspective.
Now, couple of bits that I can’t decide if are realistically written, or badly written, or if I’m just nitpicking…..
- The stalker guy. There is a romantic interest for the sister. She outright says “I don’t want to date anyone, I want to focus on getting a scholarship” ad his response? “I grow on people. You’ll change your mind.” That alone should be a red flag, but he then proceeds to show up at her home repeatedly at odd hours. This somehow does not set off alarm bells for either the sister or the usually over protective mother. This is not unusual for TV shows or movies, and its meant to be endearing, but if that happened in real life it would be a serious problem.
- The bullying of the “fat” girl. Firstly, at one point the main character says something like “I think every woman is beautiful”. I’m sorry, but that’s a lot easier when you apparently go to supermodel school. I know, I know, I’m meant to think everyone is beautiful in thier own way, but that statement really loses its punch when all you follow it with is scenes of conventially attractive women. When they do show a “fat” girl, she isn’t even all that fat. She’s a little tubby, wears loose unflattering clothes and doesn’t wear makeup. One quick wardrobe update and she would be “curvy” instead. And honestly she’s only about one dress size bigger than me, if that. If she was just a little taller she’d carry the weight fine.
I did like the bit however where the sister stands up to a bully and the parents get annoyed, not believing she’s a bully because “she’s such a lovely girl”. THAT was VERY realistic.
Episode Two – Stalker guy is back. Also, apparently he is older than her. It’s a bit unclear how much older – she’s apparently a sophomore which makes her 15 according to google but it’s not said how much older he is. Still, extra creepy. He’s moved to watching her in public places too, at some sort of track thing that could be at her school? But then they kissed so I guess they’re a thing now. Her arc is almost entirely romantic and its pretty obvious that its going to end badly for her. Even if the relationship goes well she’ll probably lose the scholarship she’s so keen on.
I did like the line where he said “I can tell when I’m being picked on, I just don’t know how or why” that was a line I can very strongly identify with. Overall I quite like the shows depiction of bullying so far it correlates a lot with my experience.
The rest of the series – Ok, so it quickly devolved into a pretty standard cringe comedy. I can’t decide if that’s good or not. On the one hand, obviously we all expected more from this. On the other hand, if Autistic individuals can be portrayed within a more standard setting it would open a lot of doors for more (and eventually more well-written) autistic characters. The fact that they’re willing to put an autistic character front and center is a step in the right direction. However, I don’t think I’m alone in being a bit dissapointed by how generic the show is. I think it’s technically a victory, but not a very satisfying one.
I can’t assess how accurate thier portrayl of autism is. Some of it seems to ring true for me, but the main character is at a very different point on the spectrum from me or anyone I know. I know a lot of people aren’t happy with the portrayl – I’ll be putting a list of other people’s reviews below – but I couldn’t tell you either way. To my mind it didn’t make fun of the Autism a lot – which is what I was afraid of – but I know some people think it did. It’s a very fine line which moves about a lot, but I was really worried that they would be laughing at *him* rather than at the *situations*. As I said, to my mind it mostly fell on the right side of that line, but I know other people felt differently.
Here are some other people’s reviews (three from the guardian for some reason but trying to offer a range):