Despite me stating a number of times on Twitter that I was going to avoid Atypical like the plague, I decided to take the risk and watch it for myself. Hence why I am a bit late to the party.
I was originally put off as I heard a lot of negative views from other autistic people stating that it wasn’t good representation. In this case if I was going to have my own opinion of the show then it should be from what I’ve seen, not just what I’ve heard.
For those who may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about: Atypical is a relatively new series on Netflix centred around an autistic teenage student called Sam who is looking to start having a relationship. We follow him alongside his Mum Elsa, Dad Doug and younger sister Casey to see all the changes that happens in each their lives and how Sam wanting to be more independent has an effect on each of them.
So if you’re looking for an autistic perspective of Atypical then look no further! Get ready because as I have a lot of thoughts on this show.
A quick shout out to my boyfriend for letting me use his Netflix account so I could watch it!
Casey was one of my favourite characters! Her and Sam had the typical brother/sister relationship and she was the only family member who didn’t tiptoe around him. I have an older sister and I could see myself relating a lot to their relationship which was a nice surprise. It gave an insight into what autism is like from a sibling’s perspective and they pulled it off quite well.
I loved Sam’s friendship with Zahid. Although it’s never mentioned how they met, they do work at the same electronics shop and Sam opens up a lot to him about wanting to get a girlfriend. What I liked the most about Zahid is the fact that he never once mentions Sam’s autism yet respects his mannerisms. Most importantly doesn’t pity him like everyone else does.
I wasn’t keen about the main plot being about Sam getting a relationship and having sex. The way it was portrayed was as if autistic people are undesirable and we have to want to be in a relationship to fit in. What kind of message is that to send to people?! There are plenty of difficulties we deal with that would have been worthwhile raising awareness about e.g. the waiting times for getting a diagnosis and being bullied for our autistic behaviours.
Sam displayed the same old stereotypical characteristics that the community are so sick of seeing: a heterosexual white male who can’t feel empathy or lie to others. The media need to move past these misconceptions and represent more diverse autistic characters!
The autism support group that Sam’s parents attended came across more damaging than supportive! At one meeting a snotty parent had a go at Doug for calling Sam autistic and not ‘person with autism’. If they had consulted autistic people for the series and not ‘experts’ then you would know the majority actually like to be identified as an autistic person because we are not ashamed of our disability. Just another example of how parent’s of autistic people are listening to more than us.
This show would have also been a great opportunity to hire autistic actors for various roles but unfortunately they didn’t. There was only one autistic actor out of the whole cast and even he had a very small role. Atypical replied to a tweet stating this and they replied with “Auditions for Sam included autistic actors, but Keir was cast as the best for the role.” which baffled me! How can non-autistic person be better for the role of an autistic character?
Throughout the whole series there is nothing to suggest that Sam actually likes being autistic, let alone his family and friends! Many people including myself grow to love being autistic over time and it’s such a shame that there’s no positivity or acceptance shown from Sam. If I had to pick one aspect from the show that I am most disappointed about it would be this.
Final Thoughts of Atypical
I finished Atypical feeling as if this show wasn’t intended for autistic people but for parents and siblings instead. For those who have asked if I would recommend watching the show I finally have an answer for you: definitely not.
Maybe the writers and creators of the show had the best intentions and maybe that one its own is wishful thinking. What I do know is that this show is just another stereotypical representation of autism. Let’s hope they get it right for season 2.