Autism Portrayed in Film & TV

I've watched several ASD shows and most of them seem to portray ASD incorrectly. Like, they put a character who talks in a robotic-monotonic manner, someone who screams when overwhelmed by things, and needs to be hugged tightly. It's annoying that I can't relate to any of the characters with ASD because I don't do much of the things these characters do.

I think there are at least two reasons why I haven't seen a depiction that I can relate to a lot. 1) most of the characters with ASD are male and males exhibit symptoms differently. 2) every person with ASD is different so I'm sure I won't see a depiction that I will 100% identify with. And 3) for shows and movies, going more extreme generally works better to get the point across. I think sometimes traits are exaggerated because of this.

Communication problems, literal-mindedness, social blunders, excessive bluntness / honesty (even insensitivity), anxiety, obsessiveness - all these are common subjects of comedy. They are all also commonly (stereotypically) associated with autism. Sometimes a number of these characteristics are wrapped-up in a particular character and we might wonder whether he or she is supposed to be autistic. The great majority of times this isn't the case - the writers just see the comic potential in these sorts of characteristics. I'm not sure if there's ever been a comedy character in TV or film who has been explicitly identified as autistic on screen (although in some instances there may be very strong evidence to that effect). Perhaps mentioning the word "autism" in a comedy would be seen as almost making things too serious or the writers might be worried viewers might think they're having a dig at people with autism. Drama gives more scope to identify characters as autistic but I agree that depictions are almost always stereotypical. The writers may feel they have to do this because most viewers don't know much about autism and need the characteristics highlighted but it still doesn't do justice to the variety on the autistic spectrum. 

Films & Shows to add to your watch list:

  • Atypical

  • Stand By Me

  • Bones

  • Adam

  • The Good Doctor

  • Grey's Anatomy

  • Doc Martin

  • Violet Evergarden

  • Snowcake

  • The Black Balloon

  • Benx

  • Simple Simon

  • Mozart and the Whale

  • Somersault

  • A Brilliant Mind

  • Dakota Skye

  • Palindromes

  • Rainman

  • After Thomas

  • Ocean Heaven

  • Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close

  • Mercury Rising

  • My Name is Kahn

This article is made up of contributions from the Asperclick forum by members RiRi, Heather, Sanctuary and Alice.

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