Some of you might have seen the new Netflix show, ‘Atypical’. Some of you might be avoiding it like the plague. I’m in the latter category. And I’ll tell you why.
There has been plenty of debate about whether or not the portrayal of the main character in ‘Atypical’ is perpetuating harmful stereotypes. Here’s yet another cishet white dude, people are saying. And on the other hand, cishet white male autistics do exist, so why shouldn’t they be written about? says the other side.
I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know what stereotypes it may or not be perpetuating. Yes, it is galling to see YET ANOTHER cishet white male autistic character. God knows we have plenty of those. It would be nice to see some acknowledgement that autistic women, autistic LGBTQ* people, and autistic POC all exist.
But how can I complain about representation when I haven’t seen it? Well, that’s not what I’m complaining about.
Some autistic people have said that the show encourages people to laugh at autistic traits. Some autistic people have said that it’s good to laugh at ourselves a bit, it helps us relax and take ourselves a bit less seriously.
But the humour is not what I’m pissed off about.
There has also been mention of the lead actor not being autistic. I’m not a great fan of ‘cripping up’. There are plenty of disabled actors, if production companies and casting agents can be bothered to look for them.
I’m pissed off about the cripping up, for sure. But it’s not the main reason I’m pissed off.
The main problem I have is this; lack of consultation of autistic people. According to Teen Vogue-
“… showrunner Robia Rashid told Teen Vogue that the show worked with a professor who worked at UCLA’s Center for Autism Research and Treatment while developing the series, and Netflix confirmed to Teen Vogue that Anthony Jacques, who plays Sam’s friend in one episode, has autism. Rashid also said that several crew members have autistic family members.”
That’s it! Don’t you just love how they listed a professor and allistic family members as people they’ve consulted? I don’t know whether that’s because it didn’t occur to them to ask autistic adults, or whether they think we don’t exist, or whether they think we can’t speak for ourselves. Could be any number of flimsy excuses. They just didn’t think to ask us.
THIS is the problem I have. Maybe they won’t like what autistic adults have to say, but tough shit. They don’t get to claim to represent us while simultaneously not bothering to even ask what we think. I wonder if they’ve ever heard our motto, “Nothing about us without us”? Well, that’s what they’ve just done.
They are making a profit from a minority group without seeking out any input from that group. Regardless of how the character is portrayed, that is exploitation.