By Jon Leavitt
Being a 55 year old aspie, I’m enjoying watching ‘Atypical’, an original production on Netflix.
The first series of 8 episodes chronicles the life of Sam, an 18 year old man with Asperger's, and his family and associates. Sam has a good personality and quirky autistic traits. He navigates through the world without always relying on social camouflage as he's experimenting with life and trying to find a girlfriend.
The series is cleverly written and mixes humour with sensitivity and light drama. Sam is played by a neuro-typical actor Kier Gilchrist.
It’s refreshing and empowering to have an autistic main character that shows that it’s ok to be yourself and be different sometimes. I like the way Sam is portrayed as an interesting person with autism as opposed to a person with a disability. Sam also describes how he feels and thinks differently which is a great touch.
It's fun watching the quirky story unfold and the different characters come into play so I wont spoil the surprise!
Critics have said that ‘Atypical’ is heavily stereotyped in the way Sam’s Asperger’s traits are portrayed. But how do you represent a spectrum of traits from a spectrum of people who are all different? Without giving the story away, there is another person portrayed who may have autism but doesn’t seem to have a diagnosis. There are clues to traits but the person isn't so stereotyped and seems very good at fitting in. So I think that's clever writing and hints that the autistic spectrum is wide and maybe not so easily defined.
Although there may be a cartoonish exaggeration in some of the situations Sam lands himself in, I found I really related to Sam’s personal journey. For me the writers managed to keep a good balance between clichéd entertainment and giving people with autism a more realistic representation. I think as a neuro-typical actor, Kier Gilchrist does a very commendable, believable job.
My verdict: ‘Atypical’ (Netflix) may have some stereotypes and autistic clichés but I think it’s a great entertaining series that gives an empowering autistic viewpoint. Well worth a watch.
We have asked our guest bloggers for their opinions. This blog represents Jon’s own views.