Friday, November 14, 2008

Hit Hot Sitcoms with Autistic Characters--fair?

Did anyone watch Grey’s Anatomy last night? Wow. What an ending. And I’m not talking about the juicy passionate kiss between Doctor Yang and Dr. J.I. Joe (doesn’t he look like J.I. Joe?) I’m talking about the newest doctor who apparently replaced the lesbian blond and pushed aside the whole lesbian thing. (Controversial?)

It was revealed at the end of the show that this doctor, played by Mary McDonnell, whose character, let’s just say, has a bit of quirkiness to her personality, but it was nothing compared to her very visible and successful reputation of being a good surgeon, has Asperger’s syndrome (AS).

If you saw the show yourself then what did you think? Personally, I thought she overplayed the part. I know a couple of adults who have AS and they are not as “extreme” as this actor played.

It also brings to mind the other ultra hot and popular show, Boston Legal, where a male actor plays a lawyer who also has AS. What do you think about his characterization?

I know that no one likes to characterize autism as “mild and extreme” to the point that I don’t even know what to say and how to express myself in posts, but since both my kids are on opposites sides of the spectrum—my daughter being “full blown” extreme autistic and my son is on the much milder, asperger’s end, then, personally, I don’t see a problem using this as a descriptive of the disorder. I mean, not all autism is the same so how do you differentiate? I know that’s the point, that you are not supposed to, but I think that the skills on either end of the spectrum are so different and the needs of these kids and adults are different too. I want the world to know that autism is not just one type of person, skills, personality traits, and that there are extremes of this disorder as there are in any individual's personality and ability. I suppose there is this fine line in stereotyping the disorder.

So with that, I believe that both these actors, Grey’s and Boston Legal are playing AS on the “more extreme” end of the disorder. What do you think? Do you think that these actors played Asperger’s syndrome with enough accuracy to help the world understand the disorder just a little bit better? Or do you think that it was an unfair and unjust characterization of the disorder?

Personally, I’m glad that these popular sitcoms are bringing autism out of the shadows and into the real world of successful doctors and lawyers--and to get used to it.

And just a little tongue in cheek, but the other night I was watching House and had a thought, just a thought, that perhaps he could have AS, too, but not actually playing as if he has the disorder. It was a newer repeat and it was about his (Dr. House’s) obsession with a soap opera star and he knew that he was having medical issues simply based on the fact that his lines were taking a “split second” longer to recite (on the soap opera). So House kidnaps him from the studio and takes him to the hospital and so on … you know the drill if you watch the show. And if you don’t, House miraculously figures out what is wrong with his patient--as he does for all his patients’--unusual medical conditions or mysteries. But at the same time, House has very poor social skills, to say nothing else.

Interesting though. Or perhaps I’ve just officially jumped on the proverbial bandwagon of needing to get a life!? And in that case: don’t worry, I’m trying!!

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