Monday, February 20, 2012

The Latest TV Trend: Autism

It’s great that the growing diversity of characters is extending to the neurological, and I’m sure it contributes to greater understanding of some of the issues these individuals face; consider whether Charlie Babbitt’s cruel, ignorant treatment of his brother Raymond in the first half of 1988′s Rain Man would be considered redeemable by today’s audiences. The danger is that it may also lead to a more widespread perception of those on the spectrum as inherently miraculous. Spike Lee rightly derides the storytelling trope of “magical negro,” in which a beatific black person helps a privileged but struggling white person discover the true meaning of whatever, as in The Legend of Bagger Vance or as Touré recently pointed out, The Help. Applied to those on the autism spectrum, it’s easy to see how a continuation of this trend may result in their further marginalization. “What’s wrong with him?” is a hurtful question, but “What can he do?” isn’t much better. Perhaps a more realistic portrayal of a character with Aspergers is that of Max Braverman on NBC’s Parenthood, an often challenging boy who doesn’t exist to solve problems for his neurotypical counterparts and doesn’t have superpowers to do so in any case

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