Film and lit crit about disability

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Asperger's, or lack of same, on TV
autistic spectrum beauty
rainbow_goddess wrote in crip_crit
There are many TV characters who people suspect of having Asperger's Syndrome -- Maura Isles in Rizzoli and Isles; Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds; Dr. Brennan in Bones; Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. Yet even when they show all the signs, none of them is identified as actually having Asperger's, other than a brief throwaway line by an UNSUB on Criminal Minds that mentioned Reid as being on the autism spectrum.

The only time I can recall an adult character on primetime TV was actually identified as having Asperger's, Jerry on Boston Legal, his Asperger characteristics were exaggerated to ridiculous levels, he was turned into comic relief, and they conflated Asperger's with other conditions such as Tourettes Syndrome and implied that it is common for people with Asperger's to have a sexual fixation on objects when a girlfriend of Jerry's left him because she "fell in love with an iPhone."

I'm wondering why the characters are given all of these Asperger-like characteristics but not said to have Asperger's. Is it because writers think that all scientists are geeky/nerdy/socially awkward? Is it because if the character is suddenly identified as having AS, then the writers/producers are afraid that they won't be able to poke fun at the character anymore because "he/she has a disability"? Are they afraid that the audience won't like the character anymore? Is it just a lack of awareness -- not enough people know what Asperger's is, so they won't use the word in the show?

It really puzzles me why so many characters are given characteristics that are so obviously Asperger-like yet the producers of the show won't use the actual identification.

  • 1
One other character who has been identified as autistic is Gary, from Alphas.

Parker from Leverage also displays many autistic traits and needs Sophie as a mentor/mother figure, but her possible aspergers has neither been confirmed nor denied.

Parker has been formally confirmed not autistic. The writers said that her behavior is specifically stemming from her abusive/erratic childhood and not from autism.

Thanks. I'm very behind the times on Leverage thanks to stupid TV channels, so I wasn't aware of any press coverage and the like. I do know that fandom has been arguing about it for a long time though!

Edited at 2012-06-09 11:52 am (UTC)

The writers for Leverage are fairly involved in the fandom. If I remember rightly, the writers said they didn't want abuse to be considered cause for autism (and vice versa) since the original intent was about the abuse and I think that's ok reasoning.

I think one of the more thoughtful things I've heard from TV writers! They understand that non-neurotypical behaviour can stem from social causes *and* they didn't conflate disability with abuse. Respect to John Rogers and team!

Amen! I was delighted to find the above comment in my inbox - it shows that some writers care about more than just the money and are against disablism/ablism!

I agree with you. Parker is a very troubled young woman and so I can see the writer's perspective :)

Alphas is probably worth its own post, now you bring it up. It's a medium-quality show, but it does some very interesting things with disability.

Definitely. The show itself isn't fantastic (it's not up there with Leverage, for instance) but it does deal with at least two known disabilities and paints them in a very positive light. In Gary's case, it shows that his (very high functioning) autism causes him to need a routine so that he doesn't have a meltdown, but he also enforces the fact that he is his own person and can make his own decisions. As a person on the spectrum myself I think that is absolutely the message that should be coming across - that autism isn't all doom and gloom and those of us on the spectrum needn't be pitied or treated any differently to NT's.

  • 1

Log in