Film and lit crit about disability

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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.

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My mom saw a commercial for Rizzoli and Isles and couldn't believe that Rizzoli was, well, Rizzoli, because yep, she's supposed to be unattractive. And while the later books are more Maura based (it started, iirc, with Body Double) she really didn't have much of a role. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy her having a larger role, but one of the reasons I had such a problem getting into the series at first was because the show is so different from the books I love. But after three episodes I decided that they are so different I am going to consider them only connected by the characters' names. (Also, doesn't Gabe show up later in the books? I started reading the series back in like 2002/2003, and I think it was the fourth or fifth book where he actually shows up, but it's been so long I can't remember exactly).

It's the same way I manage to watch Bones. I adore Bones, the show, but it is SO different from the books, that when it first aired I had to consider them completely different. I did find it amusing that in Spider Bones, the show is referenced.

I don't really know why shows do that. I mean, I don't expect one book to be an episode, but these two shows are so different from their book counterparts. In Pretty Little Liars, the characters were aged up (Ali died when she was twelve, in the show she died recently), and there are some details changed, but the characterization is largely the same. So why do some shows do that?

I've only caught bits and pieces of Touch, but I remember my mom commenting on it, about the portrayal of autism on the show, and how...interesting...it was. Another show that comes to mind is Parenthood where it is explicitly stated that Max has Aspergers, and at first (been awhile since I've watched the show), it was so over-exaggerated.

I started reading the book series somewhere in the middle, and the ones that I read at that time were very Maura-centric and I thought that Jane was a very minor character. I was surprised when I went back and read The Surgeon to find that Maura wasn't in at all and Jane was the main character. Then I read The Mephisto Club and it was so downright BIZARRE that it turned me off Tess Gerritsen's books till I started watching the TV series. (Alas, Tess Gerritsen was in town at a mystery writer's conference and I didn't find out about it till it was too late to get a ticket. I'd have loved to pick her brain about that book.)

There are some characters on TV whom I definitely think have Asperger's, and then there are some whom I think have some Aspergian characteristics but maybe not enough for a diagnosis, or they're on the spectrum but at the far end, so to speak. I think Spencer definitely has Asperger's, but for Maura it's more subtle. She has some characteristics but not all of them.

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