Autism Representation in the Media

With the release of Love on the Spectrum on Netflix recently I wanted to take a look at the representation of autistic people in the media.

I haven’t watched the full series of Love on the Spectrum yet, in fact I have only watched one episode so far, but I do plan on watching the rest of it soon. Overall I found it a positive experience, despite some cringy moments that I don’t think they really needed to keep in the final edit, so I will watch it to the end and hope it continues in the positive way it is trying to show autistic people. It does help to break down some stereotypes by showing a variety of people including showing how we can have a brilliant sense of humour and be empathetic.

If you really look at the representation in other tv shows, films, books etc it does leave a little bit to be desired. A lot of characters that other autistic people relate to are never talked about being autistic in their show/film/whatever, most of the time it’s down to the actor or writer of the show to talk about how they feel the character is autistic in an interview. I would like more writers, directors and producers to have some courage and actually have the character say the words ‘yeah I am autistic, so what’ instead of tip-toeing around the issue. I identify a lot with the character of Dr Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds but there is only a small mention in one episode by a murderer about him being autistic. It is almost taken as fact that he is but yet it is never confirmed within the series (although I am only upto series 7 so maybe it’s mentioned later and I am jumping the gun). I have never seen Big Bang Theory so I don’t know if the same treatment is given to the Sheldon Cooper character. I’ll get round to watching it at some point.

My access to shows are currently limited to Netflix and Disney+ so I know I don’t have access to some autistic characters that I might be able to relate to more but what springs to mind is The A Word, Atypical and Sesame Street as being the forefront of autistic representation in the media at present.

And this is what it troubling.

The main representation of a female autistic character is Sesame Street, while being a brilliant kids show with some great lessons for children we need more female autistic adults in the media, we need more autistic POC in the media, we need more representation that isn’t a white male from a financial well-off family. To me that doesn’t show how an autistic person deals with real life issues. A large portion of American autistics don’t have the luxury of affording therapy to help with being autistic as it is quite expensive.

While there is obviously an influx of more autistic characters started to appear in the media we need to show the whole spectrum of our spectrum.