Atypical: Season One, Episode Six

Episode 6 of Atypical is titled, "The D-Train to Bone Town." I feel slightly uncomfortable just typing that phrase. It was an uncomfortable episode to watch overall. Atypical is threaded with racist subtext, but it really comes to a head in this episode. Somehow, all of the mean girls are black women. April the mean mom? she's black. Sharice, Casey's so-called best friend who betrays her? Black. Her track mates are people of color, too. The only empathetic black character in this episode is Harmony, a sex worker, and she is thoroughly objectified by both Sam and the show's writers. I don't think it's intentional, but the image of autism as a white disease causes serious hurt and isolation for black autistic people and their families. The image of Sam's white family being afflicted by intolerant, neurotypical black people is not a good look for the writers.

‘You asked … Continue Reading ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode Five

In the fifth episode of Atypical, "That's My Sweatshirt," Paige overtakes Claire for the most unlikeable character in the show. She seemed quirky and sweet last episode, but as she systematically violates Sam's space and controls him to an abusive degree, she's completely lost me and has taken the crown for the Worst Person on this show. And that's saying something, since the episode caps off with Elsa cheating on her husband, again. Which is still, somehow, autism's fault and not hers. A core part of the family dynamic on Atypical is that somehow, Sam's autism makes everyone around him's life worse. How, exactly, is unclear. It seems that the mere fact of Sam's autism negatively impacts everyone around him to a degree where any and all terrible behavior is excused and justified. It's a completely toxic dynamic. It's not funny. It's not even sympathetic. It's horrifying. I feel sorry for … Continue Reading ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode Four

In Atypical's fourth episode, "A Nice, Neutral Smell," Sam's Odyssey to date continues. A girl, Paige (Jenna Boyd), shows interest in him! Why exactly is mysterious, since he treats her and other women terribly. She's a little quirky and probably has low self-esteem, so apparently that means they're perfect for each other? Of course, the writers continue to portray Sam's awfulness towards women and girls as some kind of natural extension of his autism. Last time I checked, misogyny isn't part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, although I suppose I should give them props for giving Sam a personality trait beyond an autism symptom checklist, however unintentionally.

‘Gonna break that record, superstar?’

Atypical: Season One, Episode Three

The overall theme of the third episode of Atypical, "Julia Says," is change. An often discussed "core symptom" of autism is what diagnosticians call "inflexibility." Ironically, the most inflexible person in this episode is Elsa. She has built her entire identity around Sam being dependent on her. As her family grows and changes around her, Elsa acts out. By the end of the episode she has assaulted a store clerk and is sleeping with Nick the bartender. Somehow, this is autism's fault or something. I still can't tell if she's supposed to be relatable or likeable.

‘Humans can't be perfect because we're not machines.’

Atypical: Season One, Episode Two

The second episode of Atypical is titled "A Human Female." After watching it, I feel like I need a shower. Is this supposed to be funny? Humanizing? Because after watching this episode, instead of merely socially inept, Sam seems dangerous. Has he never read a book or watched a movie with a human relationship in it? Has he never watched his parents? Why won't anybody in his life have a talk with him about what's appropriate and inappropriate in relationships or about appropriate boundaries in general? I am usually pretty skeptical of social skills training programs, but damn.

‘Enticing a human female into mating takes different skills. It requires research.’

As Sam narrates how roosters attract hens for mating by putting on a display, we get a flash of Sam's mother, Elsa, in the bar, seriously considering infidelity. We get more Discovery Channel narration from Sam as his sister waves … Continue Reading ››