Denzel Washington sometimes feels like the personification of the old maxim about how African-Americans must be “twice as good to get half as much.” His last big role was his masterful, self-directed performance in 2016’s adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences,” but the best actor of his generation remains the best whether he’s playing drug kingpin Frank Lucas in “American Gangster” or recreating the Yul Brynner role in last year’s “Magnificent Seven” remake. In an industry where legends like De Niro and Pacino increasingly sleepwalk to paychecks, he simply does not slum it. All this is to say that when I heard Washington would be playing a lawyer on the autism spectrum in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” I wasn’t as nervous as this kind of casting normally makes me. Playing a disabled character is notorious as a cynical fast-track to awards attention, but Washington is the last actor on earth who would … Continue Reading ››
This is it. Dr. Shaun Murphy's first interaction with an autistic patient. I knew it was coming -- It's an obvious and necessary direction for Shaun's story to take. Even in the bizarre, distorted world of a prime time medical drama, Shaun can't reasonably be the only autistic person on Earth. There was exciting news: Liam, Shaun's autistic patient, would be played by an actually autistic actor: Coby Bird. Bird is 15, talented, and has previously appeared on the ABC comedy Speechless. I hope to see him in future episodes of The Good Doctor. It would be wonderful if Shaun could act as a mentor or role model of sorts, rather than Liam merely being a patient-of-the-week. That said, I was terrified that this episode would advocate for what Julia Bascom has called, "the IQ test for human rights." Some toxic corners of our community believe autistic people perceived as … Continue Reading ››
This week’s episode, "Not Fake," preserves Shaun Murphy's complexity and humanity for another week. While this episode was excellent from a neurodiversity standpoint (everyone struggles in stressful situations, not just neurodivergent people), it completely failed when it comes to physical disability. Rather than live with an amputation and a prosthetic, a man's wife fights to have a risky, experimental surgery that would preserve his leg. To be fair, it is entirely realistic that doctors have a poor understanding of disabled quality of life. This episode didn't highlight that lack of understanding, though. Instead, it plays into one of the most negative tropes about living with a disability: That it is worse than death.
‘I don't like coffee.’The episode opens with Dr. Kalu sharing his own special blend of coffee. He roasts the beans himself. Dr. Murphy is as sassy as ever. "Smells like leather," he remarks. "And none for you, Murphy," … Continue Reading ››
This week's episode, Point Three Percent, is about honesty and when it is appropriate to lie. While previous episodes have touched on lying as a social skill, this week the topic is approached in a serious kind of way, not in a "scaring patients by saying they might have flesh eating bacteria" kind of way. The theme was mostly successful. Dr. Shaun Murphy continues to be an asshole, and I love it. At this point it's established that if he thinks a rule isn't important, even if he's told explicitly about it, he'll disregard it. I can't actually tell if the writers actually realize that Shaun is being an asshole when he does this, rather than a precious cinnamon bun who has done nothing wrong. I hope they do, and I hope they continue to explore the consequences of Shaun's actions. People are assholes. I'm excited that Dr. Murphy gets to … Continue Reading ››
I have a confession to make: Oftentimes media criticism with a dash of social justice feels like a race to see who can say the most cutting, critical things about poor representation first. Sometimes, like with Atypical, the ire is well deserved. Other times, I feel pressure to declare something irredeemably Problematic before really giving it a chance. Another related confession: I actually really liked this episode of The Good Doctor. I feel like Dr. Shaun Murphy got to be an actual, flawed person. There are several instances where I sort of wanted to slap him, but not because I thought he was being written badly -- Only that he was making some of the same mistakes I or autistic friends have made in the past while trying to figure out how to be an independent adult. Note: I would not actually slap anyone unless they explicitly asked me to … Continue Reading ››