It’s great to see the topic of autism being more widely accepted in mass media recently as multiple television shows have been raising awareness of people on the spectrum. Most recently, ABC premiered their newest show “The Good Doctor,” on September 25th. This show does an excellent job portraying someone on the spectrum while depicting some noticeable, and not-so noticeable, subtleties that come with being on the spectrum.
“The Good Doctor” starts by focusing around the soon-to-be Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, as he makes his way towards a hospital that recently added him to their surgical residency program. Along the way he encounters situations where he ends up saving lives and impressing current doctors employed in the hospital. Throughout the show, we’re presented with flashback moments of him as a child and what he went through growing up on the spectrum and how it made him who he is today.
While at the same time, we’re shown the Board of Directors debating on whether or not to hire someone with his diagnosis. These scenes are heartwarming as they humanize the show as they discuss on why they’re hiring him, the best quote so far being
“Aren’t we judged by how we treat people? I don’t mean as doctors I mean as people. Especially those who don’t have the same advantages that we have. We hire Shaun and we give hope to those people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are. That they do have a shot. We hire Shaun and we make this hospital better for it.”
This quote makes this show relatable for so many people out there that are working towards their goals, despite not having certain advantages others may have. This, I believe, will catch and hold people’s attention episode-to-episode.
While this show is doing a great job of raising awareness of the spectrum, one has to wonder if it’s being portrayed correctly. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the spectrum. This is tricky to handle but it seems the show is handling it fairly well so far. While I’d have to say it does focus on a high-functioning individual on the spectrum and I wouldn’t want viewers to assume that one character represents all. I hope they get to address that at some point in the show.
However, they do great at portraying the many challenges Shaun faces daily. It’s anything from general social awkwardness to the subtle avoiding of eye contact or fidgeting. I really love that they depict how he thinks and creates solutions by viewing his thoughts, with the help of effects, showing what he’s seeing in his mind when remembering a fact or definition of something.
I believe this show does an excellent job portraying someone on the spectrum to the mass and is a huge step in the right direction to inform people about autism in general. The potential danger is in excluding those on the ASD spectrum without this level of function. I hope the show embraces the opportunity to portray the experiences of multiple individuals with autism at a variety of function levels. It’s a great beginning and I’m excited to see it grow into more during later episodes.