Self-Advocate Sentinel: Autism Acceptance Month Media Review - "As We See It"
By Melanie Hecker, MPA
Autistic representation in media can often be a difficult topic for autistic people. The autistic community will often discuss how good, accurate depictions of autistic individuals in media are rare. Autistic media depictions often fall into either one or two extremes. Some pieces of autistic media such as The Good Doctor or the Big Bang Theory will depict autistic adults as being almost super-human savants, while others such as Rain Main or House will depict autistic people as horrible tragedies who bring pain to the families and must be cured or put in institutions. In addition to usually treating autistic people as one of these two extremes, autistic representation in media usually does not address the topic of how our society is not set up to accommodate the needs of autistic people. This is why I am so thankful for the existence of As We See It, a new series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
As We See It is a series following three 25-year old autistic roommates, Jack, Violet and Harrison, and their shared life coach Mandy. The premise of the series already avoids one pitfall that autism media frequently falls into because Harrison, Violet and Jack, despite all being autistic, have very different traits, personalities and experiences. Jack is intelligent and capable of working a job as a software engineer, but has trouble maintaining employment due to his habit of accidentally making inappropriate comments about co-workers. When the inappropriateness of his comments is pointed out, he tended not to care due to not caring much about socialization in general. Violet, by contrast, is desperate for romantic and platonic connections but has trouble building these connections due to her naivety and lack of understanding of social rules. Harrison is a stark contrast to both of his roommates, as while he is also a kind but naïve person he has sensory issues which are so severe that he has difficulty leaving his apartment. These three roommates provide an image of what the “autism spectrum” truly is: a collection of different traits which each individual may or may not have. This authentic portrayal of the autism spectrum illustrates how the writers of this series truly understand “When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”.
The series’ showcase of the variety of the autism spectrum is complimented by its’ acknowledgement of the Social Model of Disability. The Social Model of Disability states that disabilities are caused by problems in society, rather than problems in people. Mandy emphasizes these problems in society when she discusses how she helps Jack, Violet and Harrison change to fit society, but society really should be changing to fit them. The theme of society needing to change is seen in how many of the roommate’s problems could have been solved if the neurotypicals around them had done something different. One good example of this comes during Violet’s storyline, when she doesn’t understand what her co-workers mean when they tell her that a man who she is romantically interested in “Only wants one thing”. The story also focuses on what the families and caregivers of people with disabilities need to do to prepare their autistic loved ones for the future, and what may happen if they do not do this preparation. The series does this all while empathizing that even autistic people who seem “high functioning” and work professional jobs still need supports and services.
If you are looking for an accurate, respectful series to watch this Autism Acceptance Month, I highly recommend As We See It from Amazon Prime. This authentic representation of life as an autistic young adult is a great way to kick off April.