Gut Reaction: Atypical

This is a new segment, in which I reveal my first impressions of a neurodiversity-related book, show, music, or video-game that I have just come across. For all intents and purposes, a “show” will be defined as a movie, TV series, or web series.

In order to qualify, I can only have seen no more than two episodes of a show, or in the event the show is a movie, this has to have been my first time having ever seen the show. I cannot have read more than 50 pages of a book, played more than one hour of a video-game, nor can I have listened to more than three songs on an album or have listened to a song more than ten times.


Today, we’re going to take a look at Netflix’s new series, Atypical.

Oh, boy! Here we go again…

Is it appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode? Because I feel it’s totally appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode.

The pilot episode. I’m only one episode in, and I’m already bracing myself for what I’m terrified this is:

Atypical: The Movie!

Now don’t get me wrong! I like Adam just as much as I want to like Atypical. I just don’t honestly believe for a second that we are all this robotic. Hell, I’d venture to say that a vast majority of us aren’t this robotic.

Sure, many of us do like things in a particular arrangement, and some of us can be what my family refers to as “stunad” at times (Why hello, Captain Clueless! When did you get here?), but that’s a far cry from saying things like, “I can see your bra. It’s purple.” That is a direct quote from very near the beginning of the entire series, and it came from our ND protagonist, Sam.

*slow clap* Well done, Sam. You’ve successfully set back everything NTs perceive about us by almost ten years.

No, really! Adam says something similar in the 2009 film, Adam.

Oh, Adam… I know social skills aren’t your thing, but holy damn, man!

The thing is…

I can’t tell what Netflix is going for with his characterization. It’s clear they wanted to hit us over the head with the “Sam has an ASD” card, and I’d be okay with that if the characteristics weren’t so overplayed in ways that we’ve already seen a million ways before.

That said, I saw in a YouTube clip that there will be a couple moments where we, the viewer, see what Sam experiences in the exact way he sees it.

Bright, blinding lights? Check. Loud voices drowned out by loud background noises? Check. Extreme focus on exactly what we presume to be Sam’s field of vision? Check. That’s what we need more of. It helps us personally connect with Sam on an experiential level as viewers.

What we don’t need are the awkward, creepy smiling cliché, the over-emphasis on his obsession with penguins and Antarctica (We get it: that’s your  focal topic of interest), and we certainly don’t need a Spectrumite love story that’s been done before in 2009 with Adam. In 2017, we’re craving something new with our portrayals of neurodiversity.

Like I said, it’s clear that Netflix wants us to know Sam has an ASD, but then all the other characters parade across the screen like caricatures of the people who exist and support him in his life.

Someday, I’ll be a REAL supporting cast member…

This leaves Sam in the odd position of being the only character in the show with any semblance of true personality. Which I find odd, considering how hard the show wants you to believe he doesn’t have one.

Can we make a directing decision and stick with it, please? If there’s one thing Spectrumites love, it’s consistency. I’m getting distracted just trying to pin this kid down. Watching this episode was exhausting! We’ll see how I feel after Episode 8, but from early reviews that I’ve read, the prognosis doesn’t seem too great. Like I said, we’ll see.

I could go on about Sam’s mother’s reticence to step back and give Sam the necessary room to grow, but I think I’ll save that for the actual review.

So everything said and considered (I’m going to address the Antarctic penguin in the room), did I enjoy this episode?

Yes, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Every time somebody tries to make a show about a Spectrumite, it rarely focuses on the ASD or the Spectrumite attempting to adapt to it. Here, it’s like they’re trying very hard to focus on Sam and his ASD, but they can’t think of an engaging enough premise to build the rest of the show around in order to keep the focus on these things.

You can expect the full review some time after I’ve finished watching the entire season.

Until then, I’m the Role Star. Because sometimes, a Role Model just doesn’t get the job done…