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Atypical Season 1

Atypical Season 1

By Patrick Samuel • September 14th, 2017
Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Original release: August 11th, 2017
Running time: 240 minutes

Director: Seth Gordon
Writer: Robia Rashid

Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Amy Okuda, Michael Rapapor, Nik Dodani

Atypical Season 1

The autistic spectrum is a very broad one, and no two individuals with autism are ever the same. There’s a common saying actually, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”, and while this is largely true, there are many common features within the spectrum, which is probably one of the reasons why a show like Atypical worked so well for me. There was much in it I could easily identify with. From its characters right down to its language and highlighting of the absurdities and obsession society has with political correctness, I found it to be a rare show that accurately represents what it’s like to be on the spectrum. At least for me.

Its central character is 18 year old Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), like me, Sam is neuro-diverse and struggles immensely with the triad of impairments associated with autistic spectrum disorders; communication, social interaction and social imagination. Despite this, Sam seems to have a happy home life with his lively family where he is free to be open about his thoughts and feelings, going as far as announcing in the first episode that he’d like to find a girlfriend so that he can experience things other boys his age are experiencing (sex).

His mother, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is overly protective of him, and for her he’s the focus of the family. Everything she does is for him and she even keeps count of when his last meltdown took place. She seems to want to shield him from any bad experiences, therefore his announcement is quickly shot down at the dinner table. Sam’s dad, Doug (Michael Rapapor) has always struggled to connect with him. He’d like nothing more than to have a son he can take to the games and bond over sports with, but Sam is more interested in Antarctica and is usually preoccupied with anything to do with penguins. Then there’s his younger sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), who’s more like a big sister in that she looks for out him at school and will immediately step if he’s being bullied or feels he’s being advantage of.

Atypical Season 1

Sam maintains a steady part-time job at an electronics store and has a friend there. His work colleague Zahid (Nik Dodani) is happy to pass on any advice on how to succeed with girls and this forms a huge chunk of the show’s comedy for me because I found them to be hilarious. He encourages Sam to approach a female customer at the store and the pair later venture to a strip club where Sam can have a look at what to expect, should he get that far.

One of Atypical’s many insightful moments comes when Elsa and Dad attend a group session, only for Doug to be constantly interrupted by other parents because he’s using the wrong language. It’s perhaps one of the reasons the frustrated and well-meaning father doesn’t attend these sessions often. It’s a similar experience I’ve had, where I call myself ‘Asperger Artist’ only to be told I must ‘place person before disability’. Utter nonsense and doesn’t change anything. And shouldn’t that be ‘difference’, if we’re being politically correct? I totally understand Doug’s frustration.

Initially, I did worry the show would only present the mild side of the spectrum and not go the full distance and show viewers what really happens when sensory overload occurs. I’ve had incidents myself where I’ve cleared an entire staff room at work and made people back away from me on a packed train when things got too much, but I’v never seen characters on the spectrum in similar scenes in television or film. I thought maybe that’s just going too far, but Atypical doesn’t shy away from those scenes. They even show us the aftermath.

In many ways Atypical has helped me understand my own ASD a lot better. Seeing how the characters around Sam react to things he says and does has made me look at my own behaviour and become a little more mindful. I tend to ask now after I’ve said something “Was that rude of me say?” and I have an idea now that my meltdowns aren’t just exhausting for me, but for everyone else who experiences them with me.

I’m glad that a show like this exists, and that it’s so fluent with the language we use in my home. I feel that for the first time autism is starting to be properly portrayed on screen. The characters are truly likeable and the situations are entirely relatable, at least for me. I look forward to seeing how they continue this development with season 2 next year and hope that Sam is able to eventually find what he’s looking for.

Atypical Season

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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