So, remember the post I wrote a couple months ago, stating that I had pretty much stopped watching TV? Well, this is not a done deal just yet — thanks to the premiere of The Good Doctor.
The Good Doctor is an American version of a Korean program, and the premise is that a medical student with autism gets to train at a hospital on a surgical residency. To say that this alone would suck me in is a huge understatement. I almost cried every time the ad came on the whole week before fall season premieres. It was torture, I tell you, Spock.
Anyway (for a refreshing change), this show did not disappoint. Dr. Shaun Murphy is utterly real and precious (and yes, I know it’s an actor portrayal — shush, I’m getting there), and he is so beautiful to watch.
Freddie Highmore (an NT British actor) has done an absolutely excellent job of learning how to depict autism realistically and not patronizingly. This is the first time I’ve seen stimming portrayed, as well as accurately not making eye contact and not knowing what to say or what tone to use. There are moments of long pauses, or simply not answering questions, and Murphy focuses so much more on a corner of the ceiling or the fly on the window rather than on someone’s face. I literally have BEEN there so many times, I am SOOOO grateful to know other people recognize this in ASD-ers, and some of them even ACCEPT it.
Pass the tissues through the opening in the blanket fort, if you would, please.
Of course, for there to be a plot, there has to be conflict, and some of the doctors at the hospital think that hiring an intern with autism is ridiculous, even dangerous. While Murphy often gets stuck with doing triage and reading x-rays, he also saves lives — by spotting a minor blip on a scan that actually denotes a serious medical problem, or listening to his instincts and refusing to follow protocol.
Murphy doesn’t think for a minute that everyone is like him — he perfectly understands that he has a condition that much of the world finds unusual or strange. When he can (when he’s not stressed, or when he can find the words through practice or conditioning), he explains to others why he doesn’t respond to a social custom or NT emotional process. Yet, while he is quite aware that he’s learning how a majority of humanity operates, he never for once sees the need to apologize for how/who he is.
There are scenes in which Murphy says out loud things that I have thought my entire life and always been encouraged to keep to myself. For example, the episode where he says, “On the day the rain smelled like ice cream, my bunny went to heaven,” my eyes were wet for the next 10 minutes. (And remember, I am half Vulcan, so that’s a LONG time, folks.) He processes memories and sensory information so differently from any other doctor (or most non-doctor people), and yet this is exactly what makes him special, brilliant, valuable in his field. The fact he has such a strong and encouraging mentor (Dr. Glassman) completely makes my heart sing.
While we’re only a few episodes into season 1 of this show, and there will doubtlessly be some things I take issue with (why are the other doctors so mean to him, give him a chance and quit being so narrow-minded, you nitwits), I hold out hope that this depiction will help raise not only autism awareness but autism ACCEPTANCE. Just being different does NOT mean there’s something wrong with us. We are still important to the world — and guess what, since we were born this way, God knew just how we’d be, and He let it be so.
Historically it’s been proven that those who change the world the most — for the better — think differently than the masses. You know the guy who came up with E=MC squared? Yup, historians believe he had Asperger’s syndrome. The guy who wrote those adventures of a little Victorian girl in Wonderland that we all love so much was also suspected of being on the spectrum. And then there are the big ones — the man who signed the paper ending slavery in America, and the man who led England through World War II, are both thought to have had either some minor form of ADHD or spectrum disorder.
So, why can’t I be a bestselling author? Even though I have to take several months to finish a book, and stim while I write, and literally bust my butt to make sure my NT characters are behaving like real people? Why not?
Seriously, I’m The Good Author.