This episode explores the media’s portrayal of autism through characters in scripted movies and television. It also features the debut of the Disorderly Blondes’ fab rating system. You’ll have to tune in to hear who earns the least amount of “shade”!
The Disorderly Blondes’ Hair-Brained Rating System
👩🏼= Dirty Blonde 👩🏼👩🏼=Ash Blonde 👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼=Chunky Highlights 👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼=Sun Kissed 👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼👩🏼=Platunim Blonde (aka a full-on Marilyn)
- The A Word (BBC, 2016) The Hughes family faces their son Joe’s autism diagnosis; birthday parties and cold doctors and elopement, oh MY!; this drama hit SUPER close to home for Brenda and other #disorderlytribe members.
- Atypical (Netflix, 2017) Sam, an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, decides it’s time to find a girlfriend. Kristi, a 48 year-old-fan can’t get enough of this show (the ageless) Brenda pushed on her. Sam is aware he is SUPER literal. Really? We are dealing, but meanwhile Mom Elsa is on the D Train to Bone Town with a chunky bartender. REALLY? The Disorderly Blondes need to get casting on the horn, stat. Otherwise, #obsessed.
- Mozart and the Whale (2005) two words: Josh Hartnett; only Bren is qualified to rate this film as Kristi could not see past how dated it is, plus she drowned in worry that Josh Hartnett may no longer be a working actor*. BREAKING NEWS!: Josh Hartnett has 5 projects for 2019! IMDB says Mozart and the Whale is a love story between two savants with Asperger’s syndrome, a kind of autism, whose conditions sabotage their budding relationship. Of course, they are listed as savants, because savant syndrome is SO COMMON (insert yet another eye roll x 4).
- The Good Doctor (ABC Drama) young surgical resident Dr. Shaun Murphy has high-functioning autism and savant syndrome; he is the rarest of the rare individuals (yet is in good company amongst the rest portrayed in television and film); [insert collective blonde sigh]. De madre!
Duan, Pozios, et al. “Why ‘The Good Doctor’ Is Bad Medicine for Autism.” The Hollywood Reporter, 2 April 2018, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/why-good-doctor-is-bad-medicine-autism-1098809. Accessed 30 January 2019.
While positive depictions can be beneficial in reducing stigma, inaccuracies — including idealization — leave many behind. autistic people who don’t resemble the savants on TV, such as those who require 24-hour supervision in group homes or assistance from home health aides, encounter major barriers to self-advocacy and are erased from public life. Indeed, for many on the spectrum, an autism spectrum diagnosis (ASD) is critical because it grants access to intensive resources and treatment options that they may otherwise not have.
- Rain Man (1988 Film) Dustin Hoffman portrays savant Raymond Babbitt; flick cemented what The Disorderly Blondes’ generation thought an autistic person to be; no further definition of “The Disorderly Blondes’ generation” available (unless it means FIU, Miami freestyle concerts, and dale que tu puedes).
The original inspiration for the savant portrayed in Rain man was a male who has memorized over 6000 books and has encyclopedic knowledge of geography, music, literature, history, sports and nine other areas of expertise. He could name all the US area codes and major city zip codes. He also memorized the maps in the front of telephone books and could tell you precisely how to get from one US city to another, and then how to get around in that city street by street. He also had calendar-calculating abilities and, towards the end of his life a rather advanced musical talent surfaced. Of unique interest is was ability to read extremely rapidly, simultaneously scanning one page with the left eye and the other page with the right eye. Kim Peek died of a heart attack in his hometown of Salt Lake City at age 58 in 2009.
The Disorderly Blondes choose to keep their faith in humanity even after reading 76% of people polled for IMDb’s Rain Man Parents Guide find that abusing special needs individuals is only mildly frightening.
Sesame Street (Julia, 2017-Present) cute muppet character with autism; displays echolalia, hand flapping, is high energy and noise sensitive; show Writer Christine Ferraro admits “There’s no way we could possibly show everything…So we had to pick one lane and go in it;” autism ain’t cute (yeah, what Ms. Netzer of The Autism Support Network said)
“Consider the autism muppet, Julia, on Sesame Street. She is the epitome of adorable, and she teaches children to tolerate kids who don’t want to be touched, or don’t give eye contact, or make flappy hands. Julia will never push a joke too far or unwittingly say something unforgivably racist. Julia will never do something disgusting, or scary, or inexplicable, because Julia’s job is to teach kids that autism is safe and fine. But autism is not safe and fine. Autism is beautiful, and magical, and brilliant, but autism is also screaming, and hurting people, and agony, and clashing with the world.”
Lydia Netzer, Autism Support Network
Edelson, Stephen. “Autistic Savants.” Autism Research Institute, Autism Research Institute, http://www.autism.com/understanding_savants
Heasley, Shaun. “Is Hollywood’s Portrayal Of Autism Fair?” Disability Scoop, 26 Sept. 2017, www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/09/26/is-hollywood-portrayal-autism-fair/24222/.
Image of Atypical Character Sam. ‘Atypical’ Explores Autism via Mostly Ordinary Netflix Show, CNN Entertainment, 10 Aug. 2017,
Image of The A Word Character Joe, Writer of Autism Drama The A Word Hopes Viewers Will Gain Greater Understanding. Mirror, 19 Mar. 2016, www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/word-writer-hopes-autism-drama-7591836.
Image of The Good Doctor Character Dr. Shaun Murphy. BreakPoint: The Good Doctor, Good Television for a Change, Breakpoint, 20 Oct. 2017,
Image of Mozart and the Whale Characters Donald and Isabelle. Jennifer Lawrence Talks Mental IIlness Stigma, Weirdland, 1 March 2013, jake-weird.blogspot.com/2013/03/jennifer-lawrence-talks-mental-iilness.html
Image of Muppet Julia. Sesame Street Introduces Its First Muppet With Autism. Meet Julia, Sunny Skyz, 20 Mar. 2017, https://www.sunnyskyz.com/good-news/2116/Sesame-Street-Introduces-Its-First-Muppet-With-Autism-Meet-Julia
Image of Rain Man Characters Raymond and Charlie. Remembering ‘Rain Man’: The $350 Million Movie That Hollywood Wouldn’t Touch Today, Grantland, 09 Jan. 2014,
Lutz, Amy S.F. “National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA) Launches.” Psychology Today, 14 Jan. 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inspectrum/201901/national-council-severe-autism-ncsa-launches
Nordahl-Hansen, Anders, et al. “Mental Health on Screen: A DSM-5 Dissection of Portrayals of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Film and TV.” NeuroImage, Academic Press, 23 Aug. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178117304225.
Treffert, Darold A. “The Savant Syndrome: an Extraordinary Condition. A Synopsis: Past, Present, Future.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 27 May 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677584/#bib31.