Within the first three lines of dialogue, this dark comedy literally had the protagonist read the results from my Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory P-something with a P (it’s a 532 question peronality exam used by psychologists to diagnose mental abnormalities).
The protagonist happens to be Sam, 18-year old senior in high school with high-functioning Autism. Not only does Keir Gilchrist read a script taken from a systematic analysis of my own personality, he looks like me. OK. He looks like me if I were one full shade more handsome. But still, the resemblance is striking. We even have the same haircut.
The difference between me and Sam is that Sam was born in 1998. That was the year I up and moved to Israel. So, we can just agree that I’m about a generation and a half older than him. Born in 1998, Sam would have received the benefit of an educational system that had a nuanced understanding of Autism. Sam knows he’s autistic.
A generation and a half ago, the educational system was pretty ignorant of Autism. If you had good grades, liked obeying rules, and didn’t disturb other children, you could really skate by unnoticed. That is, unless there’s was a jazz dancer that lived in your heart
who wanted to come out, because she’s got personality and thought it’s time for a show. Yeah. Unless you had one of those that eventually exploded Mount Vesuvious, then you probably don’t know.
But if you did, you would be in for some real trouble in high school. Myself, I cried when Sam talked about being regarded as “weird”. It wasn’t hearing my own words come out of Sam’s mouth that freaked me out. It was the normality with which he regarded his own weirdness. It’s as if you know you will never really have a home group and being OK with that. I have never had the experience of a fictional character depicting me so perfectly. Honestly, it’s what it must feel like when David Blane calls you on stage, asks you to spontaneously write a haiku, and then Bang! He pulls a piece of paper from behind your ear. You unfold it. And it’s your haiku. That’s what watching Atypical was like for me.
I even learned things about myself that I knew might be peculiar, but they aren’t the kind of things you can really ask other people about. Early in the first episode, Sam describes a perceptual experience where a sound reverberates around his mind. In this case, the bouncing through Sam’s mind was, “Twat”. [SPOILER ALERT] His resolution to the scene was the predictable but still funny moment where the sound gains so much steam that he has to let it out with a shout. And of course it happened in front of the guy his sister likes.
My resolution to that scene was far more profound. That happens to me too. A lot. Like, all the time. I didn’t know it was a symptom of Autism. Until I watched the first episode of Atypical. I had no idea that such reverberating sounds were atypical. I thought everyone had them. I assumed it so thoroughly that I never even thought to ask someone about them.
But honestly, what does that conversation look like. “Hey, Latrell. Good game. By the way, the sound of that umpire calling you safe is still bouncing around my head, mixing with a fart I heard on the bus. What’s reverberating around your mind?” Because that’s the only way you can really ask that.
The bottom line, someone finally sat me down and had the Asperger’s talk. And Atypical is so accurate in it’s depiction of people with Autism that it might one day be used as a diagnostic tool by special education services. Five fist bumps !!!!!