The ABC series – The Good Doctor 2017 began to take on the topic of sexuality in Monday’s episode.
Although autistic characters have been seen many times on the big screen, they’ve been seen less on TV. ABC’s latest drama The Good Doctor full movie is taking its time tackling some of the misconceptions about the autism spectrum, and in doing so has made headway in attempting to foster greater understanding of how autistic people may not process the world the same way as normal people.
Maintaining stories about autistic characters is a task that can go horribly wrong if done without the proper understanding, and the usual caveats should apply in discussing The Good Doctor’s autistic surgeon, Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore). Each autistic individual is different, and Shaun has savant syndrome as well, which adds another layer to his portrayal. Nonetheless, he does show some of the typical behaviors consistent with autism. Below are a few of the ways that The Good Doctor 2017 movie has addressed or upended certain misconceptions about those on the spectrum:
The Good Doctor 2017: Sexual Feelings and Drive Exist
On Monday’s episode titled “Pipes,” we realized that Shaun has watched porn. He comments that “some” porn have stories and plots, and later, it’s clear that he’s aware of some of the scantily clad women in the advertising around him. He’s in such a haze while remembering his first experiences watching porn that he even misses his bus stop. Shaun appears to be aware of his attractive neighbor Lea (Paige Spara), so it will be interesting to see if he will attempt to learn how to have a non-platonic relationship with her or perhaps another woman. Netflix’s “Atypical” also tackles this subject head-on with a teenage boy.
The Good Doctor 2017: Feelings Can Be Hurt
Shaun knows when he’s being mocked, and even if he won’t necessarily show it, that doesn’t mean he lacks emotion. The prank that was played on him in childhood by a girl who tried to get him to expose himself clearly left him wary of the opposite sex today. But his feelings are hurt because human connections are important to him, as much as he may seem like a loner.
The Good Doctor 2017: Atypical Behaviors Can Improve
Autistic people are not doomed to possess the same exact behaviors they have had since childhood. The more input and interactions are involved, the more that person can learn to navigate the world. Shaun’s savant syndrome gives him a leg up in the knowledge department, but he needs other people to give him cues and clues so that he understands behavior that’s not straightforward. Thus far, he’s been shown to acquire new understanding of sarcasm. He’s also definitely been learning to grasp the finer points of other humor as well.
On the flip side, Dr. Browne (Antonia Thomas) is also learning how to see things from his point of view and to communicate with him. Their exchanges have improved a lot as she’s shared more interactions with him.
The Good Doctor 2017: Empathy Exists
While it’s true that Shaun has had moments where he cannot understand someone, and therefore either acts inappropriately or has to ask what something means, that does not make him without empathy. In the first episode it’s shown that he’s inspired to be a doctor because of losing a beloved pet and then later his brother. He knows that saving lives won’t bring his brother back, but he wants to stop others from dying and suffering in the same way. He has a generosity of spirit that drives him in his calling.
The Good Doctor 2017 Not All Senses Are as Troubling
It’s been displayed in most portrayals of autistic people that the use of headphones can help cut down on the auditory overload in the environment surrounding them. That is also why many may also put their hands over their ears when headphones aren’t available.
While Shaun is spotted doing this while approaching a helicopter, he’s only does it when he’s directly under the helicopter’s rotor blades. Beforehand, he informs his colleague Dr. Browne (Antonia Thomas) that he doesn’t actually mind the noise. In fact, he seems to welcome it because he’s fascinated with how helicopters work. His interest in the machinery makes the accompanying noise just part of the package.
The Good Doctor 2017 Some Behaviors Can Be Managed
In flashbacks Shaun is seen rocking when he’s under great distress. We haven’t seen him do this in adulthood, but sometimes when he’s anxious, the character fiddles with his hands or the toy scalpel he had as a boy. Other times he sits absolutely still.
No behaviors are pervasive but are situational. Even when he fixates on trying to find his screwdriver to the point that he wakes up his mentor to help him look, he’s able to stop the frenzied search cold when told to take a break. If anything, this inconsistency shows that obsessive, blinkered behavior isn’t an absolute. Nothing is.
Hopefully The Good Doctor movie has allowed audiences to learn new ways of thinking about people who have autism. The Good Doctor 2017 full movie is an early ratings hit; check back with us to see how someone in the autism community assesses the series.