Asperger’s syndrome (ASD) can be difficult to comprehend for those who have not been exposed to it firsthand. Many people learn about ASD from the depiction of the disorder on television and in movies.
The fact of the matter is that not all television series or films are equal. ASD and its consequences on people and their families are depicted in both positive and negative ways. As a result of the misrepresentations, people are left with drastically inaccurate impressions of the subject matter. People with autism and their caregivers and families benefit from the best of these resources, which help to increase their understanding and spread empathy.
Actors and actresses who are requested to play characters with ASD face a unique set of challenges, but in recent years, many of them have proven that they are up to the task. Consider that most of these roles portray children, and younger performers have to step up to deliver authentic and moving performances with characters whose backgrounds, personalities, and experiences are completely unfamiliar with those of the audience.
Here are seven movies or television shows that portray characters with autism spectrum disorders in the most accurate way possible.
1. Rain Man
When Dustin Hoffman played Raymond Babbitt in 1988’s Rain Man, starring alongside Tom Cruise, the hunt for realism in portraying characters with Asperger’s Syndrome really kicked off. Best Actor Hoffman received the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the picture won a raft of other film industry honors, including Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Director.
The real-life autistic savant on whom Babbitt was based, Kim Peek, helped both Hoffman and the screenplay’s author, Barry Morrow, achieve that level of authenticity. Many of Babbitt’s supposedly exceptional abilities were derived from true talents that Peek displayed. Peek’s odd walk and mannerisms were also copied by Hoffman in order to depict the character accurately.
Many spectators started to believe that all autistic persons were similarly gifted, which is far from the truth! Despite its accuracy, the movie had some unintended consequences for the ASD community.
In spite of its economic and critical success, the film helped humanize people with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD).
2. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
For his role as Gilbert Grape’s younger brother, played by Johnny Depp, a young Leonardo DiCaprio received his first Oscar nomination. At an assisted-living home, DiCaprio saw many teens with ASD and other developmental impairments in preparation for the part. Incorporating tics and behaviors familiar to many families of children with ASD, he crafted his performance.
The film was highly praised for its portrayal of the difficulties faced by families with children who have autism spectrum disorders. Depp’s character’s despair and fury at being forced to care for a sibling who should be able to take care of himself are also familiar to many families in the autistic community, who have to deal with similar situations. For many parents and siblings of children with ASD, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Gilbert as feeling imprisoned in his duty as a caretaker resonates.
3. Fly Away
It was only after the completion of Janet Grillo’s documentary, “Autism: The Musical,” that she realized she hadn’t covered everything she wanted to cover in regards to ASD. Grillo’s experience as a mother of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD) lent itself to her next effort, “Fly Away.”
An autistic daughter, played by Ashley Rickards in “Fly Away,” disrupts a family’s daily routine. It’s a tough job being a single parent to a child with ASD, and Beth Broderick, who portrays her mother, is doing her best. Even while her career, personal life, and relationships take a toll, the movie manages to avoid a melodramatic, formulaic conclusion… However, there will be no spoilers in this post.
Rickards’ portrayal of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD) was widely praised.
4. Jack of the Red Hearts
Aside from “Fly Away,” which Grillo also co-wrote, produced and directed, her inclusion on this list is hardly surprising. Still dealing with ASD, “Jack of the Red Hearts” goes in a more dramatic route.As a fictional drama about a tough runaway who talks her way into working with an 11-year-old autistic kid, the film itself is fairly predictably told, with its standard theme of redemption and warm acceptance. However, Taylor Richardson’s portrayal of Glory, a part she plays exceptionally well, has several moments shot from her character’s perspective.
New TV shows featuring characters with autism are becoming increasingly common. However, “Atypical,” one of these shows, has been attacked for its sometimes insensitive and sometimes poor treatment of this character. “Atypical,” on the other hand, addresses the issues of being a hormone-laden teen and dealing with the obstacles of growing up and dating while on the spectrum in a way that many depictions of autism do not.
There are some overtly ridiculous actions attributed to the show’s protagonist Sam (Keir Gilchrist), but the situations he and his family find themselves in are usually more familiar and subtle. A much like dating in real life, the way Sam’s obsessions affect his romantic life is both truthful and unsettling.
6. Temple Grandin
Real-life animal science professor Temple Grandin, played by Claire Danes, is brought to life in her portrayal by Danes, who gives a level of authenticity to her performance.
As the lead actress, Danes received an Emmy for her performance, and a new generation of viewers heard about how Grandin overcame the odds to become both a renowned professional in her industry and a respected advocate for autism.
7. The Bridge
‘The Bridge,’ a dark and melancholy Scandinavian murder mystery, has been remade in nations like the United States and Russia and is now popular around the world.
When crimes are committed across national boundaries, two detectives from different nations are required to work together to solve the case. As a result, the female protagonist is played by a person with high-functioning autism in each of its adaptations.
Like many shows with main characters who have Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD), this one doesn’t make the disorder itself a central point of discussion, but rather shows how the character’s qualities and actions influence their interactions with others and their ability to assess a situation. Because the character is autistic, it’s not just that they have a lot of oddities to explain away.