Note: This review might have some spoilers. But this review won’t affect your viewing experience negatively.
A good TV show can touch different kinds of audiences in different ways. Achieving that impact is much harder when the core subject of the show involves a less known disability like autism. Of course, if you’re well-read, you’ll know it already. But a large majority of the TV-watching audience might not be so aware.
I was not really sure about the meaning of “autism” before I started writing this post. I thought it was some sort of developmental defect that leads to the social maladjustment of children. But then, I realised it is a disorder that is yet to be understood completely by the medical community.
The CDC describes autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as follows:
- People with ASD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
- There is often nothing about how they look that sets them apart from other people.
- The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversation skills, whereas others may be nonverbal.
- Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others can work and live with little to no support.
There are so many other details and nuances. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
“As We See It” is a TV show on Amazon Prime. It has eight episodes (and just one season). It deals with three autistic adults — Jack, Violet and Harrison. It is very interesting to know that the three lead characters are played by actors who identify themselves as autistic in real life.
Jack is brought up by a single father who’s got cancer. His father is deeply concerned about his son’s life after his death. Jack’s father helps him pay bills, bails him out of credit card debt and pays for his expenses that aren’t covered by Jack’s paycheck.
Harrison is from a well-to-do family, but they’re almost tired of handling his condition. They want to pawn him off to someone and carry on with their own lives in a different state. Harrison is attached to his sister, but she is on her way to college (which means that Harrison is at the mercy of his paid caregiver).
Violet is taken care of by Van, her brother and sole surviving family member. She is very eager to lead a normal life, get laid and have a boyfriend like every other woman of her age. Jack’s personal life is strained by his sister’s condition as he struggles to maintain a wall between his role as a brother and an independent man.
But Mandy, the caregiver for the three autistic adults, is the story’s fulcrum. She cares deeply about these three special people in her life. Her dream of getting into medical school clashes with her deep connection with her clients.
Her attachment to Jack, Violet and Harrison forces her to make choices that a rational person would’ve avoided. She chooses to pass over a promising internship at UCSD and postpone her MCATs. These choices made by Mandy disappoint her career-oriented boyfriend.
The show has multiple sub-stories and minor characters within it. All of them fit into the narrative and enrich the core story. Probably, I should skip it for the sake of brevity.
The development of the characters, the unravelling of the knots and the depth of the inter-relationships between characters make the show interesting to watch. The intensity of the acting is probably more real because the actors are autistic in real life. However, the show’s makers deserve credit for the brilliant storyline and camera work.
Why The Show Is Memorable For Me
Everyone interprets art in their own way. Some of the critics say that the portrayal of autistic people was imperfect. They claim that the show doesn’t prescribe the right solutions (so on and so forth). I don’t want to downplay the importance of these comments. But I must admit that I am ill-equipped to make any intelligent comments on the issues related to autistic community.
People remember a TV show due to something that hits them on a personal level. For me, it was the feeling of “not being wanted.” My favourite character from this show is Jack. He finds it hard to read social signals and come up with socially acceptable responses to events in his daily life.
Despite being gifted, Jack is way too straightforward. His poor EQ prevents him from being a normal son, colleague and lover. His struggles and personality were similar to mine. That doesn’t mean I am autistic. But I’ve struggled with these things.
The disappointment of not being accepted as I am is something that I would share with Jack. Jack’s relationship with his father left me in a state of envy. The fact that I had no real connection with my father resurfaced as I watched the show.
But there’s also a very warm feeling when you know that these characters who struggle can also endure it. Their resilience makes you believe that you too can do it.
The help that Jack, Violet and Harrison receive from people around makes you feel that humanity is still around. It tells the viewer that humans are a unique species that can adapt and care for each other. Mandy is perhaps the epitome of human kindness. I’ve come across people like her as well. I was left with a warm hug at the end of the show.
The show opened a new horizon for me as a person and a connoisseur of art. If not for the suggestion by a very interesting person I met on Hinge, I would not have watched this show.
So, I am sorta grateful for this person for having introduced this show to me. And now, it is my responsibility to pay it forward. Highly recommend the show to anyone who has managed to reach the end of this article.