A NEW TV SHOW ABOUT AUTISM IS COMING-BUT JUST HOW INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS ARE WE?
This week I read an online article that screamed good news from the TV industry. What could it be I wondered and hastily clicked onto the article.
It said in the 300-word piece that Jason Katims had just gotten a new show picked up by a streaming service for 2020.
The show (no title as of yet) is and I quote from the article
“To get a job, keep a job, make friends, fall in love, and navigate a world that eludes them.”
The show runner Jason Katims said that the show was and again I quote directly from the article here
“It is deeply personal for me,” he said in a statement, “to get to tell this unique story of what it’s like to come of age as someone with Autism.”
He has a son on the spectrum according to the article.
The line that stuck out for me was when it said that the lead actors Rick Glassman, Sue Ann Pien, and Albert Rutecki all also identify as being on the Autism spectrum.
Firstly as an Autistic person it’s about bloody time that we took front and centre in a TV show, and are not neglected to being a token disabled character, or someone to be made fun of, or just there for the sake of it, or that they have some disability quota to fill on that particular network or streaming service.
Now, what the article neglected to tell us what how involved in the creative process these lead actors would be, are they going to be invited into the writer’s room, pitch story ideas and have a hands-on approach or will they just receive the scripts from non-disabled writers?
This is fine that this show is having Autistic actors playing the lead roles, but the collaborative process needs to be extended.
The actors themselves need to be able to share their experiences and show the US (I’m unsure if it’s coming to a streaming platform in your country) that we have a story to tell and that we want to be involved beyond the acting side, we want to be able to pitch and to write episodes, without having to describe it to an non Autistic person who then goes away and has to imagine our thought process going into a conversation or how we would be react to a situation that we would find ourselves in which could result in a meltdown occurring.
Yes, it’s great that this remake of an Israeli show is happening, but none of the articles that I have seen signal to me that we are involved beyond the acting side of things.
If this is the case, then why isn’t it happening that they bring in Autistic people that want to be camera operators, directors, writers, make-up artists, wardrobe assistants, basically Autistic people should be running this show, after all it’s about us, it’s depicting our lives, surely we should get a greater say in the creative process?
After reading an article online by Variety it appears that the creator Jason will be doing much of the writing, taking his input from his 23-year-old Autistic son.
This simply isn’t good enough (if it’s true).
A non-Autistic person cannot, I repeat cannot having any understanding of what daily life is like for an Autistic person.
Having input from your son is all well and good, but the person writing down what the son says and how he’s likely to respond to situations is coming from a non-Autistic person.
As an Autistic man, I deserve better than this.
I deserve to see and to read that a full production team are all Autistic and have come together in the creative process.
You may have gotten down to this section of the piece and wonder why does it matter?
It matters because for people not living with a disability or who don’t have a close connection with someone who is, the consequences may be hard to see. But for me and those within the disability community, it leaves us feeling we are invisible.
It matters because I have a story to tell and I want my voice to be heard and not see a second-hand version of my story on screen.
It matters because according to data compiled by Screen Australia, while we make up 18 per cent of the Australian population, we make up just 4 per cent of characters in TV dramas.
It matters because having diversity on screen benefits the authenticity of a production and the chances of a positive response from audiences. We are not a one-size-fits-all society, we are all different and diverse, and that should be represented and celebrated in what we see on screen.
It matters because I know what a difference that would have made to me growing up and trying to navigate my way in this world living with Autism if there had been more positive depictions of people with disability in the media.
I wouldn’t have struggled so much with my self-worth or confidence and would have had a range of visible role models to whom I could relate and even aspire to be.
We all have a story to tell. What people with disabilities need now is the opportunity to tell them. We need access to the necessary platforms to provide insights into our diverse disability community, educating, informing and enriching the audience with our different experiences.
We need greater opportunities for disabled writers to share their personal experience of living with a disability and the many challenges that they face in today’s society. And we need these stories to be authentic by having disabled people tell them.
From the executives, there needs to be a greater level of comfort and confidence around incorporating diversity and disability into scripts for TV shows and movies.
Diversity has the potential to generate connection and empathy and can also help shift perceptions of “otherness’ ” within the Australian disability community.
Movies and television content all have the capacity to create emotional connections, educate and highlight important views and opinions. It reflects our sense of who we are as a society and who we might be. We now need it to become a place which allows disabled people the chance to tell their stories and for our voices to be heard.
Carry On The Conversation
Do you agree with me?
Is it right that a non-Autistic person writes a show about Autistic people?
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.