Netflix is a force to be reckoned with, there’s no doubt about that. The company first garnered fame with its mail-order DVD rental service (which is still going strong after all these years), and then launched itself to stardom when it started purchasing the rights to certain shows and networks and putting them in one place for one low fee. Thus, the binge-watching era began. Now that the streaming service is introducing more original shows, it is competing with those same networks it holds dear. In a sense, the company is profiting off highly rated television shows, and then again of its own content.
A new direction
Among the shows Netflix has launched, one of the newest ones focuses on something millions deal with around the world, but hasn’t been brought to light in any form of media. Atypical is about a boy named Sam, played by United States of Tara‘s Keir Gilchrist, who is just trying to get through high school, date girls, and grow into the young man he’s supposed to be. There’s just one obstacle for Sam – he has autism.
Sam is what we refer to as high-functioning on the autism spectrum. He comes from a family that, like many of ours, is dysfunctional, but caring. His mom just wants to shelter him, his dad wants to be closer to him, and his younger sister takes one the role as the protector. Netflix taps into this dynamic and brings forth the “normality” that comes with those teenage years for every one of us, except this time it’s a boy fighting more than just worldly demons.
Meshing entertainment with education
Throughout the first season of Atypical, we see the world mostly through Sam’s perspective. He takes the place of both the main character and the narrator so that we can get an inside look on how he perceives things and how he learns about the world around him. Except Antarctica, but you’ll have to watch the series to find out more on that.
As each episode passes, viewers notably learn more about the characters, but also about autism. We learn what it’s like to watch someone try and cope with the world they see everyday. We see different characteristics in each person that only cements our belief that Sam really isn’t all that different. Of course there is a huge comedic angle (you laugh and learn), but as each scene wraps, I felt caught putting myself in his shoes to understand his actions or responses.
Netflix’s choice speaks volumes
The show also caters to an entirely new market for the streaming service. There is now an entire new group of people who, I hope, feel more welcome in society after seeing someone like them portrayed on-screen. I grew up with many people around me who are on the spectrum, and they’re the first ones I reached out to when I saw the trailer for Atypical.
By taking on a project like this, and other shows like Dear White People, Netflix is leaning toward giving more balance to the world – in entertainment and otherwise. I sincerely hope we see Atypical come back with a second (and third, fourth, etc) season, and that we see more minority groups not only portrayed, but that we also learn something from them. We’re all human, and it’s time we accepted each other as such.