A lot of people have been asking why I haven’t covered this show yet when it’s such an obviously brilliant show for representation. Honestly, it’s because I didn’t have a clue how to translate that brilliance into words. However, I shall certainly try, because this show has become my new vice.
Based on the Korean drama of the same name, The Good Doctor is an American medical drama about a young surgical resident, Dr Shaun Murphy (played by the Freddie Highmore who – if you grew up at the same time as me – probably dominated the cinema you watched) who is seeking to prove himself at his new job as a paediatric surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. That’s a pretty intense situation for anyone, more so for Shaun, who has autism and savant syndrome. Think Sherlock meets Bones.
If you’re already rolling your eyes, give me a chance to convince you of how wonderful this show truly is. This show is not based on baiting fans with an undisclosed diagnosis (I’m sorry, Big Bang Theory. I love you, but consider this a subtweet). Within the first few minutes of episode one, Shaun’s diagnosis is confirmed. Shaun’s mentor, Dr Aaron Glassman, has to fight hard to get the rest of the medical team to allow Shaun onto the program, despite Glassman being the president of the hospital, and despite Shaun being highly over-qualified in terms of knowledge. Why? Because of the intrinsic bias within the team that leads them to believe that Shaun, as an autistic doctor, will be inferior.
That’s what I love about this show; they handle the genuinely difficult things that come with being autistic. When a study in 2016 by the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and only 32% are in some kind of paid work, it’s interesting to see how viewers are reacting. There’s been a huge outcry from fans at the blatant discrimination Shaun faces in being hired, but that’s important! It’s letting the public see exactly why autistic people are painfully underemployed, and why we need to fix that as a society because – as Shaun proves – an autistic doctor is just as (sometimes more) capable as a neurotypical doctor.
Now, this is when I have a brief geek out. The Good Doctor has the thing I like most in the world – contrasting shots of neurotypical and neuroatypical views of the world. In Episode 1, Burnt Food, Shaun finds himself in an airport travelling to San Jose. This is – any autistic person will tell you – a sensory nightmare. Cue shifts from views of the lobby from the perspectives of other travellers to the experience Shaun is having of the situation. Lens flares, heightened sound, the sharpness of lights all contribute to making this a representation so realistic I was tempted to look away. But I couldn’t. The production of it was just far too good.
Already, stories are circulating the internet of The Good Doctor raising awareness of autistic spectrum conditions in real life. The normalisation of Shaun’s tics and idiosyncrasies is heart-warming, as is his co-worker Clare’s dedication to changing the way she behaves in order to engage with Shaun. I honestly cannot praise The Good Doctor highly enough. I had to pause the show midway through episode 1 to go and have a walk because I was just too excited to see a show with representation this good.
If you watch one show this Autumn, make it this one.
Stay safe, friends. x