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The autistic community has been waiting a long time for books, movies, and TV shows that show us as people, rather than plot devices, and while it’s slow-going, we’re gradually moving in that direction.The change in how autism and dating are portrayed onscreen is a great start.But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to empathize with my own parents.
, Netflix’s comedy about an autistic high schooler and his family, which—despite not involving any autistic writers, producers, or consultants—does a pretty good job of showing us who its protagonist is, what he wants, and how he goes about trying to get it.Lucky for Sam, he turns out to be this person for Paige, so she’s willing to take him back when he figures out what he wants. When Sam doesn’t want to go to prom because he knows the music would be too loud and he’d experience sensory overload, Paige persuades the PTA to throw an autism-friendly prom with a silent disco theme. But the biggest problem is that Paige isn’t fleshed out at all.As far as we can tell, she’s just some manic pixie dream girl who saw Sam’s Antarctica-and-penguins-themed sketches and fell madly in love. He’s not totally unaware or uninterested in what people are doing around him. He tries to have a one-night stand with a college girl.Which brings me to Paige (Jenna Boyd), Sam’s classmate and first girlfriend.Though Sam sees Paige as a “practice girlfriend,” he likes spending time with her, enough to not kick her out of his room when she goes through his stuff, despite his obvious discomfort.
He is insular and more or less happy with it, but he wants a girlfriend, especially after his therapist, Julia (Amy Okuda), encourages him to start dating, to his mother’s chagrin.