Stage & Screen
A selection of recommended films, TV and series - either made by autistic creators, starring autistic actors, or about autism in general.
I have also included a few companies who proactively include, or support autistic people in their own production companies, or in other ways relating to film and media.
I won't include any films or series that portray autism in a stereotypical way, or which appear to portray autistic characters, yet not openly admit to doing so. These do nothing to increase awareness and acceptance of autistic differences. They only contribute to the already prolific, damaging and negative narratives around autism.
Having said all that... there are many other reasonably good films based around autistic characters. Although I haven't included them here, there are many worth watching, as long as you remain aware of the limitations as described above.
www.autism.org has a comprehensive list of films where autism is portrayed in one way or another - for better or for worse! You can find it here:
Any films I do mention here, must be acceptable to the wider autistic community, depicting our neurodiversity in an accurate and sensitive way. In other words, how we actually experience the world.
This means that autistic characters should, where possible, be acted by autistic people. Actresses portraying autism in women or girls must, at least, have been coached to accurately portray us, rather than the generic and stereotypical 'male traits' or more masculine characteristics, which have been traditionally been portrayed in the media.
For these reasons, sadly, there aren't many left for me to include here! There have been several films and series depicting autistic people over the past few decades. Some were simply 'of their time', meaning that there was very little awareness around this subject back then. But some are downright inappropriate portrayals of autism and some even insulting.
Much has changed, in a short space of time, when it comes to neurodiversity, meaning that what was considered acceptable or appropriate just a few years ago, is no longer the case.
The film, Rain Man, for example is no longer considered appropriate when it comes to portraying autism. However, it was made in a very different era. Nils Skudra explains this well:
"While Rain Man delivers a powerful message of understanding and personal transformation, it is also characterized by a significant number of errors in the characters’ perception of autism."
The full article is here: https://the-art-of-autism.com/a-look-back-at-the-movie-rain-man-and-how-are-views-of-autism-have-changed/
Broadly speaking, there is a desperate need for more diversity in all aspects of film and TV, not just relating to autism, but also ethnicity, culture, age range, gender identity, disability, and so on. Autistic people are all totally unique, so it is impossible to generalise autism traits. One autistic person will experience life in a very different way to another.
And finally, a plea to film and TV producers: We autistic folk aren't all white, straight, middle-class, male, robotic-sounding, English speaking and able-bodied - far from it, we come from all corners of the world and all walks of life.
Come on film and TV producers - pull your socks up - wake up and smell the neurodiverse coffee!
(And read through this website!)
Not only autism related, but still worth mentioning here.
Inclusion Films / Inclusion Networks is a "groundbreaking and one-of-a-kind channel that not only provides fresh monthly content and programming but also provides disabled filmmakers with a platform for displaying their talents, stories, and dreams. Created and produced by crews consisting of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities."
Spectrum Productions runs a social enterprise model production company that uniquely employs individuals on the Autism Spectrum in all aspects of film and media production.
My whole family have binge-watched all three available series and we personally love them. Several autistic couples are followed throughout their dating experiences, to produce a genuinely heartwarming and emotional documentary series.
Australia has two series and the US - the most recent - has one so far.
Cole says that they were inspired to create this list by Shazam/Lights Out director, David F. Sandberg's recent video 'Can You Be An Introverted Director?
Here is the link to YouTube:
Hannah is an autistic writer, actress and stand-up comedian.
She has two shows on Netflix:
She is also currently touring the world with her new show called, Body of Work.
Hannah's comedy style is unique and packs a real punch. She has a way of addressing uncomfortable, yet very important topics that others might shy away from. Please be aware that some of the subjects she raises may be triggering for some, so do research a little before you settle down to Netflix and chill with either of these films.
Find out more here:
Documented by his father, Owen Suskind demonstrates how he communicates via his love of animated Disney films.
You can watch the trailer on YouTube"
Drama & science fiction
As I haven't yet watched this film, I'm adding it here cautiously. I haven't come across any bad reviews yet and on the surface it appears OK. But watch this space!
Nathan's Kingdom is about a young autistic man (Nathan) struggling with his teenage opiate-addicted sister (Laura), and together they risk their lives to find a fictitious kingdom with the potential of changing their lives forever.
The lead actor, Jacob Lince, is autistic himself.
Film - biographical, 2010
Temple Grandin is a respected name in the world of autism advocacy and this biographical film is generally considered a good portrayal of her life. Temple is played by Clare Danes.
Based on the popular book of the same name, written by autistic author, Naoki Higashida. This highly acclaimed film explores the experiences of non-speaking autistic people around the world. Currently on my 'must watch list'.
Disney-Pixar short animated film
Another rare, yet refreshing portrayal of autism. This short Pixar film is about a bi-racial, non-verbal autistic girl, called Renee.