Parenthood: Aspergers From the Outside
Max Burkholder in Parenthood.
This week's episode of Parenthood both moved and irritated me. Again. If you follow the show, please watch the episode before reading further because I am going to completely spoil the ending.
Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew's Therapist: Good advice, okay television
There is no character on television I find more annoying than Dax Shepard as Crosby. Even if I did not already despise him for his constant efforts to be cute and his resemblance to Goofy, I would hate him after last night's episode. Not because he slept with little Max's therapist, but because he referred to her as his babysitter. That stung. This idiot hasn't bothered to learn a damn thing about his nephew's Aspergers. I tend to agree with the character who told him this week that he doesn't deserve anything good, ever.
Monica Potter's Kristina might be the second-most annoying character on TV, but she was actually fine in this episode. She wasn't the one who screamed that Max had Aspergers, letting the little guy in on the big secret-- that was her husband Adam.
I hate this plot development, although I hope that it will have positive results for the show. The decision of when and how to share an autism diagnosis with a child is a very tough one. I would have liked to see making that decision be part of the Bravermans' story. Having it come out by accident is dramatic, but it's also a cheat.
Still, I am hoping that it will allow us, finally, to look at Max's autism from the inside-out. Too often he is looked at only as an obstacle. We see his tantrums, but we never see the pain that causes them. We are often asked to empathize with his parents, but rarely with him.
I don't see how they can have a storyline about explaining Aspergers and autism to Max without trying to offer us some look into his inner world. But I bet they'll figure out a way. I think Parenthood does a great service by letting people see a little bit about what it's like to be the parent of a kid with autism-- that it is hard every day but that it is not a death sentence.
I wish, though, that they went that step further and tried to let people see a little bit what it's like to be a kid who has Aspergers. How did Max feel about losing his therapist? Was he aware of what those feelings were? How did he externalize them? All I saw was a tantrum that looked like the tantrum he has every week to remind us that autism is a really big deal.
Let Max be more than a diagnosis and dilemma. Let him be a person.