“The A Word”

When my sister and I go to movies or watch shows, we tend to critique what we are watching (sometimes DURING the showing — something my wife hates). I love me a good thriller, comedy or action film.

But the thing I enjoy the most is being able to disconnect from the rest of the world for a little while and be entertained by actors, special effects and CGI. I like to poke fun at whatever I’m watching and point out inconsistencies and what it lacked (even if I liked it). It’s just how I am.

I don’t have a ton of free time and I don’t spend much of the free time I have watching my own shows. So shows that I actually watch are a precious time commodity to me.

All this to say, I’ve watched 2 episodes of “The ‘A’ Word” on Amazon Prime.

For those of you not familiar, it’s a fictional series that follows a 5-year-old boy and how his dysfunctional family cope with the revelation that he has autism.

I’m conflicted.

On one hand, it IS entertaining and I like being entertained on my down time. The characters are likable, and the premise is absolutely believable. I’ll laugh and cringe where appropriate and the content is definitely interesting. I want to know what happens next.

On the other hand, I find myself not wanting to emotionally invest in this show. Not because it’s a BAD show. It is actually quite good.

So why then?

Is it relatable?

Absolutely.

Too much so.

At some point, at least for me, watching it goes from “entertaining” to “work.” The emotion that the show is manipulating in its audience by the autistic boy and his family trying to make sense of autism in a neurotypical world is an emotion that has been rubbed raw already in me, just from life as an autism parent.

It’s like, we are ACTUALLY dealing with this, now. Why would I want to watch actors PRETENDING to deal with it for my own entertainment? I find myself cringing more than laughing because I know the scenarios too well.

I feel like I am OBLIGATED to emotionally invest in the well-being of this family. It doesn’t feel like fun watching them… It feels like… well, life.

Not to say that life isn’t “fun,” but being an autism parent carries a certain emotional “weight” (if that makes sense?) which I then carry into watching the show because of the content. I want to take off that “weight” when I watch shows or movies… just for a little bit. But with this show, I can’t.

I want things to work out for their family just like I want things to work out for MY family.

I want people to understand and accept Joe. I don’t want him to be bullied or ostracized. I want the parents and family to understand what autism is.

I want to connect with THEM as I have connected with so many other autism parents…

…except…

Everyone on that screen is an actor.

“Joe” isn’t an autistic boy. He’s a completely neurotypical boy acting as an autistic character. He’s pretending to be autistic… for my entertainment (and he’s adorable — a very talented actor).

In those moments, I find myself comparing “Joe” to Jojo, and I have to remind myself that it’s not worth the same emotional investment.

And while it is entertaining, I can’t poke fun at it like I would with other shows or movies. It just hits too close to home for me.

And that’s why I haven’t binge-watched it.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll finish the series and I’ll amend this post if I feel differently, but right now, I’ll say this. It’s worth watching.

Just not “fun” watching (at least for me).

Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (9) and Jonah (4) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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