Parents of children who have forms of autism praise Parenthood’s depiction of a family with a child who has Asperger’s. This success is due to the significant level of research and personal experience incorporated into the show’s production, unlike another popular network show, Glee, which has failed to contact any wheelchair users for their portrayal of a teen who uses a wheelchair, to much criticism. Parenthood has worked extensively with “experts” in the field of autism research, and as showcased in the clip, the actor who plays Max works with doctors to understand the ways in which Max might respond to particular situations. The character is also informed by the producer’s experience raising a son with Asperger’s. In addition, NBC maintains a weekly blog, “The Experts Speak,” wherein doctors and researchers comment on each episode and provide parenting advice for families with children on the spectrum.
While this level of detail, research and personal experience contributes to a more complex representation than what is found on most primetime television, the narrative still maintains an inherently abelist visuality in its depiction of autism. The narrative of the show focuses on the way that Max's Asperger's affects his parents as they struggle to understand Max's behavior and face larger fears about Max’s future as a normative member of society. The abelist narrative of the show marginalizes the “abnormal” viewpoint of Max in favor of the normative viewpoint of his parents. Therefore, it is not surprising that neurotypical parents publicly praise the show for its representation of Asperger’s, as the show exclusively caters to their perspective.
The third episode of the series opened with the only scene that has been from Max's perspective. This scene depicted Max experiencing a sensory overload, and contained heightened sound effects with dramatic tension-building music to help visualize Max's perspective for the audience. While the scene was brief, it was effective in that it invited the viewer to consider Max's viewpoint, but as the scene depicted Max in a state of crisis it could potentially exoticise Max's abnormalities instead of fostering a recognition of his experience.
It will be interesting to see if the producers return to Max's perspective in future episodes, and if they work with teenagers with Asperger's, instead of continuing to rely on "expert" doctors and researchers.