In recent years, the representation of Autism Spectrum Disorders has become more prevalent. While not all of the representations include characters that have been explicitly diagnosed on their respective programs, the discussion of these characters’ attributes has continued. Much like autism itself, opinions on characters with Asperger’s tendencies lie on spectrum. Whether it’s the debate about whether the Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon is a character to be embraced by the Aspie community or an over-the-top parody, the emotional moments associated with the daily struggles of Parenthood’s Max, or the pop culture obsessed Abed from Community, there is no prevailing consensus on the right way to portray people on the autism spectrum.
While Sheldon might have the most attention in popular culture due to the massive success of Big Bang, Max is widely heralded as the most well researched portrayal of Asperger’s. While, the earnestness to have Max’s disorder accepted by his peers might sometimes verge on after-school-special territory, the intent to have people become more understanding of the disorder is still admirable. Abed is a departure from the stereotypical portrayal of the math and science nerd, with his extensive knowledge coming from pop culture.
When it comes to comedy, it feels as though the portrayal of these characters still largely remains in the “laughing at” not “laughing with” territory. When researching television portrayals of Asperger’s and other spectrum disorders, there was one character in comedy that seemed to resonate with the Aspie community – Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. Likable, brilliant, and hilarious in his own right, IT worker Moss embraces his “weird” and appreciates his difference. He is not the butt of the joke, but rather a part of the joke.
In this clip, Moss and Roy (his coworker) attend a soccer match with a group of “normal big men,” but become very bored very quickly. In frustration, Moss says he does not want to do anything else with these men but “go back to being weird.” He is unapologetic for his quirks and knows that it is part of what makes him special – well, that and his sweet style.