Global awareness of autism has skyrocketed since the 1980s, and popular culture has caught on, with film and television producers developing ever more material featuring autistic characters. Autism in Film and Television brings together more than a dozen essays on depictions of autism, exploring how autistic characters are signified in media and how the reception of these characters informs societal understandings of autism.
Editors Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer have assembled a pioneering examination of autism’s portrayal in film and television. Contributors consider the various means by which autism has been expressed in films such as Phantom Thread, Mercury Rising, and Life Animated and in television and streaming programs including Atypical, Stranger Things, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Community. Across media, the figure of the brilliant, accomplished, and “quirky” autist has proven especially appealing. Film and television have thus staked out a progressive position on neurodiversity by insisting on screen time for autism but have done so while frequently ignoring the true diversity of autistic experience. As a result, this volume is a welcome celebration of nonjudgmental approaches to disability, albeit one that is still freighted with stereotypes and elisions.
Murray Pomerance is an adjunct professor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Melbourne, and author or editor of dozens of books, including Virtuoso: Film Performance and the Actor’s Magic and The Many Cinemas of Michael Curtiz.
R. Barton Palmer is an independent scholar and formerly Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University, where he was the founding director of the World Cinema program. He has coedited multiple volumes, including Cycles, Sequels, Spin-offs, Remakes, and Reboots: Multiplicities in Film and Television.