Autistic Characters

I’ve started collecting shows that depict main characters with autism/asperger’s, without resorting to awkward cardboard stereotypes. I’m only recommending shows where I’ve seen at least a handful of episodes. Each show here confirms onscreen or off (in interviews) that the character(s) are autistic.

The Code (AUS)

The main characters here are a pair of brothers. One of the brothers, Jesse, is an autistic computer hacker. It sounds like a stereotype, but I think they managed to not fall into a trope by actually showing the difficulties he has with the world, while also not making it seem like he’s an utter failure. And throughout the show, he grows as a person and has his own successes, which are not framed as inspirational.

I’ve watched this one twice. There are only 6 episodes per season (but they’re a full hour long), and the second season is currently on-air (in Australia, I haven’t seen any of it). It’s very “edge of your seat”, and a little confusing (esp for an American who didn’t really know anything about Australian politics). This is probably my favorite show on this list.

Edit: I have since watched the second season, and it was just as good.

The Bridge (Danish/Swedish, but also the US version)

The main character here is a female detective, Saga Norén. Apparently the show producers don’t want to label her, but it’s so obvious from watching that googling “Saga Noren autism” gets a number of results like Saga Noren, the Autistic Superwoman Of ‘The Bridge’, and How The Bridge’s heroine became a role model for women with autism.

There are 3 seasons, though I’ve only watched 1 and half the second – but I do want to go back and finish it eventually. (I’ll admit that I couldn’t really get into the US version, but Sonya (Saga’s American counterpart) is portrayed as autistic here too)

Allegiance (US)

The main character is a young man working as a CIA analyst. He’s never called autistic on screen, but the actor clearly states that the character is autistic (interview). There are enough hints in the character and portrayal (he stims, for example), and in how the other characters interact with him. There’s even an Autism Speaks puzzle piece as set dressing in the parents’ home, which politics aside, was a clear confirmation to me. I actually think this was really natural – it would feel forced to have a “coming out” scene.

It’s a show about spies & a plot to cause mass destruction, not too much characterization. It’s not really memorable, but an enjoyable watch for the 1 season it ran.

Atypical (US)

Didn’t watch season 1, only seasons 2 & 3. I got enough background from the pre-episode recaps to recommend this, sounds like s1 was a weird trash fire.

A comedy/drama about an autistic teenager, Sam, and his family (sister, mom, & dad). No one’s one-dimensional, the whole family has a life outside the house, their own storylines, etc. His parents are separated at the start of s2, and initially I was annoyed at the “broken home” thing since it’s such a stereotype that autistic kids will lead to divorce, but I think they did a good job showing that it was just… relationship stuff & Elsa’s behavior.

There are things I didn’t like about it— it does still kind of lean into “isn’t this autistic thing weird!” for comedy, for one. There are also a few storylines I would like to see more of, or done slightly differently. But overall, I’d recommend it for something fun to watch (esp for the queer storyline with Casey, Sam’s sister).

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (US)

This show has another autistic high schooler & family, but the “twist” here is that two sisters were left in the care of their half-brother, who is a walking human disaster. The drama here is pretty low stakes, it’s absolutely more about the comedy — and it’s hysterical. Everyone is awkward, always, but in relatable/funny ways.

Like Atypical, there’s a “going to college” plotline. Matilda (the older sister, autistic) is hoping to go away to college, and needs to prepare for that change. Also like Atypical, rather than connect with other autistic college students, they have to figure it out for themselves. I just wish both Matilda & Sam could be shown some coping mechanisms, or something.

Strange Empire (CA)

There are a handful of main characters (almost all women). The show takes place before ASD was a diagnosis, so it’s never really said onscreen, but one of the characters (Rebecca) is autistic. She was previously institutionalized, and her early storyline is a little… strange, but this is another show that manages both the difficulties and unique view that being autistic brings her character.

Once again, a show cancelled after 1 season. I think I never finished this, but it is enjoyable.