While a character like Max Braverman from Parenthood was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, as part of a storyline on the drama, most TV characters who are probably autistic have not been recognized. Over the past ten years or so, there have been several TV shows that depict autism or have characters with Asperger's. Some of these fictional characters on the spectrum will seem pretty obvious, while others may surprise you.
Some of the defining characteristics of Asperger’s include: obsession with odd things or unusual topics, limited social ability, the need for a set routine, robotic speech, an inability to make eye contact, awkward mannerisms, the inability to pick up on social cues, and the inability to detect sarcasm. Different people who are on the spectrum will display different traits. Do any of these symptoms remind you of your favorite television character?
Is it weird that Abed from Community uses his insane knowledge of pop culture as a means to communicate? Is it odd that Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black nearly loses her mind during the prison riot because her daily routine gets totally out of whack? Ever wonder why Sherlock Holmes does not have any friends?
Check out these fascinating TV characters on the spectrum. While it’s true that their creators may not have officially announced their diagnosis, there’s at least enough evidence to make a strong case. Did we miss any of your favorite fictional characters on the spectrum? Let us know in the comments section.
Dr. Virginia DixonPhoto: ABC
Dr. Virginia Dixon is a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon at Seattle Grace Hospital on the long-running series Grey's Anatomy. According to some sources, Dixon was explicitly written as a character with Asperger's; however, the show's portrayal of the disorder stirred up some controversy.
Dixon is portrayed as skilled, certainly, but also as completely lacking in empathy. As one expert notes, an Asperger's diagnosis does not mean someone is totally unaware of grief and pain.
- Photo: ABC
Brick Heck is the youngest child on the sitcom The Middle. It's never officially revealed on the show that Brick is on the spectrum. However, he exhibits several signs of a young boy with high functioning Asperger's. Brick does not have a lot of friends and can typically be found reading by himself. He also has a photographic memory.
- Photo: CBS
Dr. Spencer Reid is from the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds. He is a genius with a 187 IQ and can read 20,000 words per minute. Although Dr. Reid has never been officially diagnosed on Criminal Minds, he does exhibit several characteristics of Asperger's. In fact, the actor who portrays him, Matthew Gray Gubler, describes him as having the disorder.
However, as many experts have pointed out, the way the show portrays Asperger's isn't necessarily accurate. It pushes Reid's extreme intelligence, and skips over the other characteristics of Asperger's.
Sonya CrossPhoto: FX
Sonya Cross is a detective with an odd personality on the FX drama The Bridge. The show itself never directly comes out and says that Cross has Asperger's, but the show's press notes state that the detective is on the spectrum.
Actress Diane Kruger discussed how the condition both helped and hurt her detective character:
"Yes, she has a condition [with] so many shortcomings in her personal life that appear because of that condition. Yet, she is so different in her job because she has this ability to focus and really look at things from a different point of view.”
Kruger was able to reach out to Autism Speaks. The research organization arranged for a man afflicted with Asperger's to consult with the actress while filming. "I’ve spent - I’m not kidding - more time with him in the past four months than I have with my partner and friends," Kruger said. "I sleep easier at night knowing that he watches over everything I do."