Do you love, hate or love to hate Parenthood?

27 Sep

****For full disclosure, I am not paid and this is not a review, just a series of opinions…****

Two seasons ago, the autism world was all (forgive the expression) “atwitter” about the new television show by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer Parenthood. The story of the Braverman family included three generations, many different back stories and we found out early in that season, a child with Aspergers syndrome.

Adam and Kristina Braverman (played by Peter Kraus and Monica Potter) are parents of a teenage daughter Paige (called Haddie and played by Sarah Ramos) and Max (played by Max Burkholder). Max’s diagnosis with Aspergers occurs early in the first season and is met with the normal mix of fear, trepidation and misunderstanding by the Braverman family.

Personally, I love Parenthood. I find Max’s portrayal of Max to be more-or-less accurate and that many of the challenges the Braverman’s face with Max’s Aspergers is common to what many of us face in real life. However, I’ve been made aware as the third season of the show approaches that there is a sizable contingent who feel differently about the character of Max and the show’s treatment of autism.

I’ve had therapists tell me that they feel the Bravermans make too many excuses for Max’s behavior and that he should be acting more appropriately in social settings. Well, that may be true to an extent, but all children with autism and Aspergers have to be taught those things and they can’t all be taught the same way. And already this season, we’ve witnessed Max respond appropriately when meeting his cousin Jabbar’s friends for the first time.

Another very common complaint I have read on message boards all over the net from people with Aspergers themselves is that the portrayal of Max is “inaccurate.” It is important to note that the production team employs a behavioral therapist who reviews all scripts including Max’s characters and makes suggestions both to the writers and Max Burkholder and his mother in order to ensure the utmost accuracy in scenes involving his character. After digging a little deeper into many of the comments online from Aspies, I found that the major reason many felt the portrayal was “inaccurate” is that it does not tell their own story. It would be impossible for the producers and writers to include every single person with Aspergers experience into the character of Max. It would also be even more inaccurate as it would then portray conflicting traits in the same character.

I’ve also commonly heard it tossed around that the show “exploits” autism and autistic children and their families. Well, I find that if you really try hard enough you can say that anyone is being exploited by anyone else. I don’t think that telling a story is necessarily exploitation. We haven’t actually put a person with Aspergers on display. This is an actor portrayal. On all sides of the coin.

I don’t intend to give a full and detailed rebuttal to all claims but to be sure, there are several differing opinions regarding Parenthood. Please be sure to watch and form your own opinions. Tuesday nights, 10 pm on NBC.

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