On Netflix

Netflix Original “Atypical” — Hilarious, But Flawed

Initially, I was drawn to the Netflix original series “Atypical” more because it was a show that appeared to be about teenagers and family life than because of its actual premise.

It’s about an autistic teen who decides he wants to start dating. So, knowing relatively little about autism myself, I expected I would learn more about it and be rather entertained by the character dynamic of the show. What I didn’t expect was some serious hilarity that, unfortunately, was often rooted in a fairly messed-up view of the world.

Catholic-perspective review on Netflix Original series "Atypical."

High Points

As I said, hilarious. Not non-stop laughs like a typical sitcom (this show is actually a strange hybrid of sitcom and dramedy, with most of the episodes coming in at just over thirty minutes…), but fairly frequent dry humor so hilarious I’d wake my sleep-nursing baby with my laughter if I didn’t exercise extreme will power while watching.

The characters were well-developed and enjoyable, with several interesting side characters, including a blunt but mostly level-headed sister, a bizarre best friend, and some parents that I occasionally wanted to smack.

I also do appreciate a show that takes a good, pro-life look at individuals with special needs and illustrates that, oh look, they’re real people just like me. So that’s another plus for this one.

This show does also have, over all, a fairly positive look at family life, at the necessity of being able to count on one’s family, good stuff like that.

All great, except…

The Sexual Issues

Why must the well-done, hilarious shows all be so flawed when it comes to sexual morality? I mean, I’ve come to expect a certain level of that as typical (no pun intended on the show’s name), but this series was rather blatant in its fundamentally flawed view point.

So the autistic teen, Sam, wants to date. Super. But that means he also wants to have sex. The family is not portrayed as religious or anything, so I suppose you do have to expect that.

But it was very much an underlying philosophy in this show that premarital sex is what’s normal and typical. So much so that, as it became Sam’s goal, the viewer is made to root for him to achieve it. We want him to be able to live a normal life, after all. So shouldn’t we want him to hook up with someone?

No, we as Catholics obviously know that we should not.

It’s actually kind of strange, because on the one hand, Sam is seeking a premarital sexual relationship to become like a normal kid. But on the other hand, there are side characters whose experience is rather the opposite: an adult having an extramarital affair and becoming absolutely guilt-ridden over it, and another teenager who uses sex to try and fill a void caused by a painful secret she discovers about a parent.

Actually, that second instance with the teenager trying to fill a void was one of the more poignant depictions of such subject matter that I’ve seen. Especially since it was pretty obvious to the viewer why she was deciding to sleep with her boyfriend, and it was even more obvious that it was a terrible choice. So here, for once, we were actually made to root against a character having premarital sex.

But, it’s a shame that that one element was mixed and muddied with a lot crude, pro-sexual-immorality content.

So, do I recommend it?

Perhaps with a lot of caution.

Despite its positive elements, this show does have a few sex scenes (mostly not very graphic, though we did fast-forward most of them so I can’t vouch for the exact level of graphic-ness), and a lot of sexual dialogue. Typically, I tend to think sexual dialogue is not that big of deal, but this was really quite a bit and I think was probably the biggest cautionary element to the show.

I think, because the show did have some really good aspects to it, even just a bit less of the sexual material would be enough for me to have given it a thumbs up. But unfortunately, all those high points had to be somewhat buried under a slew of crudity.

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