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A Surgeon with Autism? The Good Doctor Review

Shaked Sharky

Autism, defined by Dr. Andrews, a surgeon and board member at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital in the Netflix TV series ‘The Good Doctor’, is “a mental condition characterized by difficulty in communicating and using language and abstract concepts”. He then brings up the question “Does it sound like I’m describing a surgeon?”.

The “year’s biggest new TV hit” in 2017, as the Guardian describes it, is the show that has been featuring for the past couple of months in India’s Netflix top 10. It first aired on ABC Studios and as fans grew to adore this groundbreaking show, it appeared on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Netflix. The show revolves around Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, a newly employed surgical resident in San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. He is a genius diagnosed with autism and savant syndrome. Taken under the wing of his mentor and father figure Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff), also president of the hospital and someone that has known Murphey since he was 14, Murphy becomes a surgical resident at the hospital, constantly trying to live up to the expectations of his colleagues and everyone that undermines him due to his condition. Shaun will have to work harder than ever he has before as he navigates his way around making connections with those around him while demonstrating incredible medical skills that enable him to picture medical obstacles and help patients over and over again.

The show disseminates multiple issues present in everyday life, some of them being, diversity in the workplace, employment for people with autism, sexual harassment in the workplace, and many more. However, besides these issues that can be observed throughout the show, the show focuses on the characters’ personal lives as well as their adjustment in meeting the demands of their medical training as surgical residents. I found that the show also explores humor on the spectrum and how social challenges can be taken more lightly and more humorously, as they should not be looked down upon. Highmore was a perfect fit for the role, he managed to study autism before the show, understand the behavior and thought processes of people on the spectrum and act accordingly to his role. In fact, many people actually mistake him to be autistic in real life. In 2017, he even won a People’s Choice Award for his performance in the ‘Good Doctor.’ Clearly, the viewers adore the show, however, critics view the show differently. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show was 90 percent approved by viewers, which is a fairly high score. However, according to critics, the show had a low of 37 percent. Critics thought the show was overly sentimental, but it’s interesting to look at this opinion because the raw emotion and sentimentality of the show were embraced by the viewers. Overall, the producers of the show have gotten their ultimate goal; and that is to trigger the emotions of the viewers in a way that is engaging, entertaining, and sometimes dramatic.

The ‘Good Doctor’ deserves all the attention it is receiving, as raising awareness around autism and savant syndrome is crucial these days where prejudice surrounds us in our everyday lives and we are always told what we can and can’t do. For young kids or young adults watching this show, it is not only an incredible show that keeps you on your toes every episode, but it also teaches them a valuable lesson: that we can’t limit ourselves to society’s expectations of us. If Shaun Murphy believed that he wasn’t good enough, he would never go to become a genius surgeon and prove to the world that autism doesn’t define people and that if we believe something will happen and work hard for it, it will eventually happen.