Autistics On «Extraordinary Attorney Woo» avatar
ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (雪亮 | 스노 | Yuki)
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Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우) was a Korean TV drama with an autistic person as the lead character and central to the story. It depicted the challenges and prejudices faced by an autistic in Korea, in particular a lawyer.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우) was generally received by real-life autistic persons. The show and the team, in particular the lead actor Park Eun Bin (박은빈), positive reactions from both autistics and neurotypicals. I am autistic myself and my opinions about the show only represents my own, this prompted me to contact autistic people and asked them some of questions about the show and autism.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우): An autistic person in a sea of neurotypicals.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우)

An autistic person in a sea of neurotypicals.

The work shown above is Copyrighted to AStory.

Portrayal of autistic persons was never good. For decades autistic characters were portrayed with stereotypical traits and quirks, and usually depicted in a negative way. I asked fellow autistic persons about it.

Before watching ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’, what was your opinion on films and dramas based on autism, as well as, the portrayal of autistics / persons with autism?
Often very stereotypical perpetuating only one or two “varieties” of autism, mostly involving white male character and often geniuses or the other extreme of autistic people who cannot live by themselves and have high support needs in managing every day life.

wanderingFranzi

Stereotypical. It was often white men.

Autistic A

Autistic characters have been portrayed with stereotypical behaviors and made to look a bad behavior.

Evelyn

It’s stereotypical, it’s offensive.

Autistic B

Uneducated.

Lawrence

Autistics agree and so do I.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 the highest, I asked them …

In general, how well did ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ explained autism, as well as, in putting to the light the challenges autistic people face daily?

Autistic A, Evelyn, wanderingFranzi, all gave a rating of four (4). Lawrence gave a rating of three (3), while Autistic B a rating of two (2).

Next, let’s talk about the romance between Woo Young Woo and Lee Joon Ho.

There were viewers who reacted negatively when Woo Young Woo said she had no idea they were already dating. As an autistic man / autistic woman, can you explain more about it?

Autistic people often struggle with things that go unsaid, like when you move from being friends to dating, or from dating to being in a relationship. These things are often assumed. An autistic person might just miss these signs and not notice. We need these things to be said.

Personally I would have been different from WYW. I would have noticed we are dating, but I would have worried a lot about what everything he does means and I would have been worried to read too much into it, to think he likes me when he does not or vice versa. I would have been scared to make mistakes, to show too much affection and scare him off, or to seem indifferent … I personally, like WYW like things to be clear and said out loud, so there can be no ambiguity or misunderstanding about what people mean.

wanderingFranzi

As an autistic girl, I ask what our relationship is. Are we friends or colleagues? What am I to you? Do you see me as a woman? I would say I like you as a friend or as a man. I don’t want to guess. I don’t want to look like an idiot when he sees me only as a little sister.

Evelyn

We want to make things clear. If no relationship is defined, then no relationship exists. We don’t want to assume just to find out later that our assumptions were wrong.

Lawrence

I don’t know why there were people who reacted negatively to it. Isn’t it rude to assume you’re dating? It is pathetic. Woo Young-woo did the right thing for not assuming they were dating. Lee Jun-ho was wrong. He understood Woo Young-woo, but still assumed they were officially dating without confirming it with Young-woo. If Wooyoung-woo wasn’t autistic, these people would point their finger at Lee Jun-ho as the bad guy, but because Young-woo is autistic they blamed her. Typical discrimination.

Autistic A

Pretty strong answer from Autistic A. In a way I agree, it is one of the stereotypes seen in other shows with an autistic character. Someone who is different gets the blame and the lack of one shifts it to gender-based blaming.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우): Sudden hugs and touching can be confusing or cause discomfort to an autistic.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우)

Sudden hugs and touching can be confusing or cause discomfort to an autistic.

The work shown above is Copyrighted to AStory.

When Woo Young Woo broke up with Lee Joon Ho and did not explain her reasons, there were viewers who said she was inconsiderate and said that she used her autism as an excuse. As an autistic man or autistic woman, what is your take on it? Did she use her autism as an excuse? Was she inconsiderate of Joon Ho’s feelings? Why or why not?
I had two neurotypical ex-girlfriends who broke up with me without explaining their reasons. Were they indifferent? No, I don’t think so. There is a reason behind their actions and we should not judge them. There are situations where men, women, autism, or neurotypicals cannot explain the reasons behind our decision.

Lawrence

I don’t think she was being inconsiderate. Quite the opposite. She thought she could not make him happy and she did not want to cause a rift between him and his sister. Those are two very considerate things. It’s this trope of heroic self-deprecation, where the character breaks up, because they don’t think they are worthy of love, although both love each other.

I think why people didn’t like it, was because it was out of character for WYW to not speak her mind and say it as it is. The problem with the show is also, that they didn’t show very many of the negative sides and maybe people don’t understand what it really feels like when you are rejected and judged and bullied by people all your life simply for who you are. It creates lack of self confidence and lack of self-worth. her decision was absolutely understandable taking together what her dad said about having been lonely with her and what she overheard the sister say.

I still think he deserved an explanation of some sorts though, but I understand if maybe she didn’t really know how to handle the situation and we know she has trouble lying and making up an excuse, if she did not want to reveal the true reason.

wanderingFranzi

If Young Woo was not born with autism and is in a similar situation, then as a girl I know she will do it again. Her autism has nothing to do with how she handled her breakup. Divorce is not easy. If you’ve experienced an easy breakup once in your life, you’ve never loved them. She broke their relationship because she likes him.

Evelyn

I totally agree with them. Not explaining the reasons for a break up is not an autistic thing, it is a relationship thing. This is the same with the previous question, the autistic person was blamed because she is autistic; if she was non-autistic, the audience would defend her decision and make Lee Joon Ho as the inconsiderate one in their relationship.

Many autistics / persons with autism expressed their satisfaction with how ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ portrayed autism properly and with respect. Do you share a similar view? Why or why not?
It’s not me. EAW was a stereotype. I have two children with autism. None of what WYW was is relatable.

Autistic B

I doubt a person is autistic if they don’t agree the portrayal was good. Autism is a spectrum! A true autistic person understands what a spectrum is. How can anyone say it was a bad representation simply because they can not see themselves in Attorney Woo Young Woo?

Autistic A

There is no way to portray autism properly. There are too many ways to be autistic. I thought they did a decent job.

I would have liked for them to include a few more things, specifically more on the topic of double empathy and stuff about exhaustion after social interactions and stressful situations and how to recharge. I feel like this is a very universal thing about autism and navigating the neurotypical society, that it drains you and you need to do things to recover.

I was personally a bit disappointed they again went with the genius autistic person stereotype. It is such a small percentage of autistic people who are like that.

wanderingFranzi

We are often told that “no two autistics are the same,” and this is true. Young Woo is just one of the many autistic children in the world. Yes, autism has been described appropriately and respectfully.

Evelyn

It wasn’t perfect, I don’t think it’s possible to have a perfect representation of autism, it’s a spectrum. The portrayal of the actress was respectful when she didn’t exaggerate her performance. In the past, actors exaggerated the performance of autistic characters, but did not do research. Park Eun Bin did a good job and showed respect.

Lawrence

What is your message to everyone who is non-autistic or non-PWA?
There are a lot of people around you who have autism. Boys have the highest number of autistics, but that doesn’t mean autism is rare in girls. We women are better at masking than men. It’s harder for us to be autistic than it is for boys.

Evelyn

There are as many ways to be autistic as there are autistic people. WYW is only one of them. A lot of problems autistic people face in everyday life are communication differences and it is often assumed, that autistics should just learn how to behave like neurotypicals. But communication goes both ways. The effort should not only be made by autistics, but by both sides. We’re all people, we should all respect each other and listen to each other.

wanderingFranzi

Don’t believe everything you see in reality. I and my two children are autistic, but attorney Woo was stereotypical. We don’t walk like her. We don’t talk like her. We don’t introduce ourselves the way she does. There are millions of autistic people in the world, but fictional autistic characters are always stereotypes.

Autistic B

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우): Autistic Attorney Woo Young Woo's way of expressing her disagreement on the sudden change of an ingredient.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우)

Autistic Attorney Woo Young Woo’s way of expressing her disagreement on the sudden change of an ingredient.

The work shown above is Copyrighted to AStory.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우) is about an autistic woman’s growth as she navigates on her own—for the first time—a world with prejudice about autism. However, an integral part of the story are the legal cases.

What can you say about the cases Attorney Woo Young Woo, and friends, handled throughout the series? Were the cases refreshing to see on TV? Were there anything you think they should have done differently?
I heard that the incidents were based on true cases in Korea. I usually watch dramas with fictional court cases, but it’s “refreshing” to watch actual cases. I can’t think of anything else they should have done. They inserted Woo Young-woo, an autistic attorney, into these actual cases. I don’t know if there’s anything better than that.

Lawrence

Typical cases. I hope there was a controversial case to put to the test WYW’s autism. There’s more about autism than they used in EAW.

Autistic B

I thought there was too much emphasis on the cases, because it didn’t leave enough time for character development for the main characters. They were trying to do too much (autism, romance, cases, sidestories for all the other lawyers, the story with the mum …) and ended up not doing any of these things properly. They should have drastically reduced the cases and focused only on a few that were helpful for the actual story.

wanderingFranzi

Check out my A Brilliant Young Mind review and «Innocent Witness» review.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우): … and they lived happily ever after?

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우)

… and they lived happily ever after?

The work shown above is Copyrighted to AStory.

Overall, what is your message to the writer, director, the actors, and the entire staff of ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’?

My biggest issue with this show is that you didn’t involve any actually autistic people in the making of it. I find this very disrespectful. You make a show about autistic people and don’t even have the decency to talk to them or even just one directly? That’s like white actors and writers and directors making a show about black people without involving black people to consult about the portrayal, without involving them in the acting, but only talking to other white people, who have previously studied black people.

I am not saying the portrayal was wrong or that it would have massively changed the story, but who knows better about autism than an autistic person? Even if it is “just” their autism and not representative of all autistics? Surely that means you have to talk to at least several autistics rather than none at all??

wanderingFranzi

The director and screenwriter should have consulted autistic people. Psychologists who are not autistic cannot give a big picture or accurate advice about autistic characters or the difficulties we face in the world. Experts’ observations only see what the autistic person shows externally, but the autistic person can relay what happens internally and privately that experts will never understand.

Lawrence

Extraordinary Attorney Woo was a good entertainment show, but it fell short as WYW was stereotypical. A character like her cannot represent autism. She is a minority in the autistic population.

Autistic B

First of all, you did a good job. It was a good drama and a lot of people were educated about autism. Introduce another regular autistic character next season. The new autism attorney could be Young Woo’s junior. Introducing an autistic prosecutor is also an exciting plot twist in season 2.

Autistic A

Thank you very much for choosing a female character and not a typical autistic male.

Evelyn

Thank you to everyone who responded and participated!


・ Cover image: The cover image used in this article is Copyrighted to AStory.

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ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (Yuki ・ 雪亮)If this is not the end of oblivion, then I shall live everyday as if my life were to end this very day.

The YOOki (柳紀 ・ 유 기) Chronicles

The YOOki (柳紀 ・ 유 기) Chronicles is ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (Yuki ・ 雪亮)’s return into casual and personal blogging. The name “YOOki” is a mash-up of the acronym of YourOnly.One and my nickname ᜌᜓᜃᜒ (Yuki ・ 雪亮).

Interestingly, according to Chinese legend, 「柳」 (YOO) is an ancient Chinese surname. The ancestors of the surname were closely linked with the ancient sage-king named Yu Shun. In Korea, the 「유」 (YOO) lineage traces to the Xia, Han, and Joseon dynasties. Holders of the surname Yu or Yoo had a reputation for charity and diligence.1

It is also the word for “willow” or the “willow tree” which means graceful or slender; and a tree growing near a body of water which provide continuous nourishment and resources for everyone. It can also mean to exist, an oil (anointment(?)), and simply as “U” (you).

The hanzi 「紀」 (ki) character means to record, be disciplined, provide order. While the hangul equivalent, 「기」 (ki; gi), means energy, spirit, a banner, and a period of time; and is also a suffix used to make a gerund or an infinitive.

Can you guess what I mean by 「柳紀」 and 「유 기」 as the Chinese and Korean for “YOOki”?

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