Lofi hip-hop Attorney Woo
I barely find time to watch TV as my day is mostly spent at work and on personal projects. I like creating things meant to be viewed by an audience. However, a recent visit to my dentist led me to be the audience for a change.
After attending to my dental needs, he advised that I eat a tub of ice cream, which I thought would be best enjoyed while watching an online stream. I opted for “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” the hit Korean series that Inquirer columnist Anna Cristina Tuazon wrote about (“Woo to the Young to the Woo,” Safe Space, 8/11/22). Reading the views of a developmental health professional validated my own thoughts about the show and affirmed my choice of what to watch. It was worth a second tub of ice cream for episode two, even sans my dentist’s advice.
The show resonates with me as I have a loved one who is on the autism spectrum, plus I had schoolmates with autism back in high school. It is absolutely on point in portraying how profoundly aware they are that they are “different.” It takes a lot of extra effort for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to navigate social situations. They are wired in such a way that their attention focuses on certain things that most others tend to ignore. They are aware of this, but socialization is a skill that does not come naturally to them. And like a dancer with two left feet, they try too hard not to stick out but the result is exactly the opposite, and in a feedback loop, they become more conscious of their failed attempt(s) to conform and thus try even harder.
I have learned, even with people outside the spectrum, that the last thing you want to do for those who struggle at something is to remind them that they are bad at it—they probably already know and are doing their best. Instead, be patient with and kind to people who trust you enough to bare their inadequacies. Impatience and intolerance only push people to keep to themselves and decline to receive the help they need to improve.
“Attorney Woo” shows us that it is possible to create an environment where people with ASD can shine where they excel. Having good social skills, after all, is just one of many talents that a person may (or may not) possess. Their attention does not zero in on social cues because it notices other things that neurotypicals tend to miss. This facet of someone with ASD is depicted in a scene where Woo Young-woo realizes from some seemingly irrelevant trick questions about whale eggs that she and her team have a civil case and not a criminal case in their hands. As that scene intends to portray, the fixations and thought processes of those with ASD fill in gaps that ordinary people fail to see — and this is what we mean by “differently abled.” One can get too caught up in their own point of view, thinking of it as normal, that they fail to consider their blind spots. We can always use a different perspective, and fresh insight can come even from the oddest of angles. Perhaps, from someone else’s point of view, our “normal” perspective may be the one that is bizarre.
Admittedly, this understanding was not something I had before, due in part to the type of environment I grew up in where the stigma against autism was strong. It was perceived as a disease that had to be cured, misbehavior that could be corrected by strict discipline, or covered up like a dirty secret. It was not considered a trait of a unique individual, someone with a lock and key that fit right in with the rest of the functioning society. Not all people with ASD are attorneys for sure, the same way that not all neurotypicals are lawyers either. Some of them are artists, scientists, or engineers; but “normal” people do not need to have a stellar career to be visible, and neither do people on the autism spectrum have to impress us for them to matter. They deserve as much kindness and grace as everyone due to the simple fact that they are people.
The show neither writes off ASD as an impossibly pitiful condition nor as a fun little personality quirk. In the show, you get frustrated by Young-woo, impressed by Young-woo, and get to know Young-woo. It is a delight to see such a nonpatronizing, fair, and tactful representation in popular media. It provides a good snapshot for people who have never met anyone with ASD. A hit show that features a protagonist with autism and which raises awareness about ASD is a big step forward, and hopefully results in a deeper understanding, further accommodations, and social acceptance of people with autism.
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Jotham Angelo Rodriguez, 28, finished his bachelor’s degree in linguistics at UP Diliman and works as a translation editor. He is a mostly self-learned musician who makes songs for his YouTube channel after office hours and on weekends.
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