Representations of Autism in Popular Media: Rhetorical Disability in The Good Doctor


The Good Doctor is a medical drama about the workplace experiences of autistic savant Dr. Shaun Murphy. This program has been generally well-received by autism researchers because of its prosocial representation of an autistic person overcoming their disability. That said, many autistic people consider the program to be socially detrimental for essentially the same reason. To understand this disconnection, I interrogate disability in The Good Doctor via two lenses: (1) Foucauldian discourse analysis and (2) autoethnographic reflection. Comparing the results, I conclude that The Good Doctor, while well-intentioned, is rhetorically ambiguous because of its decision to depict a carefully controlled slice of autistic experiences. Thus, while this program may be enabling for some autistic people, the opposite may be true for others – a powerful lesson in the variety of autism manifestations.



autism representation, rhetorical disability, The Good Doctor