Love on the Spectrum

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A scene from Love on the Spectrum. (Photo: Netflix)
A scene from Love on the Spectrum. (Photo: Netflix)


Love on the Spectrum




4/5 Stars


A five-part documentary series following young adults on the autism spectrum as they explore the unpredictable world of love, dating and relationships.


I'm not the biggest fan of dating shows and I hardly ever manage to complete a full season of a series where the aim of the game is to find "the one".

It's safe to say I'm a cynic when it comes to "soul mates" and "true love". Add to that the fantasy of reality TV and you have a recipe for disaster in my opinion. 

I think I made it to episode four of Netflix's Too Hot to Handle before giving up and Love is Blind couldn't keep me hooked longer than one episode despite its outrageous selling point. 

So, when Netflix suggested I watch Love on the Spectrum I approached it with trepidation. My two main concerns were that it would be filled with "gimmicks" and that the angle of the show would be to the detriment of those whose stories are being told.

Love on the Spectrum is a five-part series that follows 11 young adults on the autism spectrum as they take on the challenges of finding love and being in relationships. I have to admit that my knowledge of autism and its various facets was sadly restricted to the limited exposure the topic has received in mainstream film and television to date - nearly nothing. 

It took but a few minutes for the show to instantly steal my heart when 25-year-old Michael from Wollongong, Australia appeared on screen. Michael's biggest dream in life is "to become a husband" one day. 

In one of the opening scenes in the first episode Michael takes the camera crew into his room, which he refers to as his "quarters" - the main place in the world where he feels "safe". 

While in his room Michael shows the camera crew his "love ducks" - two ceramic grey ducks facing each other on his bedside table. "If you are single and seeking love, sit them beside your bed and love is sure to come your way," Michael explains. He then adds: "I actually bought them from a store in Newtown six years ago."

The irony isn't lost on Michael nor the viewer and so starts an exploration of the very difficult journey that those on the spectrum have to face as they often have trouble socialising and meeting potential partners. 

Throughout the five episodes we get to meet the different cast members as they seek to find love or allow the cameras to follow them in their current relationships. In-between we meet Jodi Rogers, a relationship expert who works with those on the spectrum. Her insight isn't only valuable to the cast, but also to those watching at home.

I finished all the episodes in one evening. The show left me with a newfound understanding and compassion for those on the autism spectrum and the obstacles they have to overcome not only when it comes to dating, but life in general. I felt like the show handled the stories of each of the cast members with compassion and understanding and allowed them to tell their own stories in a way that they felt comfortable and safe. 

Sarah Kurchak, author of I Overcame My Autism And All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, provides insight on the show from the perspective of someone on the spectrum, writing in Time: "Love on the Spectrum is, by and large, seemingly well-meaning and intermittently charming. It presents a relatively benign and non-judgemental look at the romantic struggles and triumphs of a variety of different individuals on the spectrum."

She however adds her concerns, saying: "Will audiences sympathise with the subjects, or pity them? Or maybe even laugh at them?" Sarah also highlights that the demographic of the cast doesn't accurately reflect the autistic community in terms of race, gender, or sexuality.

As far as shows about dating go, I found Love on the Spectrum to be the most informative, compassionate, and honest. I definitely learnt a lot that I didn't previously know and profoundly expanded my awareness of what it means to live on the spectrum. 

I hope that we get more opportunities like this to explore love and life beyond the boundaries of what mainstream film and television offer. 


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