Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Shirley, you've got a lot of explaining to do...

I've spoken up for Jerry and Boston Legal a couple of times here. I've never, ever condoned the Asperger's Defense as an excuse for criminal behavior, whether the perpetrator is fictional or real. But I like Jerry that much, I identify with his quirks and am willing to view pretty much anything that occurs at BL as a part of the general surreality of the firm. The very implausibility of the situations the show presents is what makes it fun.
So I've given Boston Legal time off for good behavior. After all, some recent story lines have gone on to explore the discrimination and ridicule Jerry encounters and his growing acceptance of himself as a "very odd man". The strategies he has used to navigate the ultra-neurotypical world of courtroom law have been believable and poignant. Damn it, I just like Jerry.
Last night, a parole violation occurred, when Shirley, for no good reason, blurted out that Jerry's Asperger's was a mitigating factor in his earlier attack on her. The statement added nothing to the scene, in which Shirley discussed with partner Paul Lewinson the possibility of giving Espenson his job back. Yes the whole plot is ludicrous; only at Boston Legal could a person be re-hired after threatening to kill the boss. But what an opportunity the writers missed here!
Boston Legal, for all its shenanigans, sometimes does a pretty good job of whittling away some of the nonsense surrounding current issues. This would have been the place for a discussion of what it really means to use a diagnosis of autism as a legal excuse for violent behavior. This would have been so much more compatible with the recent development of Jerry's character, as well as a boost to the show's credibility. In the crucial balance between social satire and buffoonery, BL could use a little ballast on the satirical side. Instead of an argument though, Lewinson responded with a shrug.
No, I'm not giving up on Jerry. I won't boycott the show. I like his company, even as I recognize the huge flaws in his character and in the show's general understanding of AS. I do think they are trying, but they've still got a long way to go. And they are not the only ones. By which I mean, if I want to see a visible, out-of-the-closet, bona-fide Aspie, what are my other choices? If Jerry's the only one "representing", I want to see him and his colleagues doing a better job of it.


  1. Hey, write a treatment and send it in. Seriously.

  2. Hi I am a female 46 year old recently rather carefully identified as someone 'with traits of Asperger Syndrome' by my therapist. Reading on this has certainly explained much of what I have been struggling with in relationships with other people.

    I am a South African and we are a little behind in the Boston Legal series. I have been watching Jerry's story unfolding with interest and could certainly identify with the way he managed to not defend his bus driver client's rights. I truly appreciated Alan Shore's comment of him being an innocent in a very personal way. The apparent outcome of his behaviour modification in the episode was funny in a scary way. Luckily my therapist's aim seems to mainly get me to just be and not to change me in any spectacular way. Relief.

    This week I stood up for my right to be heard and reckoned at work. A large part of my decision to do this was inspired by the memory of Jerry's situation where his performance reviews mentioned that he did great work but could not be considered as partner material. My performance reviews over the past 5 years have been spectacularly traumatic with a line manager whose comments would range from: “You sigh before presentations” (first perf review – made me cry all the way home) to “Your tendency to come over as arrogant detracts from success achieved” (after managing to deliver on an impossible project with 20+ people without much support from management – hard for me – I cried again) to “I shall give you a good reference but I shall mention that you are unable to work with difficult people” . (Manager one of the main reasons to start seeing the therapist. I shall probably end up being forever thankful to her.) So this time when I felt not seen in a restructure at work, I made my position clear in the best way I was able to. Afterwards in the euphoria of being able to consciously do this and not run away, I felt I had vindicated Jerry in some small way. This was important to me. Thanks Boston Legal.

  3. Thanks for turning me on to this great series. I found the whole thing, all series and episodes, posted on YouTube. I've been watching one or two episodes every night after dinner. I'm on episode 11 of the first season. Thanks.


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