I recently finished watching a show on Netflix: Extraordinary Attorney Woo. I’ve watched a few other Korean shows and movies (Squid Game and Train to Busan to name a few), and as I was looking for something new to watch, this show sounded interesting. I didn’t expect to love this show as much as I did. I have to say, I loved this show so much!
I don’t typically love legal dramas, but the synopsis of the show intrigued me. The main character, Attorney Woo Young-woo, is a newly hired lawyer who has autism, and the show does an excellent job portraying how a person with autism might experience navigating a career, relationships, and life in general.
Obviously, autism manifests itself differently and to varying degrees in different people, so it can be hard to create a show like this without falling into stereotypes.
The first portrayal I ever saw of a person with autism on t.v. was probably the movie Rain Man (1988) with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. When I was young and would tell people that I had a sister who was autistic, they would sometimes wonder if she was “super smart” or exceptionally good at math like Dustin Hoffman’s character. I would then have to explain that not everyone with autism was a savant.
These days autism is much more commonly talked about and heard about, and I’m grateful for more representation happening on shows like Attorney Woo.
In the show, Woo Young-woo is obsessed with whales, and whales kind of become an important theme. In the intro of the show, as Young-woo is crossing the street, the crosswalk sign utilizes whales instead of the more classic icons like the red “stop” hand or the “go” person. Initially I didn’t realize this was made up – I really thought the crosswalk signs in South Korea had whales icons and I thought, “that is so cute!” I was a bit disappointed once I realized the truth…
At one point in the show, Young-woo describes herself as a “narwhal in a sea of beluga whales,” because she knows she is different (not neurotypical). It made me think about how lonely that would be – to know that others view you as “different,” and to know that in many ways you really are different and may not always fit in, but to also not be able to do much about it.
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Despite Young-woo’s differences, she is an excellent attorney. In fact, her differences help make her one of the best attorneys at her firm.