Atypical: Netflix’s Reminder of How Typical it is to Feel Atypical

As college students, we have a lot of responsibilities and time commitments to juggle, academics, extracurriculars, our social lives, and of course, time for ourselves.  Sometimes in the midst of all these obligations, it is easy to forget about the last one, but we must realize that we cannot work productively and function healthily without a break every now and then to recharge with a bit of “me time,” which is rendered incomplete without a good Netflix show or movie.  If you are currently looking for a new Netflix original to binge, if you, like me, are a sucker for heartfelt, coming of age comedies, Atypical is right up your alley.  (Disclaimer: if you have not yet seen the newly released third season and are planning to, there are spoilers coming up).

 

Atypical is one of the most important shows of the 21st century.  Even though it is primarily targeted towards teens and young adults, its premise consists of issues that concern all age groups. The characters are like most of us and our families, two working parents with two children living in a suburban town.  The show deals with heavy topics that are all too common but often stigmatized, including disability, the dark side of family dynamics, the ups and downs of friendships and romantic relationships, academic struggles, and general, human feelings of isolation.  

For example, last Sunday morning, as I was procrastinating studying for my psychology quiz, I was curled up in my bed crying while watching one episode.  In this episode, Paige reveals that the pressures of making new friends and keeping up with her academics quickly became too much for her to handle, causing her to drop out of college and leaving her with painful feelings of loneliness and failure.  

 

This scene resonated with me for two reasons.  First of all, as a college freshman myself, I felt compassion for other college freshmen.  Even though Paige is a fictional character, the adversity of her first semester in college she describes is unfortunately real.  I felt compassion for my three cousins who all transferred schools after their freshman year because they felt out of place. No matter how it may appear on social media, no matter how many pictures of your high school friends partying in college present themselves in your feed, starting college inevitably comes with certain hardships that people are often hesitant to admit.  

Second of all, I began to remember how lucky I am as a college freshman to be at a school I really like, to enjoy my classes and to have already started to make close friends. Whenever I have negative thoughts, whenever I think about how overwhelmed I am about the workload of my classes or whenever I start feeling a little bit homesick, I quickly snap out of it by reminding myself of how fortunate I am, how there are people so much worse off.  How my struggles are not even close to the extent of those encountered by Paige, my cousins, and so many other college freshman, who feel so miserable to the point where they want to leave.

Shows like Atypical that provoke this strong emotion and self-reflection are essential. While we may not always realize it, we frequently use TV and the media to separate ourselves. We frequently hold those we see on screen in an unrealistic light that makes us feel inferior or different from them.  However, the truth is that we are all the same, and we are all connected by the experiences we share, both positive and negative. Atypical has reinforced this idea for me; since the show addresses such a wide range of issues, you will be able to relate to at least one of them on some level.  And you will realize that you are not, in fact, so atypical.