Watching “Love On The Spectrum” Through A Physical Disability Lens

I feel like what people watch on Netflix can tell you a lot about their personality and my watch history of romantic, teenage or historical dramas (I’m so excited for the latest season of Bridgerton!) with a mix of British murder mystery and documentaries pretty much sums me up. So, when a friend told me that they watched Love On The Spectrum, I did not have that on my bingo card for them. Based on their recommendation, I decided to give it a go and let’s just say that I have a lot of thoughts about it as someone with a physical disability.

For those that haven’t heard, Love On The Spectrum is a show on Netflix that follows Autistic people on their quest to find love. There is both a US version and an Australian version. For the purpose of transparency, at the point of writing this blog article, I’ve only watched season 1 of the Australian version. This season was released in 2021, so I am a little bit late to the party. While I love love, I originally was hesitant to watch it for the fear that it would play into the stereotype of “inspirational porn”. I am happy to report that while there were a few issues, it is a feel-good tv show.

I’d like to start off this article by saying that this review is just my perspective as someone with a physical disability and therefore, are in no way, talking on behalf of Autistic people or their community. Despite the physical differences, there other differences between their community and me, for example, they prefer identify-first language (Autistic person) whereas I prefer people-first language (person with a disability). So, keep that in mind as you read my thoughts. If you’d like to learn more about the Autistic community, definitely check out the likes of Choe Hayden (who plays Quinni on Heartbreak High, an amazing Netflix show) and the work she does.

At the heart, Love On The Spectrum does a great job of raising awareness about what dating is like with a disability. It’s awkward and it’s hard to find someone who accepts you for you. I take my hat off to the cast because I can’t think of anything worse than going on a first date with fifty million cameras watching you, but also showing the world this vulnerable side of you. I think the show also does a great job of educating its viewers about autism and the struggles that Autistic people face (from my perspective). The use of experts also highlights just how little education there is for disability and dating.

As someone with a physical disability, my biggest bugbear with this show comes in how it handles inclusion. Of all the people they matched the cast with for dates, they all had Autism or in one case, at least a physical disability. Even the social events the cast attended were for Autistic people. For me, this just plays into the majority stereotype that people with disabilities only date other people who have a disability.

There is a truth in the fact that no one understands what you’re going through than people who have experienced it themselves. However, you can still be understanding and accepting even if that’s not your life. So, at the end of the day, I’m not even sure where this stereotype came from.

I think the real reason this rubs me up the wrong way is that firstly, I’m all about inclusion. People with disabilities should just be a part of our society like everyone else. Secondly, I think it’s because I’ve seen this stereotype play out firsthand. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that there are three guys who pop up regularly (haha and the two-legged kind, not ones with four legs who absolutely have my heart). Of these three guys, one uses a wheelchair. The only guy I get asked “Is there something more going on there” or “You’d look cute together” is yep, the one who uses a wheelchair! And I hate to break it to you all, but there’s nothing more than friendship going on there.

Now this isn’t to say that I wouldn’t date someone with a disability. Would dating another person with a physical disability make things a bit more difficult? Absolutely, but when you love someone, you just do what you have to do. It’s no different to me dating an able-bodied person. There are still things we’d have to navigate or get creative with together, like how you kiss someone who wears a ventilator mask? At the end of the day though, you fall in love with someone’s soul, not their body!

Looping back to Love On The Spectrum, while it’s also great to see a dating show for disabilities, there still isn’t that inclusion for people with disabilities in “normal” dating shows. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never seen a person who uses a wheelchair on a show like The Bachelor/Bachelorette or Married At First Sight. I’d to see the producers come up with some accessible date ideas! But seriously, there is no reason why someone with a physical disability couldn’t be cast on a show like this.

After watching Love On The Spectrum, I saw a show called Better Date Than Never on ABC. From first impressions, this show seems to tackle dating for people with physical disabilities as well, so I look forward to checking that out.

In summary, if you’re looking for an easy, feel-good background show to put on the TV I would recommend Love On The Spectrum. However, when watching it definitely remember that this isn’t what dating is like for all people with disabilities.

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