May 20, 2022
“I haven’t dated in 33 years.”
This is how audiences first meet Subodh, a young single man who is very ready to mingle. Dressed in a yellow and blue button-down shirt, he flashes a cheeky smile that only gets broader and cheekier as he winks at the camera. Subodh lives in Los Angeles, California, with his sister and describes himself as “energetic, enthusiastic, excellent, nice, smart, and pretty.” He is also preparing for his 33rd birthday party. And yes, if you do the math, that means Subodh has been single for his entire life — but he is determined to change that.
Subodh is one of many participants on the U.S. version of the hit reality dating series Love on the Spectrum, which premiered on Netflix on May 18. As the title suggests, the series follows singles as they embark on first dates, blind dates, and speed dating events in search of love. These individuals have also all been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disability that causes them to behave, communicate, and navigate the world differently from other people. An estimated 1 in 44 children in the U.S. has ASD, and it impacts individuals of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Although ASD is prevalent in South Asian countries, researchers have noted that it is under-researched and underreported. “[ASD] is still something that the community is coming to terms with,” said Kira Vimalakanthan, Director of Research and Mental Health Services at South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) in Canada.
Portrayals of autism on TV, from Girl Meets World to Atypical, have historically been very white. Though the first two seasons of Love on the Spectrum, filmed in Australia, included some LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color, critics noted that the series had a similar diversity problem. Subodh and his family are the first South Asian participants in the docuseries, and while they bring infectious charm and much-needed representation, the show also perpetuates a familiar and frustrating trope.