• Thu, Jan 31 2008

What’s It All About, Eli?

According to Access Hollywood, an autistic boy plays the autistic child in ABC’s comedic legal drama “Eli Stone,” scheduled to premier tonight. This is an interesting development, to have an autistic child playing an autistic child: People have often questioned and criticized the accuracy and authenticity of actors and actresses playing autistic characters, as Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake.

It is, though, all the more unfortunate that a vaccine—via a fictional substance called “mercuritol“—is said to be why William, in the child in “Eli Stone,” has autism. Will a future episode make mention of,or even show the child undergoing chelation—-in which medications are given to a child to remove heavy metals from the blood and so to “detoxify” the body—or other “alternative, biomedical treatments“? Will the autistic child on this TV show be allowed to remain autistic?

Julie Deardorff who writes Julie’s Health Club for the Chicago Tribune suggests (after seeing the pilot of “Eli Stone”) that the show is not about autism:

….., the autism in the story line is almost incidental given all the other loopy things that are packed into the pilot. The show is not about whether vaccines cause autism. It’s about the redemptive powers of faith. What the episode’s conclusion really asks is: Which is the greater force in life: science or faith

Deardorff writes that the “autism-vaccine debate” is about what people, and specifically parents of autistic children, believe, the scientific evidence that there is no link between vaccines and autism, or their own faith that one day their child was “normal” and the next, post-vaccination, autistic. “It won’t matter how many studies show there is no link between vaccines and autism,” writes Deardorff. “We all believe our own truths.” We do indeed: Last June, during the Cedillo trial in which the parents of 12-year-old Michelle Cedillo claimed that she became autistic after receiving a vaccine, essays by journalist Arthur Allen and anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker both discussed why there is no dispelling an autism-vaccine link. Writes Grinker:

Two distinct communities have emerged, and though they both employ the language of science, their ideas are simply incommensurable. The two groups co-exist, like creationism and evolutionary biology, but they operate on such different premises that a true dialogue is nearly impossible.

The idea behind “Eli Stone,” as revealed in media reports, is that a highly successful, seemingly selfish lawyer who has—with little apparent regard for ethical concerns—-fought on the side of corporate America, undergoes a sort of conversion experience and decides instead to fight for the “little guy”—the “vaccine-damaged” child of a single mother, in the first episode. Why this conversion occurs is a matter of science or faith, as Deardroff writes: When Stone starts to hear George Michael singing, is this the result of a brain aneurysm or because Stone is some sort of 21st-century prophet?

Some will continue to believe that a vaccine or something in a vaccine caused their child to become autistic, even as yet another study disproves a link between autism and mercury and/or vaccines—-perhaps it all depends on what script you’ve decided to follow, and who’s playing what part.

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  • http://www.leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk Kev

    I’ve gone one better than Ms Deardorff and read the script. It makes for pretty interesting reading. I’ll be blogging that soon.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Read a version too——not sure if it will include what is in the actual show but it was certainly interesting, especially the numerous details of Eli’s background. Awaiting your post—-

  • http://parents.com/autismville Autismville

    I have faith … faith that science will lead us to the answer.

  • http://club166blogspot.com Club 166

    It’s only fitting that the star of the show is a hallucinating lawyer who may have a brain aneurysm. Because those are about the only people that still adhere to off the wall mercury conspiracy theories.

    I’ll bet Olmstead, Kirby, and the rest are sick with envy that they didn’t land the part. Or at least a guest shot. Now the only hope they have is to get picked up by talk shows flogging the “controversy”.

    Joe

  • Leila

    I saw more clips of the show last night. It looks like the male version of Ali McBeal, with the main character having ridiculous hallucinations that include a has-been popstar (George Michael).

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Since it’s been described as a “comedic legal drama,” I’d say that any courtroom verdict delivered in the show should be treated with several grains of salt—and a few laughs.

  • qchan63

    So, I’ve had a chance to see tonight’s show. It’s pretty wacky — sort of “Ally McBeal” meets “Touched by an Angel.” Pretty glib and derivative, IMO, but not the worst TV i’ve ever seen.

    It’s interesting to hear that the boy who plays the autistic character is himself autistic. He’s really seen very little in the program (although we’re meant to understand that he sits next to his mom and draws through pretty much the whole trial).

    In the scenes where he does show up, he’s very quiet and composed (no “Autism Every Day”-type melodramatics here). He seems like quite an impressive young man, and he gives Eli a nice wave at the end.

    Two things struck me in particular about the show. First, there’s an instance in which the boy’s mom says to the lawyer (who has been balking at taking her case): “For the first time I feel sorrier for you than I do for me.”

    The suggestion that this is all about the mom’s suffering seems telling — particularly since we see so very little of the boy and what his life is like.

    Second, the mom makes a point of saying that it was the “mercuritol” preservative, not the vaccine itself, that caused her son’s autism (although she seems to fudge on this later). This might come as a disappointment to Kirby and others who have been backpedaling into the argument that it’s “something else” in vaccines besides thimerosal/”mercuritol” that’s the REAL problem.

    Related to that: The mom also says that the boy became autistic within a week after receiving the mercuritol-containing flu shot. I refer you to the following 2006 statement from a National Autism Association press release, distributed as a response to a study into the safety of flu vaccines. The study had used a six-week follow-up period on the children who received shots:

    ***

    “Following-up with these children for a mere six weeks is ridiculously inadequate,” according to National Autism Association (NAA) executive director Rita Shreffler. “The neurological injuries that result in diagnoses such as autism do not typically occur immediately after getting shots. Exposures to vaccine toxins such as mercury are cumulative and symptoms of injury may not be apparent for months or even years. Apparently, this is yet another CDC-drug company collaboration to whitewash thimerosal and ensure that flu shots are as profitable as possible, regardless of their long term adverse effects.”

    ***

    Of course, that was thimerosal, not “mercuritol” …

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Slate has reposted an article by Arthur Allen on Can Vaccines Cause Autism?: Eli Stone’s Questionable Medicine.

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  • http://achildchosen.com pickel

    it seemed to me to be very Ally McBeal and not so much faith vs. science but just plain kooky.

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