One of the many reasons why I love watching Extraordinary Attorney Woo every Wednesday and Thursday Night on Netflix is that I got to watch it with my wife. This is one of those non-zombie series that we enjoyed watching together so this is something special.
What probably attracted my wife and many other viewers of the show is the seemingly natural way of acting of its main protagonist (played by Park Eun-bin, who was also exceptional in her award-winning performance in last year’s THE KING’S AFFECTION). The curiosity about autism and how they can “survive” in society, how the main character who is playing as a lawyer will win her every case, and how she will develop her relationship with the people around her – are probably some of the reasons that keep the viewers very interested.
ON HOW PEOPLE WITH AUTISM SURVIVE IN SOCIETY
This latest court drama follows the story of 27-year Woo Young-woo, the first autistic lawyer in South Korea who was single-handedly raised by her father, can memorize the law and legal cases word by word with her IQ of 164 – which enables her to graduate at the top of her class at Seoul National University and get a near perfect score on the bar exam.
In reality, a person with autism can really take a big responsibility in society. Haley Moss, Florida’s first practicing lawyer with autism has experienced her fair share of stigma. Like the character of Woo Young Woo, she is used to always walking around with noise-canceling headphones because of her sensitivity to loud noise.
Attorney Woo only eats gimbap for her meals as she finds comfort in the fact that the dish is “reliable” because all the ingredients are visible at a glance. The character also has an intense fascination with whales and often starts to recite facts about the marine creatures out of context. Experts say “this will hopefully make autism seem more familiar and non-threatening to the general public who currently don’t have much understanding of the topic”.
ON HOW ATTORNEY WOO WILL WIN HER EVERY CASE
When she introduced herself in the courtroom during her first trial, we heard Attorney Woo saying these words: “I ask for your understanding. I am… I have autism spectrum disorder, and it may seem… I may speak slow and look awkward to you. But I am just like any other lawyer in the sense that I love the law and respect the defendant.”
Throughout the six initial episodes as of this writing, we saw Attorney Woo winning all her cases with her exceptional memorization ability.
Episode 2. The Wedding Dress That Slipped Off: The father of a bride sues a hotel for a wedding that ended in a humiliating disaster. WON
Episode 3. This is Pengsoo: A suicide case involving two brothers that forces a family to face a difficult truth. WON
Episode 4. The Strife of the Three Brothers: Dong Geu-ra-mi (Woo’s best friend since high school) seeks legal advice from Young-woo when her father unknowingly agrees to take on a massive debt. WON
Episode 5. Wild Card VS Tactician: A copyright battle between two ATM companies. WON
Episode 6. If I Were a Whale… A mission to reunite a North Korean mother with her daughter where they explored every avenue to reduce a four-year sentence. WON
Episode 7&8. A Tale About Sodeok-dong I: Residents of a small town file a class-action lawsuit to stop the construction of a highway. WON
These cases will not only show the legal skills of the characters but also shed light on some real and pressing issues in our society.
ON HOW A PERSON WITH AUTISM DEVELOPS A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
What is a Kdrama without the love story angle? And in Extraordinary Attorney Woo, we can already see this side of the story slowly being developed in Episode 5 when Attorney Woo used the “interrogation technique” to ask if her male colleague has feelings for her.
However, some people are asking if this situation is realistic. Experts are saying, “Dating and marriage for autistic people are not implausible. They do happen. But the marriage would be very hard to maintain. Some studies have followed the lives of those with ASD and marriage is rare. I would say about one out of a hundred cases make it, or the percentage could be even lower.”
At the end of the day, this is a fictional drama and shouldn’t be viewed as a documentary.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
It is specifically heart-warming for the producers of recent Kdramas to incorporate characters with autism to raise awareness and influence people to change the way we look at them and be more understanding. The last time I saw a character with a similar condition was in “Our Blues” (played by Jung Eun-hye, a real person with down syndrome). The writer of the story said in one article that “the attributes that many recognize with Down Syndrome require someone who has it to capture the authenticity of the disability.” And it was especially helpful for people like Jung Eun-hye to change the perspective of society about their condition (and she even revealed that people’s attitudes toward her positively changed after she appeared in the drama).
Now that a character with the same special condition is taking the helm of a Kdrama series – that is, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, it is noteworthy to see its development and to learn more about them. Halfway through the expected 16 episodes – the buzz that it is creating, and the interest that it is getting from its viewers could just make “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” one of the most popular and most-talked about Kdrama of the year!
According to an interview with a Pediatric Psychiatrist and Associate Professor at Seoul Asan Medical Center, “What we should gather from this seemingly fantastical work environment (in Extraordinary Attorney Woo) is that we actually need to see them in real life. Like her fellow lawyers in the show, we need to see more supportive people who make it possible for autistic people to thrive as independent individuals. This support network also has to make into a system in society as a whole.”