‘Geek Girl’ author Holly Smale hits back at criticism over Netflix show’s autism story
(Credits: Best of Netflix / YouTube Still / HarperCollins)

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'Geek Girl' author Holly Smale hits back at criticism over Netflix show's autism story

Holly Smale, the author of Geek Girl, has responded to criticisms of the Netflix adaptation of her novel. 

The popular book series, originally published in 2015, has recently been turned into a 10-part drama on the popular streaming site. It stars Emily Carey from Game of Thrones House of the Dragon. She plays a 16-year-old self-declared geek named Harriet Manners. Manners is persistently bullied at school until a model agency scouts her during a trip to London Fashion Week. 

The show has generally been received quite positively. Critics have praised the series, Carey’s performance, and the structure of the 10-part story. However, the authenticity of its portrayal of autism has been criticised.

Smale has defended the show on X, stating that the portrayal is authentic given she and the lead actor are both autistic. “It’s based on books written by me (autistic), about me as a teen (autistic), I wrote all of Harriet for the show (still autistic) and the lead actor is autistic.” 

She continued, “I think people are so used to seeing inauthentic representation they don’t recognise it when it’s in front of them. And, honestly, I don’t really blame them.” 

There is never a specific mention in the series that the main character has autism; however, many of her mannerisms elude to it. Her inner monologue, coupled with her enthusiasm for specific subjects and the need to wear headphones in the classroom, all suggest a potential diagnosis. 

Geek Girl isn’t the first Young Adult series with an autistic actor playing the lead. The Australian teen series Heartbreak High sees Chloé Hayden take the lead as one of the first autistic actors to perform as the main character in a mainstream series. 

Geek Girl is now available on Netflix.