Asperger’s

I decided to write more about the question of whether Martin Ellingham has Asperger’s because I think that question is very pertinent to the whole issue of whether he can change. As I’ve written previously, the DM series brings up the question of whether people can change throughout the six series and there are various answers given when it is posed. On this blog we’ve been wrestling with the issue of change for quite some time and it’s very much a concern of most of us in general.

We’ve all noticed the frequency with which the topic of people’s ability to change comes up and on occasion there are contradictory positions taken by the same character. Ruth stands out to me as one of these characters because in S5 E6 she tells Louisa that people don’t change when she mentions to Louisa that Martin has told her to mark her calendar for the christening. Louisa replies that people can change if they want to and departs in a bit of a huff because Martin has never discussed the christening date with her. (Of course, Joan has previously told Martin the same thing as Ruth during series 3 and Martin has disagreed with her.) Ultimately we know that Ruth reverses her position on this and tells Martin that he will have to change to save his marriage and that he can if he works hard enough. She’s also told Al that we write our own stories and he needs to get motivated and take action to begin a new chapter in his life. I’ve also noted that Ruth must be convinced that people can change because she’s a psychiatrist and changing people’s behavior is certainly the goal of psychiatric care.

In addition I have previously mentioned that Dominic Minghella, the creator of the series, intended Martin Ellingham to have Asperger’s and says so in his blog. Here’s what the question and answer were:
“Doc Martin appears to show signs of Asbergers [sic] Syndrome. Is this intentional or just the way the character developed? I am married to a man with Asbergers [sic] and watching the series together has been a great help to us both.

regards
Maureen

Dominic Minghella
on 5 April 2012 at 9:59 pm said:
Hi Maureen,

It was deliberate. I seem to be surrounded by people with aspergic tendencies, and am probably not immune myself. It seemed particularly to suit the concept of Doc Martin: it’s almost as if he knows he has this issue and has deliberately put himself in a place where he will have to improve on his areas of weakness. Anyway, I’m so glad you and your husband are enjoying the show. And thanks for taking the time to write.
Best wishes
DM”

So I think that should put to rest whether the doctor was initially supposed to have this disorder. It also subtly addresses the likelihood that the plan for Martin was to have him work on changing himself.

In addition, I have delineated all of the typical Asperger’s traits the show has included in my post of Sept. 29, 2013 titled Psychological Conditions. The list includes many attributes given to Doc Martin.

We must begin with the fact that this is a fictional character and he may not fit the exact parameters of the disorder. Secondly, there is a spectrum that allows for all sorts of differences within the Asperger’s diagnosis. Nevertheless, I am struck by how close his mannerisms do mirror those associated with this disorder, and I’m not judging these as either good or bad. They are simply his manner of behaving and part of him. A 2008 article in Psychology Today written by an Asperger’s sufferer notes, “More aspies than not feel a tremendous amount of empathy, compassion, sadness, happiness, and so forth. What is at issue is their reticent expression.” I think we see that Martin Ellingham has empathy and compassion and can feel sadness as well as contentment. The whole article is worth reading and very much applies to what we see going on with Martin in this show. Another article explains that “Reciprocal, or back-and-forth, conversation is not in the skill set of a person with ASD.” It also states, “Parties and gatherings are rarely attended by them, except when it is with their own family. They tend not to belong to groups, clubs, or organizations, and usually do not have a social network. Living and working alone is often much preferred, and because the syndrome can be accompanied by a superior intelligence, they can excel when left to create and design independently without the distractions of the social environment.” Remarkably, it goes on to say, “Polite niceties seem phony and dishonest to the person with AS. Social convention eludes them. The term ‘brutal honesty’ has often been applied to their list of characteristics, and although their tactlessness may appear to be rude to most people, it is not meant to offend. Rather, it is meant to harmlessly and straightforwardly inform. They might point out to you, for instance, that your breath is bad when your relationship does not warrant such intimate or sensitive discussions.” Sound familiar? There’s more…the article continues: “Many, if not most, people with AS had been bullied in school and in the work place and suffer from trauma-related disorders as a result. Most often they have been rejected, ostracized, or worse, openly criticized in social settings. It hurts them terribly and causes them to feel like outcasts – the single most disturbing and painful of human experiences. Loneliness and isolation are their constant companions.” In DM Martin appears to have no concerns about being alone, but he has a definite yearning to be with Louisa. Louisa is not only beautiful and smart, she’s also an insider in this town and their association makes him much more accepted in Portwenn.

This article also addresses treatment options: “The syndrome cannot be ‘cured’ entirely but treatment for the disturbing symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood swings, trauma, sleep disturbances, OCD-like symptoms, digestive problems and phobias is available and effective…ASD treatment specialists find that social skills training, anger management skills training, trauma recovery methodologies, mindfulness techniques, and cognitive/behavioral therapies are all helpful. Dietary and nutritional consultation is extremely important as well. Self-esteem and assertiveness building, and stress management techniques are all useful for bringing about a feeling of well-being and confidence. Medicine for the symptoms that trouble people on the spectrum can be effective. However, above all else, the person on the spectrum must begin the journey of accepting himself completely and embracing the syndrome that brings them valuable talents and traits. Self-acceptance brings with it a comfort in social situations and it chases away depression and anxiety.” The list of disturbing symptoms reads like a close reflection of what Martin is dealing with in S6: anxiety, depression, mood swings, sleep disturbances, OCD-like symptoms, phobias. Moreover, when Louisa wants Martin to go on a trip with her and James and Martin tells her he can’t, he’s really being honest. Leaving home to stay overnight anywhere is anxiety provoking for him in many ways and he literally can’t do it. He just doesn’t tell her in a way that she can understand, and she interprets it as a personal affront to her. If anything it looks like the writers, etc. have decided to deepen Martin’s Asperger’s disorder in S6.

Martin’s Asperger’s is further complicated by the additional problem of having had remote, cold, and generally uninvolved parents. His mother tells him in S6 E8 that he was always a strange, awkward little boy. She never had any love for him and his unusual behavior due to his disorder was certainly something she wouldn’t have wanted to deal with. Therefore, he had the double whammy of a childhood syndrome compounded by neglectful and even abusive parents. It’s amazing he managed to excel in school, become a physician/surgeon and have any sort of social life. The fact that he was sent away to school and had some time with Aunt Joan perhaps salvaged what it could of his early years. Another story, this time written for The New Yorker in 2007, is worth reading to get a personal view of what it can be like to grow up with Asperger’s and not really grasp what makes you different until much later in life. This man had very involved parents and eventually became a successful music critic with a family and friends who are patient and forgiving, and who has various other means of coping, including therapy and medication.

In my opinion the final episode of S6 suggests that Martin is now highly motivated to make some significant changes and that, if there is a S7, he, too, can learn to accept himself by seeking help from Louisa and through therapy. Crucial to his ability to make these adjustments will be a wife who really adopts the principle she expressed in S1 E6 when she said sometimes we love those people who don’t quite fit in because of their differences. His powerful affection for his son will also be a motivating force. It seems to me that once Louisa learns about Martin’s disorder and his family background, she will be able to try to build the patience and acceptance to enjoy their life together. I can imagine some very poignant yet humorous episodes that could deal with all of the above.

Originally posted 2014-01-04 03:05:09.

40 thoughts on “Asperger’s

  1. JThompson

    Very thoughtful post as always. I really enjoy reading your comments. I’m still not convinced DM has full blown Aspergers. He definitely has some symptoms but they are more on the mild end of the spectrum, especially when compared to people I know who have the syndrome.

    What I do find strange is that no one seems to have picked up on the fact ME was sent off to boarding school at the age of 6. In the past 20 years or so, there has been major research done on the long term effects of this institutionalisation on children. This would only have been compounded by ME’s cold and remote parents. Nick Duffell’s “The Making of Them” is one of several books that discusses in depth the life long effects boarding schools can have especially on those sent off at a young age.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m so glad to hear from you and know you continue to read my posts. I guess what you’re saying is that instead of having a good effect on him, being sent away to school at age 6 was also harmful to him. I was working off the comment Ruth made in series 5 that Martin preferred school to home. But I certainly agree that school may have still been difficult and yet not as bad as being at home. I think it’s likely that he was ostracized at school. He wasn’t good at sports or socializing, which always puts a boy at a disadvantage with his peer group. Poor Martin really is given a lot of psychological baggage, isn’t he?

  3. Carol

    Hey Karen, Haven’t left a reply for a while but thought I would leave one on this topic. Not to belabor a point (although I guess it’s too late for me), I would like to agree with JThompson. I am still not convinced he has Asperger’s. And I wanted to point you to a comment made by Minghella on his blog on Aug. 23, 2013 in which he says this was left for the audience to decide, if he recalls correctly. (I will let you look it up. Not techno enough to know how to do a link here, sorry). I think it will be interesting to see if that is an eventual diagnosis in Series 7. They may do that, who knows?

    But I have one final point to make. I believe that Ruth would have said something about it when she talked to Martin if she really thought that was the issue. She deliberately says it is NOT a medical issue, and Aspergers, in my understanding, IS a medical issue having to do with processing in the brain. I think, not quite sure, but I think that psychiatrists often have a part in the diagnosis of this condition which I understand is no longer a separate diagnosis but is just considered part of the autism spectrum. So wouldn’t Ruth have mentioned it?

    I have mentioned before that I write DM fanfiction and the story I am working on right now delves deeply into the characters just following S6E8. I have been fortunate enough to have a reader who is a highly trained therapist. She has told me what she would do if she were counseling a couple like M and L and has mentioned nothing about thinking he has Asperger’s. She just mentioned that the ages Ruth talked about, 4 and 6, would be critical in inflicting deep damage. This leads me to believe that BP has already consulted a therapist, and are leaning in that direction for S7. I hope so.

    But I have developed a theory of sorts about all of this. Wonder if anyone agrees? I think that some of us “see” Asperger’s because, for whatever reason, we want or need to. Some of us see only damage because, for whatever reason, we want or need to.

    I’ll just admit it – for me, I don’t want him to have it simply because I know it will make staying together so much easier, and I am ready for some “lovin” from M and L!

    As always, thanks for these opportunities. Enjoy them so much. People who have never watched this show just don’t get it!!!

  4. Carol

    One more thing. Thanks JThompson for bringing up the boarding school thing, I want to look into that and perhaps make it a part of my story.

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Carol, it’s so nice to hear from you again. I had wondered what had happened to you! I apologize for not having read your fanfiction story. It has been recommended to me by someone else and I will definitely read it soon. I checked out the work by Nick Duffell and Boarding School Syndrome and find it very intriguing. I certainly see evidence of that in ME and the early age at which ME was sent to boarding school is definitely a factor. I discovered this article as well, which adds more evidence to that argument too. I think that whether ME has Asperger’s or not will not change the likelihood that he and Louisa can and will stay together. There’s no doubt that their relationship is very important to the show and it would be foolish to eliminate that. I sure hope that whenever the show comes to an end, it will be on some sort of happy note.

  6. Veronica

    This is not related specifically to Asperger’s Syndrome, but something most people from the States don’t want to address is the class system in England. What others may attribute to Asperger’s may only be symptomatic of the way an upper class male is raised in England. The classic stiff upper lip leaves little room for empathy to others and may engender disdain for those who are weak. Martin clearly lacks empathy and disdains most people. His upper class ways of always dressed in a coat and tie stems from what he was taught: a gentleman is always dressed properly. Despite all he has experienced, including living in a village filled with those he routinely labels as morons and idiots, he must maintain his removal from them by dressing as a gentleman
    I think one of the principal problems between Martin and Louisa is that they are from two different classes. Neither can understand the other because they were not raised in the same way. Martin was expected to be a fist rank surgeon and Louisa’s highest aspiration was to be a head of a weakbVirnish school. Granted that may have been better than milkman, bar owner or criminal, but Edith is more the type of woman Martin would have been expected to marry

    In series 7, the class issues may come more to the fore beyond Martin’s comment that the name Terry is “common” or that sending a child to boarding school ensures a child will be well educated.

  7. Santa Traugott

    The show excels at ambiguity, and I think this Asperger’s diagnosis is an excellent example. I do know that there are people with this syndrome who are delighted to discover Doc Martin and strongly see themselves (or a loved one) in him. But I don’t think Minghella intended for him to have full-blown Asperger’s — traits, yes, that he observed in those around him and that he had thought about. (By the way, Dominc’s sister, Edana, who co-wrote Season 2 with him, is psychiatrically trained. She is an extremely interesting woman in her own right.) But I don’t think they wanted his character to be summed up in a diagnosis. Once you have labeled him, the rest becomes, if not entirely predictable, a lot less ambiguous.

    Martin Clunes himself has mentioned that he was surprised that people with Asperger’s or with others in their family with the syndrome began writing to him to share their delight that he portrayed a person with Asperger’s so well. He has certainly never believed that his character was on that spectrum, and said somewhere that he didn’t want Doc Martin to have a “condition” or a diagnosable label that could be “cutred.” (Of course, we know that Asperger’s can’t be cured, as such). I agree with Carol that this is something that Aunt Ruth would have mentioned.

    Finally, if I were looking to put a label on him at all, I would lean toward a personality disorder, probably obsessive-compulsive p.d. (If that’s still in the revised DSM) I think what we are watching is a whole constellation of traits that developed in order to shield him from overwhelming anxiety and even despair, as the small child dealt with the effects of parental rejection and abuse. He has a very rigid character armor, with significant chinks, growing wider, as his love for Louisa and James Henry becomes stronger, and also his fear of losing them, of being once again rejected. If he can finally learn to be open and vulnerable and sensitive, to feel that he does deserve (like all of us) to be loved, , he will not look like somone with Asperger’s. That’s my bet anyway. An eccentric and somewhat odd person still, probably, but probably far more functional emotionally.

  8. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, I, too, have read that Martin Clunes doesn’t want his character to have something that could be “cured.” Of course a curable disorder would change the show significantly. We want ME to continue to have his quirks and idiosyncrasies. What we all seem to be getting uptight about is how these mannerisms have affected the relationship between ME and L because we care so much about that. I think we can take solace in the fact that, as MC and PB recognize, their relationship is now what has become key to the show’s popularity. I hate to be too practical, but regardless of what might happen in the real world, in this fictional world where there’s never a rainy day and there’s hardly ever a death or truly unfixable medical problem, we can’t apply a diagnosis of anything very accurately. ME has signs of all sorts of possible conditions that might impact his behavior-Asperger’s, abusive and remote parents, ill effects of boarding school, etc. His relationship with L is influenced by the things that he’s been dealing with all of his life and by her background too. As Veronica says, they have a class difference which has come up in conversations they’ve had throughout the show, especially when they discuss naming the baby. They also have both been abandoned by their parents and expected to grow up without much parental involvement. The writers, et. al, have given these characters all sorts of difficulties to deal with because that makes the show more interesting and complex. And that’s what we like so much about it. I guess what I’m saying is that even though I can find a way to explain most, if not all, ME’s symptoms with the diagnosis of Asperger’s, I do not want to reduce him to a man with a particular syndrome that should be treated by this or that and then he’ll be a different person and everything will be great. I want him to remain a rude, gruff, monosyllabic but kind person who loves his wife and son and can perform surgery and have a life in Portwenn with all its ups and downs. I want Louisa to remain a strong, passionate yet loving woman and wife who finally confronts her demons and stops running away every time she and M reach an impasse. I don’t want the show to devolve into a bland “day in the life of…”, but some of this drama with the marriage could end.

  9. Santa Traugott

    KAren — absolutely right! Diagnosis is an art; far from a science, no matter how tidily the DSM categorizes. These diagnoses, I think, exist chiefly for the convenience of insurance companies and for scientists, who need to be able to categorize something at least roughly in order to research it properly. In real life, as you say, it’s extremely difficult to diagnose, things don’t fit properly together, or maybe as in this case, symptoms fit too many diagnoses. And it really isn’t necessary to get a diagnosis exactly right to be able to treat them. Of course, you’d like to know if you’re dealing with a bipolar disorder, e.g., but even that, even with flagrant mania, can be hard to differentiate from other presentations.

    As for someone being “cured” — I’m not entirely sure that’s possible either. The effects can be mitgated, and one can live with them better and be more functional, but if you were an abused and neglected child, especially early enough, I think you’re always dealing with the after-effects, with the importance being that now you’re aware of what’s going on and hopefully can distance yourself enough to deal with your reactions better.

    Yes, DM and LG relationship is the fulcrum of the series. I’m confident they will show both Louisa and Martin dealing enough with their issues so that they can find a way to go on together, because as Caroline Catz said in her last interview, “they have so much.” They truly love and need each other, and we hope they finally get it right (enough) this time.

    Veronica– I agree with you. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in England now, and the class system is still there and so pervasive and unconscious that no one even thinks to speak of it. I remember well with what upper-class contempt dripping from her lips that Edith remarked about Louisa, “is she a girl from the village?” almost as if DM was the squire’s and LG was the naughty maid he had got in trouble. I don’t know whether they will address this in S7, but it certainly adds a lot to their difficulties, even though, DM in practice is an equal opportunity offender to all social classes.

  10. Santa Traugott

    There have been rumors of a fan convention for DM, and I would hope that one of the events would be a panel of mental health professionals (wouldn’t it be fun to include Edana Minghella!) having a “case conference” on DM and possibly also Louisa.

    In above, meant to say, “squire’s son.”

  11. Carol

    A fan convention would be AWESOME!! Let us know if you hear more. Finally we could all be in a room with people as “nutso” as we are – haha!

    But seriously, Veronica, I am glad you brought up the class thing too. I have been thinking about that as well. I think there have been several times when that has shown itself, either in something someone says, or in some less direct way. One thing that has always struck me as interesting is that Louisa is a jeans and tee shirt girl in many ways and I think it is just another clue to who Martin “really” is that he doesn’t seem to mind this in the way you might expect him to. In fact a couple of times he tells her he is sure she will look nice – she always does, etc. Sitting here waiting for Downton to start in an hour is making me think of this even more, of course.

    I would dearly love it if Martin would at least put on some khakis for once and get down on the floor with James!! Not all the time – MC looks TOO good in a suit – but just once:)

    Yes???

  12. waxwings2

    #1. This is the first of my two-part reply on the Aspergers question.

    Thank you all for such good writing and comments on the Asperger’s question, starting with Karen, who makes a thorough case for ME’s problem as probably Aspergers. It was very persuasive and I felt myself leaning towards it. But I have to join the gang of repliers here, and weigh in against the AS diagnosis for Martin Ellingham (ME), though I have no medical background or experience like Karen, only some personal knowledge of those with Asperger’s. I think JThomson’s and Carol’s and Santa’s insights are all very valuable here.

    First, the boarding school pain only reinforced the growth of an armor that protected and shut down the injury ME’s parents had already inflicted on him before school, and for which he had already grown emotional protections and mental barriers. Aunt Ruth, in Series 6, Ep 8, confirms this by saying that she saw changes in him by age six. He had already flipped from being the sensitive, loving, responsive 4 year old she knew, to being a shut down, hurt child that was unresponsive to others by 6. This didn’t just suddenly manifest itself in one year of boarding school. Boarding school gave him the emotional tools to fight his home-grown injuries–there, as well as at home. The age level of 2-6 is absolutely key in childhood development. A shut-down ME carries this armor all the way into adulthood, and becomes who we see on the show.

    I totally agree with Carol that Aunt Ruth would have ID’d the AS condition when she talked to Martin on the hill in the last episode, but in fact, Ruth seemed even to rule it out with her comment that it was NOT a medical problem, but one that derived directly from emotional injury at the hands of his parents in early childhood. THAT is what he would have to face before he could rescue his life and love with Louisa and James. (Also, you don’t acquire AS from parental abuse and mistreatment, it’s probably inherited and in your genes; but you probably do develop similar AS behaviors from such mistreatment, and that’s what I believe the Doc has done and what sporadic viewers of the show would have picked up on.) It looks like Asperger’s.

    I would also like to strongly reinforce Carol’s insightful theory posted earlier that …”some of us see Asperger’s because, for whatever reason, we want or need to. Some of us see only damage because, for whatever reason, we want or need to.”

    As some of you have already indicated, seeing ME’s condition as Asperger’s Syndrome may be too neat and too easy (not to mention too unambiguous) for the show. But I would take it even a step further. The most important thing about such an AS diagnosis vis-à-vis the DM show is that it would undermine its most dominant theme of overcoming personal tragedy. It simply won’t do if the show is to continue and to “succeed” for its vast audience who I believe want to see love and happiness prevail in a Series 7, 8–or more?

    Choosing AS over early childhood injury gravely limits Series 7’s potential for exploring the show’s essential, long-running underlying question: Can people change? And if so, how? An Aspergers-centered 7th series will make the couple’s getting back together and “staying together” in a healthy way much more unlikely, as it will never fully explore the damage done to ME as a child—which causes so much of ME’s problems. That early abuse would be subsumed under a general medical disorder that is somewhat controllable, but not removable. The true culprit that would keep his havoc going would escape.
    Usually, people are born with AS and can only mitigate its presenting symptoms to live a more “normal” life. This would be inadequate for what the ME-LG couple require–and would be deeply unsatisfying to the fans of the show. (BP are you listening?)

    With Aspergers, you don’t have to have a bad early childhood to have serious social dysfunctional problems. But if you do have a bad early childhood that gives you a lot of bad baggage, and you don’t deal with it, you can’t grow, and become healthy once more. Whatever modicum of happiness the ME-LG couple might find with a treatment for Asperger’s won’t be enough to deal with the Doc’s underlying demons, and therefore sabotage the couple’s future happiness.

    (To be continued in my #2 Reply next)

  13. waxwings2

    #2. This is the second of my 2-part reply on the Asperger’s question.

    Here’s the essential question for all of us about the Asperger’s diagnosis and the Doc Martin show:

    Do we really believe millions of us viewers got hooked on the DM show because we saw Asperger’s in ourselves–as reflected by ME? No, we’re “nutso” over the show (as Carol of this blog would say) because we see in the main characters’ struggle (the ME-LG duo and to a lesser degree, others) a reflection of our own struggles to understand why things happen as they do to us, why our relationships flounder, why we can’t do this or that, and especially how the hell we can fix what’s wrong.

    There is great love between these two people on DM, but their pasts are getting in the way. Don’t we all bring “stuff” to our relationships? And doesn’t our baggage have baggage? Martin Ellingham’s baggage could fill a moving van! But somehow, we all see the goodness in him and in Louisa’s great love for him (and vice versa) and we are simply waiting to have the baggage finally dealt with in a serious and meaningful way (which doesn’t mean that the brilliant script writers of the DM show won’t contextualize it with comedic scenes). Having Doc deal with his demons is what would give us true hope, and why we keep watching. But up to now it’s been somewhat frustrating!

    As an audience for the last 9 years and 46 episodes, we have been deprived of that hope by the DM writers and producers because they didn’t seriously deal with the biggest elephant—ME’s childhood injuries. We had to keep withholding our hope and sympathy from ME because nothing ever changed in the series, vis-à-vis his wounded interior (the hurt little boy inside), and he kept going back to bad behavior, over and over. Only in the last episode of the last series 6 do we finally see his condition addressed. Hallelujah!

    And the DM scriptwriters did it in the only way possible. The Doc had to go to the bottom. Prior to this, the DM writers never got ME the help he needed because they would have had to bring him to the bottom first to do it—to alter his character—and get him to actually choose to live happier and healthier by truly dealing with his very painful problems, something that he had spent his whole life teaching himself NOT to do. It is also that damaged character that the DM show has trafficked in and used with great success as a hook to keep writing fabulous episodes. (If Series 7 shows an ME arriving out the good end of the therapy stick, and he changes, will there be a Series 8?

    Ironically ME is a teetotaler, but his emotional MO is one of an alcoholic who must hit bottom before change is possible. At the end of every series, audiences have been teased with the possibility of a “bottom” and a character change, because Martin always acknowledges that he has been wrong and needs another chance (just like an alcoholic would do). However, until now, he has always gone back to his bad habits and behaviors because he still has his support system around him—Louisa. Despite her own running-away problems, Louisa comes back again and again, and remains until the last episode, ever hopeful. Finally, she’s had it. She’s done. And it is only then that ME truly decides he needs to follow Ruth’s advice and get help.

    The degree of vulnerability exhibited in the Doc’s character through his suffering is extraordinary. It only adds to the pathos we feel, and it invites our steadfast faithfulness to keep watching this brilliant show. The opportunity for sympathy is so great, that we don’t even know what to do with it all—or our feelings that keep getting provoked by it. Roger Ebert, the late and great American film critic said what makes a film or theatre production great is empathy, and that “empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”

    Thank you all for contributing to this serious and thought-provoking blog about a serious and thought-provoking dramedy that is brilliantly conceived and acted. Look forward to many more conversations.

    Waxwings2

    PS: For those interested in exploring future scenarios for ME and Louisa’s work to change, you will find some on the FanFiction website. I enthusiastically recommend to all of you that you go there and take a look at some of them, in the form of stories/chapters:
    https://www.fanfiction.net/tv/Doc-Martin/

    There you will find three lovely ME/Louisa stories by Carol from this blog that take place post Series 6. I recommend “Martin and Louisa at the Font,” then “Clues” and finally “Sing Together,” her best, most inspired writing to date. She writes under the user name: reallybodmin. She can be found at:
    https://www.fanfiction.net/u/5017393/

    Also, I highly recommend one story by robspace45, another person on that FanFiction site who writes a serious post-Series 6 story about what could come next after the Doc finally decides he must deal with his baggage. The story is called “8” and you can find it at:
    https://www.fanfiction.net/u/2205612/

    You won’t be disappointed.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Marta, I think the idea that Martin needed to hit bottom is pretty strong. The comparison to alcoholism makes sense too because we all know that for someone to really make a commitment to change something troubling they’ve been doing for a while often can’t happen until they hit bottom. ME has grown up in a family that shows little or no emotion or affection, seems to avoid the personal for the intellectual, and has few examples of successful marriages. He is the only offspring of the 3 Ellingham siblings, which could indicate that none of that generation wanted to perpetrate their upbringing on another generation. At least both Joan and Ruth are kind people. I totally agree that we see the vulnerability of the Doc through his many symptoms. S6 may have gone a little too far in that regard and I think they took away too much of the Doc’s affectionate moments with L and humorous moments around town as the series progressed. For me the humor combined with the serious topics addressed, along with the great writing and acting, make the show a unique and stimulating experience.

  15. waxwings2

    Thanks Karen. I think you’ve noted before that you feel that the DM show had gone too dark in Series 6 when we saw the Doc sinking deeper and deeper into depression, tormented by insomnia and agonizing despair. Yes, going to his worst vulnerable self. Perhaps the writers might have scripted some lighter, comical scenes. Sure, anything can be done in the hands of a gifted writer. But I think the DM writers deliberately went this dark for–can I say–serious reasons. I keep recalling Aunt Ruth’s insight on the hill when she told ME that he always sabotages the best in his life because he doesn’t believe he deserves it (his hemaphobia ended his work as a great surgeon; his cold feet at the alter with his great love Louisa prevented their first attempt at marriage, with ME telling her he believed the best thing he could do for her was to sit right there on his couch, and not go to the Church). But by S6, they do finally go to the Church, and he does marry Louisa, and has James. Then look what he does with those…I think sabotage of their marriage is what S6 is all about. Can this be made comical? Perhaps. (BTW, the man who can light up the darkest cellar with his smile never once smiles as the Doc on the DM show. Never.)

    You said you had hoped for some comic relief and even affectionate interaction with Louisa in the S6 story development that catalogues ME’s breakdown. Wouldn’t showing ME in his normal, comical collisions with daffy (“idiot”) patients probably have seemed too incongruous for Lothian the DM writer–IF the writer’s aim was to take Martin (and Louisa) to the bottom? And really, can a man such as the Doc be affectionate when he’s so depressed and racing towards bottom? He has a hard enough time of it when he’s not depressed. Depression closes doors. Nobody gets in in those times. A person’s at their most vulnerable then (as you noted) and has the greatest amount of walls erected. It will take a bulldozer (the car crash) to take them down. This is a man who has no experience of letting anyone in to help him ever, even on good days. This also is a man who has to go to the bottom (and we with him) to make the show work in the future (IMHO).

    So I think the darkness had to be there to signal that the show was about to take Martin (and Louisa) to a new place in Series 7. He had to have that total come-apart by S6 E8 (so metaphorically and painfully captured in the sports award scene and Louisa’s crash). But I suspect the Series 7 writers will restore to us the great humor that has been the hallmark of the show. (Therapy can be terrifically funny in the hands of talented writers such as those at DM). As the one exception to the above noted S6 darkness, the first episode of S6 (the Honeymoon night) was probably THE most hysterically funny, side-splitting episode we’ve been given to date. This is in stark contrast to the excruciatingly painful last episode of the car crash, and the disintegration of ME. Maybe that first episode was so extremely funny in order to “pay it forward” to the audience for what the writers were about to do to us for the remainder of S6. Hmmmm….

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Ok, your points are well taken. Taking ME into a dark place does give them an opportunity to lighten things up in the next series. Although we’re not really sure they will do one, and were they sure they would? We do get some humor, just not from ME and L. I don’t like whacky humor anyway. I would be looking more for the slightly awkward scenes like we get in the first few episodes. The bottle cap being loose, Martin precipitously asking people over, Martin taking JH to a music group, Martin keeping JH in his exam room. That sort of thing. He was funny, too, when he had that eyepiece and was working on his clock. But then came the many scenes of him sitting in the dark, brooding, and depressed. I certainly agree that someone who’s very depressed cannot interact with others easily, but unless they were already planning a 7th series, series 6 was of a much different ilk from the 5 previous ones. By E5, the show became a drama instead of a dramedy with the exception of Penhale, who for me was actually too goofy. So I see what you’re saying if you look at it as a step toward a turnaround. I always think each series will be the last, even though I hope there will be another. If they left it as is, would you still be happy with it? As you know, I found a lot of substance in many of the episodes, just a very different tone from what I had been admiring all along. I do look forward to another series and definitely agree that therapy could end up putting them in many awkward situations, as could L’s mother making a reappearance, or who knows what?

  17. Santa Traugott

    I have always believed that Series 6 was part 1 of a two part-series. The ending was clearly, “to be continued.” It just could not have been pulled out in a pat 5 minute reconciliation, and to their credit, the creators and show-runners realized this. Martin Clunes has said there will be a S7, and I believe it is a done deal, even though ITV have not yet announced the recommissioning.

    I like the idea of S6 showing us how Martin sabotaged his own marriage. And there is also the interpretation that it was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy — she can’t really want me when she really knows me, so I’ll act in such a way that she’ll have to reject me. (Maybe those are the same thing.) I tend to think too that Martin Ellingham kept anxiety at bay by meticulous control of his environment and routine, and the disruption of being married and a father wreaked havoc with that strategy. And his real phobia may be of intimacy — something he both wants and fears. So he pushes away just when he needs his partner the most.

    It was marvelously acted and psychologically very acute. And I have confidence that S7 will end with them together, and in a better relationship than even that show in E1. That said, what I wind up thinking about, or assessing S6, will probably depend largely on how S7 plays out.

  18. waxwings2

    OMG Santa. Yes!–the “female word” of James Joyce. Yes, yes, yes as Molly Bloom says at the end of Joyce’s great novel Ulysses. You’ve got it just right Santa in your reply to my post. And so succinct. You must be English with all those references to ITV and recommissioning. 🙂 Thank you from a humble American across the pond. Waxwings2

  19. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Sounds like a great plan and definitely makes sense to me too. iTV probably wants another series because the show is so popular. I guess the decision will be up to MC and PB, et. al. Fingers crossed!!

  20. Waxwings2

    Karen, there will definitely be a Series 7 of DM. How could PB and MC not do it ? ITV won’t disappoint either. It ‘ll be there–they’re not fools. And I don’t think they will make us wait too long. Trust Santa. He seems very wise on these matters.

    Am just now listening to “Love and Happiness” by Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler. It’s perfect for the Doc and Louisa. You can google it on uTube. It’s right up there with Rob Stewart’s inspired “Sailing” that was supposed to be the Doc and Louisa’s wedding reception tune in S6, E1. I think it’s a great celebratory song for the couple–and anyone who cares about redemptive true love. Give it a try.

  21. waxwings2

    Karen, every scene you describe in the early segments of S6 are truly light weight: the bottle cap being loose, Martin precipitously asking people over, Martin taking JH to a music group, Martin keeping JH in his exam room. If anything, these scenes portray a Martin Ellingham LOOSING IT. They do not match the prior comical scenes that inhabit a GP’s life. They are too raw. Too painful to watch to be funny. They only underscore my point that this S6 had to go dark to succeed and to set us all up for Series 7. Sorry, but this was all planned. I believed the script writers KNEW there would be a Series 7 and they were setting us all up like pin balls!!! I’m not happy about the manipulation, but you gotta hand it to them that they were brilliant in their conception and delivery. At least I think so. Waxwings2

  22. waxwings2

    This is a PS to a previous post by Karen:

    Every scene you describe as comical in the early segments of S6 are overly contrived, but they do add to the pathos of Martin’s disintegration in a way not previously seen on the show. He is desperate: the bottle cap being loose, Martin precipitously asking people over, Martin taking JH to a music group, Martin keeping JH in his exam room. If anything, these scenes portray a Martin Ellingham LOSING IT. They do not match the prior “objective, removed” comical scenes that inhabit a GP’s life. They are too raw and too personal and too contrived: actually too painful to watch and be funny. They only underscore my point that the Doc is having a mental breakdown, and this S6 had to go dark to succeed and to set us all up for Series 7. Yes, I think this was all planned. I believe the script writers KNEW there would be a Series 7 and they were setting us all up like pin balls. I’m ambivalent about the manipulation, but you gotta hand it to them that they were brilliant in their conception and delivery. At least I think so. Waxwings2

  23. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Marta, as always I appreciate your remarks. I wrestled with myself about writing you back, although I like to acknowledge it when someone has posted a comment. I seem to have a different sense of humor than you do and there’s just nothing we can do about that. I think the scenes I listed as funny simply show typical home life incidents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shaken a bottle of dressing or whatever only to find that my husband didn’t put the top on tightly, or times when my husband or I have made dinner arrangements with another couple only to get into an argument over it, etc. These are comical scenes because they are so true to married life and I just can’t consider them additional signs that ME is losing it. The points about the writers having a long term plan to take ME to the bottom in S6 so they can recuperate him (them) in S7 sound credible and we’ll just have to wait and see what ends up happening. I think I still have a couple of posts left in me and plan to write them soon.

  24. mmarshall

    I love the ideas I’ve read here about ME having traits of Asperger’s Syndrome. I spotted it immediately as my son has AS and I suspect my father does also. While there is not cure for AS, I think — in fact as a parent I’m counting on — a good, warm, supportive, nurturing, accepting upbringing can help someone with AS begin to develop many of those traits we see as lacking and “smooth out the rough edges” so he can live a fairly normal, socially acceptable life. I believe a person with AS certainly can learn, grow and change especially when well motivated and we’ve seen ME become motivated and begin to change. But those changes won’t be massive or whole-personality changing. He won’t end up with fluid social and interpersonal skills like Louisa. So she needs to learn to accept the good about him and overlook the awkward, or learn skills to live with him. Like how to communicate directly with him, not hint or drop clues. She needs to tell him directly what she needs. By season 7 I was just dying for them to have a good heart-to heart talk, but that never really happened!

    Now, Louisa … I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this here, but I keep coming back to Louisa’s need for people to like her. She is a pleaser and wants people to like her and think well of her. Another of Karen’s excellent posts lists ways she is so kind to others. I think many of these are rooted in her desire to please others. In season 1 she reached out to Roger Phen when he had cancer. She apologizes to him for how he was treated at the school and wants him to feel good about her again. She wants Martin’s aunts to like her. She even wants the teacher she disagrees with at the school to like her, and after the disastrous dinner party she seeks him out to apologize and try to make it well again — make him think well of her again.

    Being a pleaser probably comes from her mother abandoning her and her unconscious assumption that if she were more likable her mother wouldn’t have chosen to leave her; and from trying to please her father — again, unconscious on her part. She has been disappointed on both counts and had built up a wall of not needing people, being fiercely independent, capable of managing entirely on her own, and being well respected in the community. So she is stubborn and not afraid to be bold, yet she still wants people to like her in the end. We see the stubbornness and the wanting to be liked come into conflict as she stands up boldly for herself, yet immediately retreats and hedges he way back down. For example, she confronts ME about not telling the hiring committee that he had a blood phobia, then as if regretting her words immediately adds, “That wasn’t fair…” When she finally dismisses the opinionated midwife, she adds, “Oh, but she meant well!” She often isn’t secure enough in her bold positions to let them stand, I think because she also has this deep need for people to like her and she’s not comfortable setting herself up for confrontation. She is quickly willing to admit when she was wrong. Throughout the series we see her apologizing quickly and often.

    So if Louisa has this deep need to be liked, I think this may have gone into her calling of their wedding. She talks with an old girlfriend about why she likes ME and says sadly, “Some may wonder what I see in him.” She even struggles to find generous things to say to describe him, coming up only with “he’s straightforward” and “moral.” The town had found ME difficult and undesirable as a social companion. Perhaps she felt that married to him would affect her well-likedness in the community. When she doesn’t marry him, the townspeople aren’t shy about dissing him in front of her. Burt toasts her baby saying he hopes the child wouldn’t end up like his father. This finally gets Louisa’s defenses up. But it took a while –! She does like not to be liked! And people not liking her husband could have bothered her and made her feel that being attached to him would cause them to distance themselves from her as well. All this is pretty subconscious, I think.

    Back to ME once more and his autism spectrum behavior. I believe we see a lot of inertia in ME and I believe that it is connected to his AS and his related anxiety. I see this in my 12-year-old son with autism spectrum issues and I have noticed it often in ME. In the first season, Louisa chides Peter Cronk for not telling anyone that he didn’t bash people’s birdhouses. She said, “Why can’t you just speak up?” Peter is a young ME, I believe, only with a more positive, warm, supportive upbringing. I noticed this kind of inertia in ME first in season 1 E3 when he and Louisa were on their first date and Mark inserted himself. I thought it was strange that ME could cut off, shush, bark at, and name-call anyone without thought of being rude, but he couldn’t manage to set Mark straight that he was interrupting his date! I think his inertia — desire to stay in rest when at rest — sets in when his anxiety is high. My son shows the same when he doesn’t fully understand a school assignment or isn’t fully comfortable with a procedure, he just avoids it, shoves it aside, doesn’t deal with it. This comes back to haunt him when the assignment shows up as incomplete, and teachers and parents get after him. But this doesn’t seem to alleviate the anxiety at the moment. The inertia wins out. ME shows this inertia when Louisa is leaving for Spain and clearly wants him to reach out to her and ask (beg?) her to stay but ME can’t bring himself to do it. Again when Louisa’s bridesmaid Holly asks him to be her baby’s godfather and he seems almost willing to accept the invitation, yet Louisa intervenes and says she’ll make excuses for him so he can get out of it, he doesn’t fight that idea; he just lets it stand. “Objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” His anxiety is too high for him to muster the outside force. Then most notably his inertia takes over when he decides to sit on his couch instead of going to his wedding. He just can’t get over that anxiety. I think his stated reason that he doesn’t think he’ll make her happy was only a little bit true. The substitute pastor put that idea into his head and he probably has good reason to think that he runs the risk of not making Louisa happy, but I don’t think that’s the over-riding reason he stayed home. Also, I don’t think he believes at all that Louisa won’t make him happy. He clearly is happy with her in his life and has recognized that in the past. She may not feed in to all of his quirks, that way Edith did (helping him check his bed for bugs, etc!), but he has pursued her and wants her to be in his life, so I think he knows she will make him at least somewhat happy. I believe it is his inertia brought on by deep-rooted anxiety that is so hard to overcome. Nudges in the right direction, by the right people (so far mainly his aunts) can help him overcome this. Perhaps Louisa could help him, also, if she understood where it was coming from.

  25. Amy

    One thing bothers me about the assumption that Martin has Asperger’s (although I agree that he has many of the classic symptoms). Wouldn’t he, as the wise doctor, know this about himself? When Louisa lists all his neuroses in S7—his OCD, his hemophobia, his social awkwardness—neither she nor he uses the word Asperger’s. Given how generally medically precise the writers are, if Minghella wanted DM to have Asperger’s, why not say so in the show itself?

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    In my mind Minghella was clear that he based some of ME’s traits on people he knew with Asperger’s. When BP took over (or even prior to that), however, they might not have wanted to have a definitive diagnosis of Asperger’s because that gets into all sorts of sketchy areas that could become problematic. There have been viewers who have family members with Asperger’s who see similarities between ME and their kin, and the show is not meant to be about someone with Asperger’s. I would guess that they have Anthony Oakwood bring up that diagnosis in order to put that to rest in some way.

  27. Amy

    I am not familiar with Anthony Oakwood or when he brought up the diagnosis. Is it in one of the articles to which you linked above?

  28. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Oakwood is the Ph.D in psychology who moves in next door to Louisa in S3. He visits Martin in his office and directly asks him if he’s ever been told he could have Asperger’s.

  29. Amy

    I had forgotten about that, and even now I don’t recall how Martin responded. I feel like I just saw that series, and yet I’ve already forgotten so many details. Grrrr

  30. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Basically he was totally unreceptive and acted annoyed that this total stranger would act so chummy and forward.

  31. Amy

    And, of course, Dr T said nothing about Asperger’s in S7. If that’s what Minghella originally had in mind, then either he or subsequent writers/producers seem to have moved away from that as the explanation for his issues. As another commenter noted, Ruth also—a trained psychiatrist—never uses that term to describe Martin. So I believe his “strangeness” was not innate based on a form of Asperger’s, but a result of years of abuse, neglect, and rejection.

    I do hear more and more these days lay descriptions of socially awkward people as being “on the spectrum” or having Asperger’s—but there must be some medical basis for distinguishing between those diagnoses and other causes for similar behaviors.

  32. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As you may know, the diagnosis of Asperger’s is no longer valid insofar as the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). There is now an Autism Spectrum that these traits are part of. This manual has been used for years to provide a tool for diagnosing all sorts of psychiatric disorders, and it gets updated regularly. If you check it you will find a list of traits that are often used to determine if someone fits into the parameters of a certain diagnosis.

    On this show there is no doubt in my mind that they have attempted to provide a possible nurture alternative to the potential nature diagnosis that Asperger’s would reflect. And we can never deny that there tends to be a nature/nurture dynamic to many psychiatric disorders. So they’ve done as much as they can to avoid heading in the direction of one particular culprit for ME’s behavior.

    The fact that they do include the many traumas from childhood is one reason I found the therapy in S7 so disappointing. Both Martin and Louisa have had difficult childhoods, but those are left unexplored with the exception of Dr. T mentioning to Louisa that perhaps her parenting had affected her view of Martin. Martin notes he had cold and disengaged parents with little reaction from the therapist. Most therapists would have seen that as an essential problem to be discussed. Neither Dr. T or Ruth would be likely to use the term Asperger’s under normal circumstances. Ruth would be aware of Martin’s behavior idiosyncrasies without labeling them and Dr. T would avoid pinning a label on him and instigating any reason for him to become defensive.

  33. Amy

    (I am trying my alternative email address, which I rarely use since I am retired, but maybe your blog won’t reject it as trash.)

    One comment in response: My assumption as a viewer is that we only see the last few minutes of each session with Dr T. Certainly therapy sessions last the same 45-50 minutes in the UK as they do here. I’d give Dr T the benefit of the doubt that some work was done in the 40 or so minutes the writers failed to show us because of time and story line restraints. Ruth thought highly of Dr T, and so I am inclined to think she did a lot more work than we saw.

  34. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Amy, it looks like even using a different email address did not change the situation. I plan to contact the blog host soon. I have had a very busy weekend with a lot of family visiting and could not find the time yet. So sorry, but I will continue to search the trash for any comments you or others post.

    In regard to the therapy…my post on the therapy acknowledged the fact that we only see a small portion of each therapy session. My reason for remaining very skeptical about what could have happened during the sessions stems from what we are shown of their continuing difficulties. If, for example, they explored their lack of communication, we certainly don’t see any sign that they are trying to sit down and discuss anything. If they went over anything to do with their family backgrounds, we don’t see any sign that either of them learned anything of value that would lead to deeper understanding of each other. There was no follow-up in any of the sessions that demonstrated that Dr. T was interested in learning what they had discovered about each other AND whenever Louisa expresses her view about the previous assignment, Dr. T neglects to ask pertinent questions. The therapy post includes comments by Santa and Abby that make clear where Dr. T’s therapeutic technique is lacking and I would just recommend reading it.

    Ruth has heard good things about Dr. T but they do not seem to have much interaction with each other. When they happen to bump into each other at the pharmacy after Dr. T has had her accident, they appear to have not been communicating in any way and barely know each other. Ruth’s recommendation of Dr. T as stated came from knowing she doesn’t suffer fools and she has been highly regarded for her research. She might be wrong about her skills as a therapist, although that is an assessment that usually bothers me because it puts us in the position of judging Ruth as though she’s a real person and not a fictional character.

  35. Amy Cohen

    (That’s interesting, Karen. Perhaps all comments are going in the trash? Or are you receiving any comments that don’t? Wish I could help you, but I use WordPress.com as my host to keep things as simple as I can because the tech stuff is not my forte. Enjoy your family! This stuff can all wait.)

  36. DM

    Hi Amy,
    My non-expert opinion regarding Asperger’s, as stated elsewhere, is that the character of Martin Ellingham is distinctly not on the autism spectrum. Beyond Ruth’s reliable testimony as a seemingly competent psychiatrist witnessing ME’s early development in S6E8, “I watched you grow up. And I remember a vulnerable and sensitive 4-year-old boy. And I remember a six-year old who’d all but shut down,” we also have the insight from the scene in S5E5 (albeit a dream sequence) depicting a nearly six-ish ME portraying a richness of emotions representative of a fairly sophisticated theory of mind– a key negative symptom of Asperger’s.

    I would point out that Asperger-like symptoms are not conclusive for, nor are psychologically exclusive to, Asperger’s Syndrome. The same symptomatology with quite neurotypical development is entirely consistent from the picture we’ve been given of ME’s horrific upbringing at the depraved hands of his uncaring and indifferent parents (especially within the first few months of infancy– another reason we weren’t likely to get much exploration of ME’s later childhood from the flawed depiction of therapy in S7). Most importantly is that the very same non-Asperger’s symptomatology is consistent with what has been established as the story’s underlying narrative structure.

    I suspect that the programme’s creators chose not to ascribe a neurodevelopmentally limited outcome to the character mainly for purposes of storytelling– neither in the story’s original conceptualization nor as it came to revolve around Martin and Louisa’s relationship. I don’t believe that the love story would be nearly as engaging or compelling were there an adult diagnosis of ASD for ME as difficult if not impossible to overcome (even if our usually conscientious doctor were attending to its concomitant manifestations, e.g. depression).

    As Karen has noted here often, a central theme of Doc Martin is change and personal development, a theme that is largely discordant with a pervasive developmental disorder. Of course this is at odds with what some see as Louisa’s purported inability to accept Martin “just the way he is.” Since this interpretation implies that ME can’t change and thus supposedly all the tension is then presumed to have been that LE, won’t change– at least in terms of how she “accepts” ME “just the way he is”– along with all the consequences for his life, her life, and not to be overlooked, James Henry’s life too. Were this the case and the ending of S7 were truly representative of the definitive limits of what psychological distress ME is capable of enduring, then there will be no further change and we all have to wonder why bother to continue the series and why bother to continue watching it?

    An important measure of psychological health is change that leads to an individual’s genuine and authentic self which generally involves meaningful change and not just behavioural change. ME should not be stuck “just the way he is”– as the psychological irruption of a life-devastating case of haemophobia will attest! (a phobia which still has not “gone away” and has never just “gone away”!) Since Martin is “just the way he is” is exactly how his horrible parents made him out to be– then how can he by definition be his genuine and authentic self? Since “just the way he is” is exactly the way so many others are with a similar symptomatology, then how is he or any of them their genuine and authentic selves? The writers have created a character in Martin Ellingham which, despite all his challenges, is nonetheless inevitably drawn beyond “just the way he is” to someone like Louisa’s character who is just as inevitably drawn to him as well.

    [Hi Karen, I see after months of being otherwise preoccupied that the blog still lives, albeit in a different and understandably less demanding form. I’m glad to see that Amy and other fellow explorers continue to discover it too! I shall miss the greater activity on the blog over the summer, but since I’m sure your gears will continue to turn nonetheless, I will continue to check in here. Enjoy your summer!]

  37. Santa Traugott

    Indeed — I think it’s not a stretch to see his striving for a relationship with Louisa as his
    “authentic”, healthy self trying to break through — and his many defensive maneuvers around that being a large part of the story. And my theory is that Louisa has always been drawn to that authentic self that she sees and continually frustrated by the difficulties of connecting with it.

    Authenticity is a huge concept in ego and self-psychology, and I agree in its importance. But self-acceptance is I think an important part of authenticity, too, and this is in a way Martin’s journey in S7 — or so it seems to me.

  38. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you for joining the conversation again DM. The blog still lives because I have been persuaded that there may be continued interest in reading it by newcomers to the blog. There may at times be subjects that lend themselves to writing a new post, and I am always happy to look into philosophical and psychological topics. I don’t seem to be able to stop my gears from turning!! I hope your summer is fun too.

    We seem to have arrived at the position that although Dominic Minghella declared the character of Martin Ellingham to have been given traits of Asperger’s that he and personal acquaintances have, for the purposes of the show (both in terms of storyline and in terms of the show being about much more than a person with Asperger’s) we should not consider ME to be on the autism spectrum. [I have one caveat to this, and to DM’s assertion that ME does not have Asperger’s, in that I have read several articles written by adults who believe they would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s or Autism if they had grown up in today’s world. They write that they always knew they were different/strange but never knew what their unusual tendencies arose from. They also carried on with life, including marriage and children, until they came across descriptions of Asperger’s/Autism and had an “AHA” moment. Spectrum means just that and one can be quite functional and capable of having relationships while still falling on the spectrum.]

    I wish someone would tell me exactly how to determine what our authentic selves are. I have looked up a number of sources and come up with a myriad of suggestions, including critical thinking, using context as a guide, using rational reflection to reach one’s deepest values, looking at one’s goals for life, etc., etc. Saying we should seek to reach our authentic selves makes it sound simple.

    Anyway, I think that once again we are going way beyond what any of the writers had in mind for these characters or for the message they may be indicating, if they are indicating one at all. By the end of S7 the upshot is that no one needs to change, or even can change (they never intended to “fix” Martin); we just all need to tolerate each other as unusual because there is no normal. Martin’s phobia has been relegated to a secondary status; he no longer needs his clocks as a refuge; Louisa’s intransigence has subsided; love is in the air and that’s all that matters.

    Whatever we want to identify as Martin’s problems, faults, diagnosis, we are deluding ourselves if we think we will ever reach any sort of final verdict on that. What seems to be ahead is the development of other storylines while maintaining a GP who is brusque, rude, clumsy, and clueless as well as extremely competent and devoted to his patients and family. We will hopefully have a marriage that continues to hit rough patches but with a wife who can laugh off some of the strange situations, or at least make excuses for them. That may create a less compelling show, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  39. Amy Cohen

    I am starting a new comment (I think) because the boxes were getting so narrow.

    DM, thank you for your response to my comment. I think we are on the same page. Of course, Karen is right. ME is a character, and the writers can say or do anything they please with him and about him. But assuming they are striving for some consistency and realism, I do not think ME is supposed to be on the autism spectrum.

    And I do think that he has changed (or rather, been changed by the writers). He certainly has at least in his relationship to Louisa. Karen, as you said elsewhere, he is kinder, more patient, more expressive. He brings her flowers. He helps with the baby. He is able to tolerate the noise and disarray better than he had before. I believe the writers are showing he CAN change…even if he can’t be completely fixed.

    And I also agree with Santa that what Louisa saw and fell in love with was the gentle, wise man who Martin could be if his outer (non-authentic) self wasn’t totally screwed up by his upbringing. I am not a psychologist and have no idea how we determine our authentic selves, but I like to think we all have a better self within ourselves that for most of us predominates in our personal relationships but that is sometimes outweighed by the selfish or anxious or violent or anti-social attributes we carry either innately or as a result of environmental factors in our development.

    I remain hopeful that S8 will bring harmony to M & L. The writers and producers know this is the last season, and I think they will bring the viewers some satisfying closure that is better than S7E8’s ending.

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