So I went through the entire series
on DVD over the past few weeks. I'm a big fan of fiction about people with superpowers - not just comic books, but specifically stories that try to cover the ramifications of people having these powers, so The 4400 seemed to be a good fit.
And to a large extent, it was. Until the fourth season episode, Fear Itself
In this episode, people start coming down with massive phobias with hallucinatory components - the first guy gets a massive fear of clowns (coulrophobia!) and imagines everyone he sees are clowns. This happens to other people as well, as the main characters (NTAC - heh - agents) try to track down the person with the power causing all this trouble. As it turns out, the person was a young autistic boy. His father hoped that injecting him with promicin* (the fictional neurotransmitter that causes powers in The 4400) would turn him neurotypical. In an emotional scene, he confesses that all he wanted was for his son to hug him and call him dad. This was a really bad moment, I think, because he's presented as sympathetic and his desire understandable, even with the potentially lethal outcome of a promicin injection.
But it gets worse - one of the NTAC's agents' nephews is one of the original 4400, and has a healing power. They bring him in to heal Brandon (the autistic boy), and it works
. Not only does it work, but once he's done, Brandon immediately hugs his dad and tells him that he loves him. As if the autism were really a prison locking the real
Brandon away from the world. As if autism is something that can or should be "healed."
Anyway, this was really disturbing (and I'll admit it, enraging) to me, because of this idea that autism steals children away, leaving this autistic doppelganger, or that there really is a neurotypical child waiting inside. And showing a parent who would rather see his child die than live on as autistic, and presenting him as sympathetic
and understandable, while the victim - the boy who was nearly killed and given a nigh-uncontrollable power - is not really discussed as such.
At least they sent Brandon's father to prison, but it looked like for using promicin (which is illegal) and not, say, attempted murder.
* Promicin has a 50% chance to kill and a 50% chance to give a power. This guy was gambling with his son's life because it'd be better for him to be dead than autistic... ugh.