I’ve been meaning to watch The Big Bang Theory for years but wanted to start at the beginning. I was happy when I noticed that the first eight seasons are now on Netflix. In the last two weeks I’ve watched up to season six (when I get into something I can become a teeny bit obsessed). As well as having an awesome theme tune (which I can now sing at speed) it also has a whole host of geeky characters to fall in love with. You might say it covers the whole geek spectrum.
One of the main characters is Sheldon Cooper. He displays a lot of characteristics commonly associated with people on the autistic spectrum. However the show’s creators have denied that he was created as a character who is autistic.
Is Sheldon Cooper on the autistic spectrum;
Lets look at the difficulties commonly associated with autism
Social communication and interaction;
Sheldon says incredibly outrageous things.
He is outspoken about his superior intelligence for example when Leonard asks Sheldon to make himself scarce because he has a date with Penny he responds; “Leonard, I am a published theoretical physicist with two doctorates and an IQ which can’t be accurately be measured by normal tests. How much scarcer could I be?”
This is how he feels about astrology; “it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the sun’s apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your personality.”
He is frequently incredibly rude, without even realising. For example comparing Penny to a primate and innopropriately asking her where she is in her menstrual cycle all in one statement ; “I’ve been doing some research online and apparently, female primates – you know, apes, chimpanzees, YOU – they find their mate more desirable when he’s being courted by another female. Now, this effect is intensified when the rival female, is secreting the pheromones associated with ovulation. Which brings me back to my question; where are you… “
Sheldon lives by a very rigid routine. He eats the same foods on the same nights each week and always does his laundry on Saturday nights. He has his spot on the sofa, which no-one else is allowed to sit in, he explains his choice of spot;
“In the winter, that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on.”
He is driven to his appointments by roommate Leonard, and struggles to cope if this doesn’t happen. He needs his routines in order to cope.
He has a limit to the number of social contacts he can maintain. As shown in the episode where he makes friends with Karwowski because he needs something from him, he tells his other friends that one of them will have to no longer be his friend.
Sheldon has anxiety about germs, danger, driving amongst others. He is single minded and clearly has trouble with theory of mind.
As I said the show’s creators have denied that Sheldon has autism, saying that they see his peculiarities as being Sheldony. I would theorise that this is because if they admitted that he displays autistic traits they would have to ensure that his is an accurate reflection of the condition. This might limit the character and storylines available. Also some people might be offended by him as an autistic character, as he is frequently a difficult person to be around.
Personally I love Sheldon, he’s quirky, unique and absolutely hilarious. Sure I could take offence, but I’m aware that characters on TV shows are not real representations, they’re parodies of personality types. His ability to be entirely happy with himself is inspiring. The Big Bang theory makes being a geek acceptable, and I love it.