Asperger's Diary

Life through the lens of Asperger's Syndrome.

Sheldony or Aspergery?: The Big Bang Theory

Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory...Asperger's or No?

When talking about portrayals of Asperger's in the media, whether it be here, or in other forums, there are certain shows that keep coming up time and again.   The one I had heard of most recently was CBS's  comedy Big Bang Theory.   I've been trying to catch it for months now, but never seemed to manage to, partially because it's scheduled directly opposite another of my favorites - House.  Finally, on a plane, I managed to catch an episode.   All I can say is...Oh, my!

According to Wikipedia the show "...concerns two male Caltech prodigies in their twenties, one an experimental physicist (Leonard) and the other a theoretical physicist (Sheldon), who live across the hall from an attractive blonde waitress with show-biz aspirations (Penny).

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Leonard and Sheldon's geekiness and intellect are contrasted with Penny's social skills and common sense for comedic effect. Two equally geeky friends of theirs, Howard and Rajesh, are also main characters."

In the episode I caught, "The Pancake Batter Anomaly" from Season 1, Sheldon (the character thought by many - including The Slate - to show traits of Asperger's) becomes ill...leading his friends to implement an avoidance "protocol" for avoiding Sheldon when he is ill.  They escape to a 10 hour "Planet of the Apes" marathon. In the process, however, Leonard's glasses are accidentally broken, so he attempts (with Howard and Rajesh's help) to sneak back into the apartment to get his spare glasses. Of course, being prodigies, and science geeks, their plan involves night vision technology (that only the two outside can access), a vibration-sensor to be placed by Sheldon's door, and a trip through the apartment on hands and knees in the dark (being fed directions remotely).

I loved it!  (In fact, I really had to watch myself so that I didn't disturb my fellow travelers with my laughing.) 

Fortunately (or rather unfortunately), I identified with a lot of Sheldon's antics. (To my family -- if I am anywhere near this bad when I'm sick, I am so sorry.)  I understand completely why some speculate that Sheldon has Asperger's - and while it is clearly exaggerated, it's done in a way that feels fond to me, rather than mocking. 

After watching the episode, I read up a little on the show...and found this link of  random facts about Sheldon.  I identify so strongly with some of them, it's a little scary.  Here are a few:

  • Sheldon has got a t-shirt of The Greatest American Hero's costume. (Yes, I'm a little embarrassed to admit - I have one too.  Back in the day, I loved this show.)
  • Sheldon cannot stand whistling. (You might as well shove an icepick in my ear...)
  • Sheldon's favorite Star Trek movie is: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (This movie taught me how to explain my style of memory, “I have a photographic memory, I see words.”   It was also one of the first movies that ever showed the type of conversations I had in real life...the scenes in which Kirk has to explain lying, exaggeration, and profanity to Spock...priceless.  So dead on.)
  • Sheldon thinks that to have more then four friends at the same time is much too stressful for him. (Yeah, this has been true for most of my life...)
  • Sheldon hates it when someone stops him when he is trying to explain something. If this happens: a tic starts on his face until he can complete what he wants to say. (I don't get a tic, but I sure find this difficult. Completion becomes a compulsion.)
  • Sheldon loves Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Scrubs. (Love Star Trek, sometimes Battlestar, old Dr. Who, but not Scrubs - can't take John C. McGinley.)
  • Sheldon cannot detect sarcasm. (I do better at this now, but I take a bit of ribbing for the amount of times I still have to ask, "Are you being sarcastic?" or "Are you joking?.")
  • Sheldon doesn't know how to lie or how to keep a secret. (I'm much better at this now - but it's been a long road.)
  • Sheldon was sick a lot as a child. (Ear infections, upper respiratory infections....oh, yeah...)
  • Sheldon doesn't drink coffee, or alcohol. (Me, neither.)

So - does Sheldon have Asperger's?  Hard to judge after seeing just one half-hour episode, but it sure seems a possibility.  I'll certainly be watching to see more.   

Author's Note (08/16/2009):  I was able to rent and watch the first season.   I am now  convinced that Sheldon is "one of us." I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard... 

Lynne Soraya is the nom de plume for a writer with Asperger's Syndrome.

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