Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Bang Theory: Aspie vs. Sheldon-y

I picked up a nasty strain of the Mutaba Virus or something like it over the weekend, and I'm on the verge of going into a coma for the next 12 hours to recuperate. Because of this, I don't have the energy to write about, or even watch, tonight's "Big Bang Theory," but I want to point you all to a story on Slate that asks a question I and others have asked ourselves many times in the last year and a half: does Sheldon have Asperger's? (More thoughts after the jump.)

The writers try to duck the issue, and Jim Parsons goes along with the party line while still acknowledging that the character's behavior couldn't be any more Asperger-like. I think this is a case of the writers either not knowing about Asperger's Syndrome going in, or else being reluctant to say Sheldon's on the autism spectrum because that would imply that they're making fun of someone's disability.

Now, I have some experience with friends who are on the spectrum, so I'd be sensitive to the idea of mocking something he can't help. And I actually like the show more if I watch it with the belief that Sheldon is an Aspie. Yes, the other characters tell jokes at Sheldon's expense and get exasperated at his rigidity, but they also indulge his quirks a lot more than they would if he was just socially tin-eared, I think. Watching the Mary McDonnell arc on "Grey's Anatomy," where the character's diagnosis is made explicit, and then used as fodder for jokes, I feel like old-fashioned sitcom "Big Bang" provides a more realistic, more human and, yes, funnier take on the situation than the big hit medical series.

For those of you who know about spectrum disorders, what do you think? Are you glad "Big Bang" refuses to spell out tha Sheldon has Asperger's, or do you prefer that they leave it vague and never even use the word?

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess it doesn't bother me because Parsons doesn't play Sheldon as a victim, or as someone completely clueless about what his friends say and do. He makes just as much fun of what he perceives as other people's faults (sometimes unwittingly), and everytime a comment is made about Sheldon, Parsons clearly shows that he understands that his friends are making fun of him (though he probably doesn't agree with them).

I don't know anyone diagnosed with AS (I know a few people who could be on the spectrum, though), so I can't say that I'm necessarily the most sensitive to the situation. Than again, wouldn't this show be a positive for people with AS? If Leonard, Penny, and the others just made fun of each other and then treated Sheldon differently, wouldn't that suggest that the writers don't think someone with AS can fit into society? Here Sheldon is just one of the guys.

Pamela Jaye said...

I don't know how i feel about labeling Sheldon (although I agree with your previous comments about Dr Dixon - doctors should know what it is, in particular, and not just describe someone as "off") but I *am* sad that you were too sick to watch the ep tonight as it was as totally awesome as the concept that Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang were given to the wrong mothers at birth.

feel better.
i'll go read.
the episode was really really good.
(well, except that, at one point, Sheldon and Leonard's mum, did actually *sound* like Vulcans)

As for the Aspergers - my friend's son, who is more on the autism end, displays more human feeling and compassion than Sheldon does.

Matt said...

I'm probably a little on the spectrum myself and I guess I'd prefer it not be directly acknowledged.

(At least on the show, if the writers want to go on record at some point in behind-the-scenes interviews, that wouldn't bother me, either).

But please, no more Dr. Dixon.

Becca said...

I can't say I care a whole lot, but I would prefer that Sheldon not be labeled. For one thing, the autism spectrum, and even just the Asperger's designation itself, is so diverse that the show couldn't possibly hope to "represent" the community in any way. Or at least any way that would make the community happy. Anecdotally, my boyfriend has Asperger's and has very little in common with Sheldon. He has many awkward, nerdy, non-Asperger's friends, however, who remind me much more of the character.

I think the point of Sheldon's character is not to highlight a disability, but to present an extreme case of "not getting it" socially.

Kensington said...

I love the idea that Sheldon has Asperger's rather than him merely being a social misfit. It adds a level of pathos to the comedy that makes him very endearing to me. If he has Asperger's, then my heart breaks even as I'm laughing at his foibles, and that makes The Big Bang Theory so much more interesting than your typical sitcom.

On a side note, tonight's episode was brilliant. Christine Baranski was hysterical, and I loved that the show was willing to do something unexpected with the relationship between Leonard and Penny. I really felt that this was a transcendent episode, arguably the best yet.

dvlman said...

This show is inconsistent (the previous two episodes were not very good), but I think this episode and the Christmas episode were the funniest two episodes of any show this season. They are both legitimate sitcom classics.

I was involved in a discussion with Eric Millegan, who played Zack Addy on Bones. He was asked about his character's personality. After consulting with Hart Hanson, he answered that his character is supposed to have Asperger's and he was written that way.

I am curious whether the BBT writers have the same intentions with Sheldon.

jim treacher said...

I've only seen the show a couple of times, but I just figured he was gay. Could he be both?

Anonymous said...

Labeling is only important to people who want to "fix" people; Sheldon is as Sheldon does & mostly he's a little self-centered but not a bad guy.

I have to say we really looked forward to Christine Baranski's appearance & she did not let us down - she's a scream!

Craig Ranapia said...

I love the idea that Sheldon has Asperger's rather than him merely being a social misfit. It adds a level of pathos to the comedy that makes him very endearing to me.

I get and respect where you're coming from, Kensington, but I feel exactly the opposite -- what the hell is up where our culture, where every damn personality quirk or unpleasant quality needs to have a medical/psychological label slapped on it. Can Sheldon just be someone who is astoundingly intelligent, but also has no filter between his brain and mouth?

I don't really care whether Sheldon is an 'Apie' or not; anymore than I really care whether Charlie on 2 1/2 Men has some kind of clinical 'sex addiction', or is just a really really obnoxious man-slut. I rather enjoy 'Big Bang Theory', and think 'Men' is a borderline misogynistic pile of crap.

Granola Mom said...

I'm a parent of a 12 year old boy on the high end of the spectrum, and I've been a youth leader of a group of boys with AS disorders for many years.

I would love (as I bet most parents would!) to have Sheldon be "outed" as an Aspie - or at least have the show question it. Kids with ASD could really use a role model beside "this that or the other person from history MIGHT have had autism!".

I know there are many people who don't believe in labeling, especially for adults. For the younger set, however, to get any kind of help in school that they might need (not all Aspies are super geniuses like Sheldon!), the label is a necessity.

Sheldon is a great character, Aspie or not. His quirks and differences are handled with affection and humor. And though every person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is an individual, with differing levels of intelligence, social ability, etc., having Sheldon be an Aspie might open up many people's eyes about what the real face of autism can look like.

Granola Mom said...

Oh, and to the question of could Sheldon be gay or both: of course he could be, but I don't think he is. There's never been any indication that he's attracted to men. There really isn't any indication that he's overly attracted to women, either. I'd say Sheldon is more asexual if anything, though he did have a brief relationship with a girl last season, and there was some sexy undertones with his roomie's mom last night!

OldDarth said...

I prefer it to be left vague. Besides all the characters are a bit off aren't they?

Did I miss an episode or is the indelible message left on Leonard's forehead something that was not carried forward? If so, sad to see it not carried forward and explored.

Trog said...

Alan, find a way to watch this episode. It was one of the funniest ones I've ever seen. The actress who played Lenard's mom was amazing.

Feel Better!

Anonymous said...

Sheldon is written as a character who has a convenient opinion on everything from the proper way to run a Renaissance fair to the proper hierarchy of Bollywood heroines. The notion that he wouldn't self-diagnose his condition seems implausible (even for a sitcom). However, even if he has diagnosed himself, I can't see that it would necessarily come up in conversation regularly. And even if it did, I don't think it would change the show in any way.

That being said, last night we got the latest of several mentions of the experiments he used to perform on himself as a kid. And we got Sheldon interacting with a psychiatrist/neuroscientist who analyzes everyone else on the show but Sheldon. The show went for its usual familiar laughs -- girls always want to please their fathers, male friends are always in pseudo-homosexual relationships, Jews and their mothers, oy! -- and ignored the most psychologically interesting character on the show. I believe they just wrote an episode as if Sheldon was meeting all of these characters for the first time and then gave all of his lines to Baranski. (I actually approve of this approach to writing an episode.)

I've changed my mind. Given the temptation it would create for the writers to go for easy laughs, I would prefer it would not be stated that Sheldon has Aspergers. Could we also somehow make the writers forget Wolowitz is Jewish and Koothrapali is Indian?

Granola Mom said...

I don't think that the show would have to dredge out the "Oh, there goes the Aspie!" card for every joke or every episode.

For all we know, all the characters, including Sheldon himself and Leonard's mother are already aware of his ASD, and don't feel the need to constantly bring it up - it's just something that "is" and that they are used to.

I think what some of us would like to see, as opposed to talking about it constantly and being a joke, is just confirmation of the ASD. Kind of a "Hey look, there's a character on TV that is an Aspie, who is successful and has friends! Woot!"

Think of it as similar to how exciting it was to have a main character be African American, or a show's main character to be gay. A step forward social acceptance, an awareness.

It doesn't need to be placed as a main theme of the show. Just an occasional mention now and again in passing. Or even just once. Even done in a way that Sheldon isn't actually labeled, but maybe just part of an episode where they deal with someone else who has it, shows the similarities to Sheldon, and implies that maybe that's his story as well.

I'm not looking for the "Autism Show", but this is just such a great opportunity to touch on a non-stereotypical autistic character in such a great way. I really, really hope that they go there.

Drew said...

I'm with Craig. Sometimes people are just socially awkward, and I'm not quite sure why that's not enough for many people. This constant need today to diagnose every television character -- and yes, I'm mostly looking at TWoP posters -- who acts slightly different than "normal" is really ridiculous, and I'm surprised it's not more insulting to people.

Maybe the show will end up addressing it, but it'd be a huge, huge mistake. Give Sheldon any sort of medical condition, and he starts to feel off limits to laugh at. And even if you say, "No, it'll still be okay," you'll still have to deal with the constant moaning from others.

Let the guy be who he is. He's perfectly content with it, and so am I.

Bryan said...

Why name the condition if that's what he has? What could possibly come his diagnosis other than a "very special episode?" All I know is they guy- and the show- are hilarious right now. They are on a roll that makes them consistently one of- if not the- funniest shows on tv.

I don't personally know anyone with Asperger's but it seems to me much of the humor comes from everyone's frustration with Sheldon and not at the expense of his condition (it's a fine line I know). Indeed (one of Sheldon's favorite words) it can be stated that Sheldon is actually the highest functioning person on the show. He is the most successful, has the most money (we found out last week) and he certainly the most content.

I just want to bring up one point on the show last night and I'll do it in as non-spoilery way as possible Alan. When Sheldon sat there in the cafeteria listening to Howard and Raj discuss their relationship and then his response - so odd but so Sheldon - it was hilarious. I don't use this word very often but Jim Parson's comic timing is brilliant.

Bryan said...

One other quick point. Some of the most humorous and most poignant scenes are when Sheldon is aware of his limitations and trys to figure them out and correct them. ( lying, gift-giving, etc)

Anonymous said...

It's kind of funny to read comments by people about the subtlety of BBT. This is a show built on the stereotype of a dumb blond actress and a socially inept nerd. And one of the big punchlines of last night episodes was that two guys who hang out a lot are probably kinda gay. People don't seem to have a problem laughing at those stereotypes.

This past episode provided a great opportunity for Leonard to point out he tolerates Sheldon because he has the same condition as Beverly. It just felt weird that they didn't make a single joke about it. I guess the Beverly/Sheldon conversation at the end counts a little, but it was pretty weak tea. I don't want a very special episode about Sheldon. I just want one of his friends to make fun of him for it in the same way they make fun of each other all the time on this show.

It also has to be said that the self-diagnosing of a little bit of Asperger's is kind of a part of nerd culture these days. (See the author of "American Nerd" discuss the issue here.) And I tell you from personal experience, nerds do make Asperger's jokes about each other, right alongside D&D jokes. (Speaking of jokes, any nerd who lived through "Rain Man" jokes as a kid should appreciate how nice it would be for the producers to acknowledge that Sheldon, a likeable TV character, has Asperger's.)

If nothing else, a diagnosis might lead to a support group and, in the logic of situation comedy, a potential girlfriend for Sheldon. I support this storyline.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! There doesn't need to be a "very special episode". There doesn't need to be a huge claim. A passing comment, done in a way that lets everyone know that the characters have always known it about Sheldon, they just don't feel the need to talk it to death.

I think a lot of this discussion is going to break down to 2 sides: those who know someone with any form of autism, and those who don't.

Those of us who know people with autism know that you can joke around about things, keep your sense of humor, and don't have to be a bully about it. Whether it's diagnosed "officially" or not, if Sheldon walked into any neurologists office, he'd have the label of Aspergers in no time flat. Label or no, everyone who ever knew anyone with it can see it a mile away.

erin said...

I thought this episode was absolutely delightful, and I was, as Sheldon might say, surprisingly satisfied by Sheldon finding someone who related to him in Leonard's mother, and Leonard and Penny bonding (and making out, ha!) I still think they are cute (and Raj and his boyfriend? Best. Scene. Ever.) I'm part of the camp that doesn't want Sheldon defined. Simply because it puts him in a box, and I don't think it's necessary. If you relate to Sheldon in any way, then the show has done it's job.

I think it's progressed wonderfully since the first season. I'm a big, big fan. And Christine Baranski, come back anytime!

Zach said...

The point of the whole show is a running joke on the kinds of personalities that astrophysics self-selects for.

Aspie men and women gravitate to all technical and highly specialized research fields. To call out this one character as the only Aspie would only serve to obscure the formative influence that AS has across ALL aspects of all techinical and research fields.

There cannot be "one" aspie character on a show using this as its comic foundation, not when the entire character of the field / industry evolves out of those very social restrictions and impairments of its members. Every aspect of everyday life in those fields are informed by tension between the cognitive compensation strategies we all use to hand-fashion our social skills as we go along, and the more normal social perceptions and abilities available to those less affected, i.e. in the outside world.

That would totally contravene the joke. :]

And yes I am a 42 y/o Aspie man in a tech research field, and no Sheldon is not the AS extremist example of the day.

Those would be Zach Addy and Temperance Brennan.

For those who do not know, AS manifests itself *extraordinarily* differently in female and male individuals. The characters of Brennan and Addy are quite well done in that respect.

Anonymous said...

If Sheldon's quirks were, not a character trait, but a medical condition, his mother and twin sister would have treated him more sympathetically and protectively.

And of course the writers are going to duck the issue. Whether he Ausperger's or not, just bringing up the question on camera is a comedy killer.

Anonymous said...

If Sheldon is so socially inept, why do the others choose to live with/hang around him? Obviously Leonard can afford his own apartment (Penny can, and he earns way more than she does), as can Sheldon. Why stay together?

Andrew said...

I think if you labeled Sheldon, it would take away something from the show. While they could still make the same jokes after his official diagnosis, I think there would be a certain level of underlying sadness to it. HIs friends tolerate his quirks, even though they can be frustrated with him, but what about when they bring new people into the group?

the main problem, I think, is that if they outed him as an Aspie, that would more or less have to be the focus of the show. Everything he said and did would always have to be seen through that prism, and would be the elephant in the room any time Sheldon was on screen.

Andrew said...

Anonymous 2:31 - They have sort of addressed this in the past. Raj and Howard tolerated Sheldon originally because they liked Leonard. And based on last nights episode, you could make a strong argument that Leonard sticks with Sheldon because he bears a striking emotional resemblence to Leonard's mom...

That said, I think it is really about a certain comeraderie amongst lifelong outcasts. Yes, Sheldon has quirks and incredibly annoying traits, but he is just as ostracized from society as the rest of the "normal" supergeniuses. Who are they to say he isn't cool enough to hang out with them? Besides, there are plenty of shared interests and things that they bond over (Battlestar Galactica, Klingon Boggle, Paintball, etc...)

Granola Mom said...

If Sheldon's quirks were, not a character trait, but a medical condition, his mother and twin sister would have treated him more sympathetically and protectively.

Obviously you aren't in a family with an kid with any form of autism. Mine gets treated just like the rest of the kids. With high expectations for personal goals, sympathy when it's needed, not because you exist, and yelled at just as loudly, lol.

No matter is Sheldon has an ASD or not, he's a grown man, living independently, making a living, with friends and a life of his own, no matter his personal issues with social norms. Why would he warrant sympathy or protectiveness? That's what every parent of an Aspie wants for their kid (any kid!). His family would only be proud and supportive.

(And to the other poster, yes, Bones is a great example of an Aspie adult as well. )

Anonymous said...


the main problem, I think, is that if they outed him as an Aspie, that would more or less have to be the focus of the show.


More than it is now, with us just wondering, lol?

If they played it like everyone he knows had already known, and played it off in passing, why would anything have to change? It's not sad, it's who he is, and they all have accepted that.

Raj and Walowitz (sp?) might play like they only tolerate Sheldon, but you can see that they are, underneath it, all friends.

Kensington said...

I don't care one way or the other whether they ever explicitly reference Sheldon having Asperger's, but I think it could be kind of sweet to stick one explicit reference into the final episode, maybe have Leonard say something like "see you, Aspie" right before his final exit. If it were done affectionately, it could be sweet and also send fandom shrieking (one way or the other).

Anonymous said...

Zach,

I agree with you broadly. But I don't see any problem with the makers of show suggesting that Sheldon is inspired by folks who displayed Asperger's characteristics -- according to dvlman (see comment way at the top) that's exactly what the folks who make Bones did with Zach Addy. I'm not asking them to do any clinical research or feel constrained in how they write Sheldon, but just to acknowledge the roots of the character. They don't even need to do it in an episode; they could just let Parsons acknowledge it like Addy did.

To me all this is just a normalization issue. Folks on sitcoms call each other "neurotic", "OCD", or "anal" all of the time, and there's now a cable dramedy about dissociative identity disorder. The notion that acknowledging Sheldon's behavior may have a name doesn't "define his character" or "put him in a box" anymore than making Wolowitz Jewish defines his. In both cases it should be good for a few jokes, but nobody should take it too seriously. It also doesn't prevent the show from acknowledging similar characteristics among all the characters -- just like Wolowitz isn't the only one with a stereotypical overbearing mother.

-----

Andrew,

As someone above pointed out, Sheldon already is the focus of the show (at its best), and your description:

His friends tolerate his quirks, even though they can be frustrated with him, but what about when they bring new people into the group?

already describes several episodes of the show (like with Leonard's girlfriend). I don't see how his condition having a name would keep the show from being funny anymore than Monk's having an acknowledged disorder keeps that show from being funny.

Like all disorders on sitcoms, it can be used for pathos if desired and jokes otherwise. (See Michael J. Fox's guest on Scrubs for an example of both.)

-----

This whole thing is only a big deal because the producers were a little cautious in the early going and now are boxed into a position. It's not a big deal if Sheldon's an Aspie, but it has become a big deal to admit it. I'm sure it will all sort itself out eventually, especially as Parsons starts winning awards for his work.

Dennis Wilson said...

Even if Sheldon's actions do suggest the behavior of a person with Asperger's Syndrome, so what? Why does everything have to be spelled out?

This reminds me of writer/artist John Byrne's taking time out of a Superman story to provide a rationale for how Superman's powers permitted him to balance a skyscraper on his pinkie without it collapsing.

It stopped the narrative cold; overrexplaining always does. And it was unnecessary. Superman can do the things he does 'cause he's Superman, he can lift anything -- that's all we need to know.

The worst two episodes of the usually great NYPD Blue were those which set out to provide an origin story for Sipowicz's bigotry. Providing a reason for his racism undercut the impact of it.

Sheldon does what he does because he's Sheldon. That's all we need to know. The Big Bang Theory is working well as is. Leave us not fuck with it.

Drew said...

Is it really a big deal, though? Do people actually spend time worrying about this? The only reason I ever began giving this situation any thought is because people on other sites were harping on it and I started to think, "Damn, people really know how to kill a funny thing, don't they?"

If this show were made five years ago, I can't imagine that there would have been any type of discussion about all this. We would have all laughed freely at who he was. But this is all such a hot issue right now that people feel like they have to lump Sheldon with others. I'm not saying TV exists in a vacuum -- it mostly certainly doesn't, and the best shows often reflect certain aspects of society -- but this just feels like argument for the sake of being "hip."

The show held on to something like 98 percent of Two and a Half Men's demo rating last night. True, TaaHM was down a bit, but still, 98 percent is unbelievable. People are watching. People are loving. It's funny. Not resolving this "issue" doesn't mean anything.

samuel.x.killer said...

My $.02:

The only other character I've seen with Asperger's was Jerry on BOSTON LEGAL and the jokes made at his expense felt highly exaggerated and almost to the point of cruelty. There's a lot more room to play with Sheldon since he's not diagnosed. Whether or not it's intentional, I think that the character can be interpreted as a character with Aspergers is enough for me. I recall an article about CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM being shown to people with extreme social disorders and their reaction to Larry's actions as educational. While Larry was never explicitly linked to a social disorder, that his behaviors appealed to a diagnosed group is good enough.

A question I have is that if Leonard's mom is so similar in character to Sheldon, is she an Aspie? If not, is Sheldon not similar to her?

There've been a few comments in this section about homosexuality and I'm not sure where they are coming from. Sheldon's "deal" (as the show put it) has been questioned but is never addressed because as a character Sheldon doesn't like the idea of sex to begin with. Regarding Howard and Raj, as the two not only salivate over Penny but have their own issues with the opposite sex (Raj's "selective muteness" and Howard's acute horniness) their Ersaltz (sp?) homosexual relationship was a joke on their characters' relationship, not a statement about their characters' sexuality.

HILARIOUS show last night. Hope they keep up the great work

Anonymous said...

who cares what he has as long as it still keeps being funny. this is a sitcom here.

Craig Ranapia said...

I don't think that the show would have to dredge out the "Oh, there goes the Aspie!" card for every joke or every episode.

No, but then again the writer's room on Chuck Lorie's other sitcom apparently have never come across a dick gag they could leave alone.

I agree with you broadly. But I don't see any problem with the makers of show suggesting that Sheldon is inspired by folks who displayed Asperger's characteristics -- according to dvlman (see comment way at the top) that's exactly what the folks who make Bones did with Zach Addy.

I'm sure some Bones squint will tick me off if I'm wrong, but weren't the folks at the show (quite understandably) twitchy about being accused of exploiting Asperger's for laughs, considering Zac did provide a fair amount of the show's comic relief.

You can call it political correctness gone mad or long overdue sensativity, but I think television shows are pretty nervous about being seen as poking fun at people with disabilities. Just as, while we've still got a long way to go, pervasive sexism and ethnic stereotypes aren't as bad as they used to be.

Maggie said...

I'm with the camp of not needing to know why Sheldon is, but am happy just that he is. This episode, though was hilarious. My laugh-out-loud moment:

Leonard's mom: "Is that a rhetorical question or do you want to do the math?"

Sheldon: "I want to do the math!"

Cynthia said...

I would like to see the word Asperger be spoken, but in passing. Here's my thinking...The "boys" have always known about it (Leonard's mom would know about it and be able to recongnize her own AS after all). They just don't make a big deal out of the label. They tolerate his quirks for the same reason they tolerate Raj's inability to speak around women... they value each other. For all the trouble we can be, it can be quite handy to have a Aspie around.

Gypsy said...

I think the show is fantastic and hilarious as is. Any mention of a disorder would just be a distraction, and for me it would inhibit my ability to buy into the world these characters inhabit.
I know that Season 2 is available at freeonlineepisodes.net, but does anyone know where I can view Season 1? I only heard how great this show is in time for Season 2, and now want to see every single episode from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

"For those who do not know, AS manifests itself *extraordinarily* differently in female and male individuals."

Can anyone provide a link with details? I googled, but had no luck.

leslie said...

dang. they did an episode on asperger's and I missed it. wonder if they have this episode on the web.

Zach said...

Can anyone provide a link with details? I googled, but had no luck.

Plenty at Amazon, but here's one to start with online:


http://www.aspergerfoundation.org.uk/infosheets/ta_girls.pdf

Zach said...

ah bugger, it got cut off:



http://www.aspergerfoundation.org.uk/ infosheets/ta_girls.pdf

Anonymous said...

I'm an Aspie myself and I can really relate to a lot of what Sheldon does. My friends actually made a sarcasm sign for me once. For me I like thinking that he is an Aspie but at this point it would be stupid to bring it up. What would they say "oh by the way Sheldon is an Aspie. Just thought you should know."

On a side note Sheldon is damn sexy.

Anne Basso said...

I'm the mom of an 11 year old Aspie and a 3 year old with ASD. I'm also a long time geek girl who absolutely loves Big Band Theory. I kept thinking that Sheldon seems like an Aspie, and I'm relieved to find I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if the show mentioned it. Not only would it help me understand why his friends put up with him, it would be great to see Autism brought more into the mainstream and talked about, especially seeing how successful Sheldon is in his chosen field. Honestly, I still have to explain to people that my Autistic children aren't mentally challenged, but are in fact quite bright. So many people just don't understand.

And I ditto just about everything Granola Mom said.

I'd love to see it at least mentioned. Sheldon (as well as Temperance Brennan from Bones) scream Asperger's and I think it would be great if we could acknowledge, even in passing, the contribution Aspie's make.

capriwim said...

I have Aspergers and can see lots of myself in Sheldon. However, before I had my diagnosis, people thought my oddities were just personal quirks. And I imagine a similar thing has happened here - that the writers of TBBT have based Sheldon on real people who don't have a diagnosis of Aspergers (because they don't need to - Aspergers is only a 'disorder' when in an unaccepting environment). So I imagine the authors didn't have the label 'Aspergers' in mind - just the personality of people they knew. They probably don't even know much about Aspergers - Parsons didn't know about it until fans of the show started telling him about it, and then he started to see the connection. Aspergers is not well known or understood.

So I think it would be a bit fake for the writers suddenly to label Sheldon as having Aspergers. Although I suppose they could have some character speculate on it and he could go get a diagnosis - but then that would be taking the comedy into completely different realms. If it were really realisitc, Leonard's neuroscientism mother would know all about Aspergers and would see it in herself and in Sheldon.

On the other hand, it would be good for autism awareness in general if it became commonly understood that Sheldon was an Aspie. And probably better to come later rather than sooner, so that people have actually got to know and like him as an individual, rather than sticking him into a medical category straight away.

Jessiy said...

"writers either not knowing about Asperger's Syndrome going in, or else being reluctant to say Sheldon's on the autism spectrum"

I believe that might be an over stepping assumption. First, Asperger's might be on the Autism Spectrum but it isn't Autism.

Also, to say the writer's aren't educated on the subject is a little farsighted. The problem that Grey's Anatomy had was that there was not character and only the Syndrome. If Sheldon were to be diagnosed the shows focal point would be all about his condition because the way they write the character is to highlight his quirks.

I think Degrassi: The Next Generation was probably the first and only show that has introduced AS in a way that isn't incredibly insulting to anyone educated on it. They don't even mention Autism in the episode. They never once said that all people with AS would act the same way as the character who just got diagnosed. They described it as sometimes he has trouble understanding the social aspects of society.

I really hope they don't take Sheldon a step further and diagnose him at least until the end of the series. While my friend who has AS has quite a bit in common with Sheldon certainly doesn't mean every other single person with AS in the world can relate to him on even the most basic level.

Anne Basso said...

Jessiy said:
"First, Asperger's might be on the Autism Spectrum but it isn't Autism."

With all due respect, Jessiy, Asperger's is Autism. Autism is all of the disorders included in the spectrum.

The rest of your comment I think is a totally valid opinion.

Lindsay said...

little late on this but found it while I was searching for a good screen cap of the sarcasm sign...but I have Asperger's and love the show but haven't/wouldn't be offended if they said he did. but I don't think they need to announce it in the show really

Anonymous said...

Sheldon is an asshole and an aspie. At least they're portraying him as human(ish). Unlike greys anatomy where the character was a walking set of diagnostic criteria. I don't don't have a problem with making fun in big bangs case, sheldon is a pain in the ass.