The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

After review, the ruling on the field is…

with 4 comments

I did a little research after blogging about Monday night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory about Sheldon Cooper and his connections with autism spectrum disorder. This should make things more clear, but as we’ve seen several times this season, there’s always room for overlap.

Last summer, creator Bill Prady went on the record saying Sheldon doesn’t have Asperger’s in the face of unscientific polls suggesting the contrary. Prady told TV Squad’s Allison Waldman that he never had Asperger Syndrome or any form of autism in mind when writing for Sheldon, writing the character as the character.

The A.V. Club discovered in an interview with Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, that Parsons himself asked the writers if he had Asperger’s. Parsons hasn’t approached them on the topic since, but he read Look Me in the Eye by John Robison after Big Bang co-star Johnny Galecki recommended the book, noting the comparisons to Sheldon. Parsons notes the intellectual nature of Sheldon’s character makes it easier for viewers to leap into the autism realm; he often wonders what elements of the autism spectrum are included in scripts despite the character not being on the spectrum.

Waldman’s analysis mirrors my conclusion on why the writers refuse to make the leap, but she presents the argument in vocabulary that would not rival Spock (I consider him to bear the closest resemblance to me of any fictional character, read my Star Trek post to find out why): If Sheldon did have a diagnosis, his friends could no longer mock him and would be constrained by the nature of the spectrum (implying an ironically interpersonal quality for a condition known to create introverts).

There is a precedent: an episode of House featured an autistic child and suggests a possibility that Gregory House’s personality is a result of Asperger Syndrome, a hypothesis that was later refuted by his colleague, Wilson, as an excuse for his behaviors.

After reading these articles, fans will have to carry on with Sheldon not having an official diagnosis in the same way multiracial people carry on with their lives even with the current President not officially recognizing his multiracial status. Given my examinations this week, perhaps we’re looking for a label to please ourselves than the actual parties involved. Sheldon is quite hilarious on his own as fans wait to see what nerdy exploits he pursues, what ways he’ll insult Penny, and how he’ll annoy his friends to no end. What more could be requested for a show that bases its comedy on intellectualism, a rarity among the prime-time lineup?

I’m sure I’ll find another show this season and in years to come that highlights Sheldon’s “trips” to the autism spectrum while not staying there permanently.

4 Responses

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  1. i have autism and he should redo his research. I watched one episode in belgium where he was watching drwho not on a given moment and went hesterical because the girl next door took his place.Autisic people tend to beheavoir very speccific and he is a very intelligent autistic like me who can talk and watches sf shows and plays computergames a specific peroid
    I am like sheldon…i take my lunch on a regular basis , i play a regular time and when i am not i am out of control and my mom takes the brunt of my out of controlness
    she tries to soften it up a bit by rearranging her stuff by spending time with me like sheldon asking his friends to lie for him in the sympotium episode

    so watch out of stepping on toes here, here he did


    April 9, 2010 at 8:47 am

  2. Enjoyed your post! By the second time I watched the Big Band Theory I realized Sheldon was autistic. My husband disagrees and gets annoyed whenever I claim a fictional character to be autistic. I have worked with autistic children for almost 4 years now and a lot of the behaviors you mentioned in other posts are true. I’ve wonder about other characters from TV shows like Kevin from the Office or Temperance from Bones.


    November 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

  3. I am a specialist Speech – Language pathologist working in Autism and Aspergers for the last 10 yrs. Part of my job is training other professionals in Autism; I use clips of Sheldon as examples of several of the characteristics of Autism as they are displayed by a high functioning, able individual. I think the characterisation of Sheldon is brilliant – he calls to mind many of my fondest memories of working with my clients, and he is a brilliant example of making a sympathetic character to engage others with the concept of Neurodiversity.
    We love Sheldon :0)


    December 28, 2011 at 7:38 pm

  4. “(implying an ironically interpersonal quality for a condition known to create introverts).”
    Incorrect. Autism of whatever type has never created introverts, that’s down to the way we Autistics are treated for not being like others. Please double check your facts *before* writing, next time.


    July 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

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