With the recent confirmation that The Big Bang Theory will be starting Season 7, the big speculation is “What is Penny’s last name?” However, since it first aired in September 2007 on CBS, viewers have questioned whether or not Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is meant to be portrayed as autistic in the comedy TV series.
The viewers’ autism-question comes from Sheldon’s characterizations of an extreme adherence to habit (same sitting-spot on the couch); his typical social problems (inability to differentiate irony, sarcasm, and humor); and his disconnect from others (female touch and intimacy).
Alan Sepinwall, of The Star-Ledger, explains the theorized-connection between Sheldon and autism on August 13, 2009. Sepinwall’s explanation is based on a prior discussion with Bill Prady, the comedy’s co-producer. In his answer to the reader, Sepinwall states that Prady’s idea for the character of Sheldon came from Prady’s prior experience with computer programmers – before autism was a diagnosable disorder. Although Prady notes the similarities between behaviors of computer programmers of his time, and current-day autism traits, Prady does not want to label Sheldon as autistic, because it would turn the comedy into a more serious show than it is meant to be.
In a May 1, 2009 interview with Jim Parsons (Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory), Noel Murray asks Parsons about his character in regards to autism. Parsons answers the question with the affirmative no that he received from his producers; yet, Parsons holds a certain character-connection with autism via a book recommended by co-star Johnny Galecki (Leonard). The recommendation, Look Me In The Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, a book by John Elder Robinson, featured stories about people with autism (in particular, Asperger’s Disorder) which hit-home for Parsons regarding his character of Sheldon.
Parsons goes on to suggest, in Noel Murray’s May 1, 2009 interview with him, that personally, the character of Sheldon is very autistic in nature. Thus, Parsons questions the producer’s no to his initial question about an autistic Sheldon. He believes that one of the comedy writers for The Big Bang Theory has an autistic relative – the very basic details of which may be entering the TV show’s comedy, if only in a very subtle, almost unrealized way.
Lastly, Parson concludes that Sheldon’s highly rational thought processes may easily be viewed by fans of The Big Bang Theory as autistic in nature.
Mayim Bialik who plays Amy Farrah Fowler – Sheldon’s “friend who is a girl”, received her PhD in neuroscience from UCL. Her view is that Sheldon’s case is complex.
“OCD was the topic of my thesis when I did my doctorate. I think that Sheldon would definitely be on the spectrum, as we say. I actually don’t think that I would give him the diagnosis of Asperger’s. I would give him Obsessive Compulsive probably moderate to severe, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, possibly Social Anxiety Disorder… but not pure Asperger’s as we know it.”
The debate goes on with both sides of each camp holding strong views.
Todd Gutmann is a freelance writer from Lake Placid, NY with a Professional Writing B.A. from SUNY Cortland and an Automotive Technology A.A.S. from SUNY Canton. His work has been published in the Lake Placid News and he had a byline for his series on “People Around the Park” a weekly features about local townspeople and their interesting hobbies. His two main interests are people and technology.
The Big Bang Theory character ….. so focused on the intellectual topics at hand that thinking he’s autistic is an easy leap for people watching the show to make”.
Jul 10, 2013 … Introducing a character with Asperger’s or autism on a TV show is hardly … “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is probably …