Today’s Prompt: You get to plan a dinner party for 4-8 of your favorite writers/artists/musicians/other notable figures, whether dead or alive. Who do you seat next to whom in order to inspire the most fun evening?
I will invite the following to my fictitious dinner party:
Gordon Ramsay – He may cook for us. If not, he may entertain us with his criticism of the food and his constant swearing.
Hannibal Lecter- I want to know how he would manipulate the other guests. Who knows, he may (literalily) fry our brains at the end of the night!
Dr. House – Purely for his wits and sarcasm, and the potential debate between him and Gordon.
Dr. Sheldon Cooper – Which seat will be his spot? How will he cope with the power struggle between the other guests? Who will he talk to? I’m very intrigued.
Karl Pilkington from An Idiot Abroad – What will he moan about and how much will he moan?
Oprah Winfrey – She may give all of us cars, free trips and houses at the end of the night!
A minion from Despicable Me – Why not, right? They’re fun to be around.
I’ve previously covered why I think Sheldon Cooper has Asperger’s Syndrome (click here). Despite a multitude of support to my claim in the show, I’ve been told that the producers refuse to comment on this issue. Below are some more clips which I think further shows why Sheldon has Asperger’s:
In the clip below, Sheldon is a couple of dates late for his haircut because his barber is ill. The clip below shows how Sheldon prefers routines and predictability- a characteristic common with people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. He gets his haircut from Mr. Denafrio, and Mr. Denafrio alone.
Sheldon gets a date:
Sheldon struggles to understand the unwritten rules of communication- another characteristic exhibited by people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. In this scene, he was trying to get a date for Penny, but ends up getting a date for himself because of his lack of grasp of social conventions:
Amy is angry at Sheldon:
Sheldon here was faced with a dilemma: shall he choose his girlfriend, Amy or his new found friend, Will Wheaton? Amy became angry at Sheldon because he did not defend her. This shows how difficult it could be for people with Asperger’s to maintain social relationships. This further highlights how important a role Sheldon’s friends and mother plays on his life.
Sheldon and Amy on a date:
Another scene which shows his lack of social understanding:
In this episode, Howard and Raj stalked Sheldon due to their curiousity about what he does at 2.45pm. What was missing in the clip below is Sheldon’s explanation of why he escapes to that old storage room. He told Raj and Howard:
“…you may not realise it but I have difficulties navigating certain aspects of real life. Not understading sarcasm, feigning interest in others, not talking about trains as much as I want to. It’s exhausting! Which is why for twenty minutes a day, I had to go down to that room, turn my mind off and do what I need to do to recharge… You don’t need to know; you don’t deserve to know and you will never know (what 43 is and what I do)!”
To me, this room is very similar to a quiet room or a sensory room, which some people- especially young ones, use to calm down.
Sheldon asks Penny not to break up with Leonard:
In this last clip, Sheldon shows his good side, asking Penny not to break up with his best friend, Leonard. This shows that despite his struggles with social rules and conventions (he went into Penny’s apartment in the middle of the night), he can still show compassion in his own unusual ways. People with Asperger’s Syndrome may have find a lot of social situations challenging, but that does not mean that they are incapable of feeling emotions that neurotypicals do. They may not express these emotions in the ways that we are accustomed to, but they sure have their ways.
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a form of Autism that is in the mild end of the autism spectrum. Similar to other forms of autism, AS is characterized by deficits in social communication, social interaction and imagination, but usually have average or above average IQ levels. People with AS always think literally, have little to no clue about facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures. They find other people difficult to ‘read’ (Theory of Mind), hence may view others’ actions as confusing and also fail to behave in socially appropriate ways. Most conversations with them are one-sided, with them leading and rarely taking your opinions. Finally, they stick to their routines and have a special interest that they may excell on.
Anyone who is familiar with the show ‘Big Bang Theory’ will know that all of the characteristics mentioned above describe Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons (pictured). In the show, Sheldon is a top physicist who works in a university and hangs out with his friends Leonard (who is also his roommate), Raj and Howard. Being a physicist is an ideal job for people with AS due to the literality of the subject (as supposed to social sciences). Most of Physics are underpinned by mathematical equations which are perfect for AS-affected individuals, as supposed to, say Sociology or Psychology which are founded on researching human-beings in ways that Sheldon will find repulsive.
Sheldon also does not understand sarcasm (see video below). To be able to get sarcasm requires abstract thinking, knowledge of varying tones of voice and a firm grasp of the social situation one person is in. Sheldon does not possess any of these- Leonard actually ended up putting a ‘sarcasm sign’ for him to understand. As seen in the video clip below, Sheldon struggles to understand the consequences of his actions and also Penny’s and Leonard’s emotions.
Also, he is incapable of ‘faking’ his emotions in order to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. In the video below, Sheldon does not agree that Raj is getting featured in Time Magazine’s 30 under 30 issue. As a result, he insulted Raj. His friends then decided to invite Raj to dinner. Notice how Sheldon asks how he can fake his happiness. Children who have AS are often given social stories which teaches them how to behave appropriately in different social situations.
Sheldon also voices his dislike in a change in his routines. The first video below shows Sheldon explaining why he sits in a specific spot in the couch and what difference it made when he tried to sit on a different space. In the second video, the group decided to eat Thai food instead of pizza, which Sheldon is used to. He explained how he likes consistency and in order to accept ‘anything can happen thursday’, he persuades the others to go to the comic book store. Getting others to agree to what they want is a common tactic employed by people with AS.
Although there was no mention that Sheldon was diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome and even Sheldon reasoned that ‘his mother had him tested’, all signs point to AS. We should note however, that even though Sheldon may have AS, he is managing to live significantly comfortably. He has picked a profession that suits his condition and most importantly, allows him to excel. He has surrounded himself with people who not only tolerates him, but teaches him how to behave in particularly difficult situations. His friends mostly agrees to what he likes, and even though they usually find being with him a challenge, they still see the positive side of him.
I believe that Sheldon’s situation in the Big Bang Theory shows us a good example of living with and being around people with Asperger’s Syndrome. It shows both the fun side and the difficult side of being with individuals with AS. Granted, not every episode shows the gang’s good side in terms of dealing with Sheldon, but never the less, it shows that people with AS can be brilliant and at the same time, a good friend to be with. Whether they purposely did it or not, I think the makers of the show is doing a good job.