Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Bang Theory

I love Big Bang Theory (a sitcom on CBS on Monday nights). I think it's one of the funniest things I've seen on television in years -- probably because I know all of these geeky people (the Adorable Husband would argue that I am these people).

One of the main characters - Sheldon -- is the epitome of the geeky, socially backwards physicist who is confused and bemused by normal social interaction and lives by a set of rules he has "figured out" about how things are supposed to work. When told that a birthday present is an "expected social contract", he stops arguing against it and embraces the idea - if the RULE says it's so, it is.

If you've ever met anyone with Aspergers, or somewhere along the autism scale, you recognize the behavior: conversations have a set of rules that need to be followed, and you can almost see them going through the list to figure out how what the next response should be.

There's a very interesting article in Slate that discusses if Sheldon actually has Aspergers or not, and how the writers and producers of the show have built the character. There is no mention of the word, but
Sheldon is an exaggerated sitcom characterization, granted, and yet how else does one describe a string theorist who insists on playing Klingon Boggle and Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock? A prodigy who experimented with his home's staircases to find the exact variant in height at which his father would trip? Who discourses at length upon the precise parameters of Christmas gift-giving? Or who refers to engineers as "semi-skilled labor"—and is then surprised when they take offense?
He's endearing, in an annoying way, and his often misguided attempts to understand normal human interaction (he makes a flow chart on how to make and keep friends) are as central to the show as the primary storyline of Leonards unrequited love for neighbor Penny.

From the article, it looks like the Asperger's community finds the show real and sensitive. And funny. Let's not forget funny. We laugh with the geeks, not at them. Or, well, I do -- since I am apparently one of the tribe.

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