Asperger syndrome in popular culture
Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger's syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory
Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is a theoretical physicist at Caltech with an IQ of 187. He is noted for his adamant refusal to believe any other human being may match him in intelligence, nitpicking over ostensibly trivial scientific minutiae in his favorite popular culture or in the 'real world', and virtually no socialization. It has been asserted that Sheldon's behavior is consistent with Asperger syndrome, or an Asperger's/OCD co-morbidity, but the writers have stated that they did not use Asperger syndrome as a basis for the character, but instead thought of his actions as "Sheldony". Series co-creator Bill Prady stated: "We write the character as the character. A lot of people see various things in him and make the connections. Our feeling is that Sheldon's mother never got a diagnosis, so we don't have one". Prady also allegedly told Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Ledger that "calling it Asperger's creates too much of a burden to get the details right."
In an interview, Jim Parsons noted the writers' response, but added that, in his opinion, Sheldon "couldn't display more traits" of Asperger's. Parsons, who plays Sheldon on the series, has read John Elder Robison's memoir Look Me in the Eye about his life with Asperger syndrome, and said that: "A majority of what I read in that book touched on aspects of Sheldon." He also stated that "the way [Sheldon's] brain works, it's so focused on the intellectual topics at hand that thinking he's autistic is an easy leap for people watching the show to make."
Abed Nadir of Community
Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) is a young, seemingly emotionless, Palestinian/Polish-American pop-culture enthusiast who aspires to become a director. While like Spock, Abed has emotion and sympathy for his new friends, he is very analytical and speaks with a rather detached and emotionless tone, as well as with a distinct straightforwardness lacking a mental filter, leading some of his friends to suspect he has Asperger's. In contrast to The Big Bang Theory, the mention of Asperger's is explicit: in the first episode, multiple characters voice their hypothesis that Abed meets the criteria for the disease.
Will Graham of Hannibal
In the pilot episode of Hannibal, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is asked "Where do you fall on the spectrum?" He replies, "My horse is hitched to a post that is closer to Aspergers and Autistics". Later, a character observes that Graham is "Not fond of eye contact", in reference to gaze aversion. In the ninth episode ("Buffett Froid"), a psychiatrist claims Graham "has too many mirror neurons."
Dr. Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds
This character, portrayed by Matthew Gray Gubler, shows numerous traits indicative of Asperger's, namely his lack of social skills and his tendency to ramble about certain topics, among others. As such, he does not do well in social situations, sometimes unintentionally scaring others or causing people to lose hope about their situations. The character shows strong connections with his friends and loved ones and normally gets emotionally hurt when a friend leaves. His strong connection with certain people is also apparent when a love interest whom he had fallen for was murdered in front of him the first time they truly met (having only previously communicated through letters and phone calls due to a stalker), causing him to greive the death more than his boss grieved over the loss of his ex-wife. He also showed a strong connection to a young autistic boy whose parents were kidnapped. Gubler confirmed that the character does, in fact, have Asperger's syndrome, along with possible minor schizophrenia.
- McPartland J, Klin A (2006). "Asperger's syndrome". Adolesc Med Clin 17 (3): 771–88. doi:10.1016/j.admecli.2006.06.010. PMID 17030291.
- Baskin JH, Sperber M, Price BH (2006). "Asperger syndrome revisited". Rev Neurol Dis 3 (1): 1–7. PMID 16596080.
- "Come up with a new theory: Sheldon does NOT have Asperger's". TV Squad. August 14, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
- Collins, Paul (February 6, 2009). "Must-Geek TV: Is the world ready for an Asperger's sitcom?". Slate (www.slate.com). Retrieved April 14, 2009.
- Soraya, Lynne. "Sheldony or Aspergery?: The Big Bang Theory". Asperger's Diary (Author's Note (08/16/2009)). Psychology Today. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- Sepinwall, Alan (13 August 2009). "Does Sheldon from 'Big Bang Theory' have Asperger's?". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- Lyford, Kathy (November 13, 2008). "'Big Bang Theory': Jim Parsons -- 'Everybody has a little Sheldon in them'". Season Pass (Variety). Retrieved April 14, 2009. Specific video is Jim Parsons interview, part 5. Question is from 03:18-3:31. Answer is from 4:36-6:00. Specific quote is from 5:15-5:20.
- "Jim Parsons". The A.V. Club. May 1, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010.