|Sheldon Lee Cooper|
|The Big Bang Theory character|
|Created by||Chuck Lorre
|Portrayed by||Jim Parsons|
|Family||Mary Cooper (mother)
George Cooper, Sr. (father, deceased)
Missy Cooper (twin sister)
George Cooper, Jr. (older brother)
|Significant other(s)||Amy Farrah Fowler (ex-girlfriend)|
Edward "Stumpy" (uncle)
Carl (uncle, deceased)
"Pop-pop" (grandfather, deceased)
Missy's unnamed husband (brother-in-law)
Missy's unnamed son (nephew)
Sheldon Lee Cooper, Ph.D., Sc.D., is a fictional character in the CBS television series The Big Bang Theory, portrayed by actor Jim Parsons. For his portrayal, Parsons has won four Primetime Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a TCA Award, and two Critics' Choice Television Awards.
Sheldon is the senior theoretical physicist at Caltech who shares an apartment with his colleague and best friend, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). He is a former child prodigy with genius level IQ, but displays an almost total lack of social skills, a tenuous understanding of humor, and difficulty recognizing irony and sarcasm in other people, although he himself often employs them. He exhibits highly idiosyncratic and narcissistic behavior and a general lack of humility or empathy. These characteristics provide the majority of the humor involving him, which has caused him to be described as the show's breakout character. Despite speculation that Sheldon's personality traits may be consistent with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive personality disorder and asexuality, co-creator Bill Prady has repeatedly stated that Sheldon's character was neither conceived nor developed with regard to any of these traits.
Creation and casting
The character of Sheldon Cooper was inspired by a computer programmer personally known to series co-creator Bill Prady. He is named in honor of actor/producer Sheldon Leonard and Nobel Prize Laureate Leon Cooper. Chuck Lorre originally intended Johnny Galecki to play the role, but Galecki thought he would be "better suited" for the character of Leonard. Lorre said that when Jim Parsons auditioned for the role, he was "so startlingly good" that he was asked to reaudition "to make sure he hadn't gotten lucky". Sheldon is one of four characters to appear in every episode of the series, along with Leonard, Howard, and Raj.
Sheldon was raised in Galveston, Texas along with his elder brother and fraternal twin sister (Missy) by his mother, Mary Cooper, an overtly devout Evangelical Christian; and George Cooper, an alcoholic who was never around. The only member of his family to have encouraged his work in science was his grandfather, whom he cherished and affectionately called "Pop-Pop" who died when Sheldon was 5 years old. Pop-Pop's loss is what caused Sheldon to despise Christmas when his Christmas wish to bring Pop-Pop back didn't come true. Sheldon's closest relative is his maternal grandmother who he calls "Meemaw" who in turn calls him "Moonpie". His aunt also encouraged Sheldon by giving him medical equipment, "in case his work in physics failed, he'd have a 'trade' to fall back on."
He was interested in physics from an early age, and was a child prodigy, although due to his behavioral quirks and his lack of humility about his superior intellect, he was bullied by classmates and neighbors. Sheldon entered college at the age of eleven, and at age fourteen he graduated from college summa cum laude. From then he worked on his doctorate, was a visiting professor at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and was the youngest person at the time to receive the Stevenson Award. Sheldon is now a theoretical physicist doing research at Caltech.
Sheldon is often described as the stereotypical "geek". He is usually characterized as extremely intelligent, socially inept, and rigidly logical. Despite his intellect, he regularly displays a lack of common sense. He has a superiority complex, but also possesses childlike qualities, of which he seems unaware, such as extreme stubbornness. He is unknowingly unpleasant to others, even his friends. It is claimed by Bernadette that the reason Sheldon is sometimes nasty is because the part of his brain that tells him it is wrong to be nasty is "getting a wedgie from the rest of his brain". The first four episodes of The Big Bang Theory portray Sheldon slightly inconsistently with respect to his later characterization: according to Prady, the character "began to evolve after episode five or so and became his own thing."
Sheldon possesses an eidetic memory and an IQ of 187, although he claims his IQ cannot be accurately measured by normal tests. He originally claimed to have a master's degree and two doctoral degrees, but this list has increased. Sheldon has an extensive general knowledge in many subjects including physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, algebra, calculus, differential equations, vector calculus, computers, electronics, engineering, history, geography, linguistics, football and, in addition to a knowledge of Klingon from Star Trek, he has studied Finnish and Mandarin Chinese. He also shows great talent in music, knowing how to play the piano, recorder and theremin and having perfect pitch. Although his friends have similar intellects to him, his eccentricities, stubbornness, and lack of empathy often frustrate them. Sheldon occasionally uses slang (in a very unnatural fashion), and follows jokes with his catchphrase "Bazinga!" which is now an officially registered trademark of Warner Bros. He is uncomfortable with human physical contact and has germophobia, which makes his exceptionally rare hugs extremely awkward and painful-looking. He also has haemophobia, which causes him to faint at the sight of blood. Sheldon has difficulty coping when he is interrupted, when asked to keep a secret, or when he hears arguing. He is also a notary public and uses his knowledge in law and contracts usually for his own advantage and is always distressed when challenged in a legal aspect that he cannot logically defend. In his mannerisms, Sheldon also shows symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Whenever approaching a person's home, he must knock three times, then say the person's name, and must repeat this at least three times. Upon entering a person's home, he must select the proper seat before sitting down. When it is suggested by Penny that he "Just sit anywhere", his response is "Oh, no, if only it were that simple!" This extends to his inability to accept change. His rigidity in maintaining homeostasis often causes him frustration. Because of his rigidity and stubbornness, only his mother and Bernadette – both possessing strong maternal instincts – are able to control him.
Like his friends, Sheldon is scientifically inclined and is fond of comic books (especially the DC Universe), costumes, roleplaying games, video games, tabletop games, collectible card games, action figures, fantasy, science fiction, and cartoons. Sheldon has restraining orders from his heroes Leonard Nimoy, Carl Sagan, and Stan Lee, as well as television scientist Bill Nye. Sheldon often wears vintage T-shirts adorned with superhero logos.
Sheldon has sometimes appeared to show empathy, including lending money to Penny without expecting it back quickly (although that may just have been his logical Spock-like response to a problem to be solved; it was, after all, money he was not using and would not miss) and driving her to a hospital when her shoulder was dislocated. He dislikes gifts, because the "social contract" in his view creates either a debt or burden on the receiver of the gift which will not stop until one of the two involved in the "gift-relationship" dies leaving the other either in debt or with an undue surplus. Sheldon does not take drugs, not even legal ones such as caffeine, due to a promise to his mother, and is hypersensitive when he accidentally consumes them. It has been shown, however, that alcohol often causes Sheldon to loosen up significantly, although it will also cloud his judgment – on occasion, after drinking alcoholic drinks (both deliberately and accidentally), he has done things that he would never do while sober, such as singing out loud, mooning an audience full of people, confronting Wil Wheaton and affectionately slapping Amy's rear.
In response to criticism from his friends that he is mentally ill, Sheldon often retorts, "I'm not crazy; my mother had me tested" – which his mother has confirmed to be true (once while wishing she had gone through with a follow-up examination).
Sheldon contrasts strongly with his family, who are neither scientists nor intellectuals. His father George died before the start of the series, while his mother Mary is a devout born-again Christian and loving parent. Sheldon has a twin sister, Missy, a tall, attractive brunette, and an as-yet-unseen older brother, George Jr. Both Missy and George Jr. beat Sheldon up during their childhoods, and their mother describes them to be "dumb as soup." Sheldon is very fond of his maternal grandmother, whom he calls "Meemaw" and who calls him "Moon Pie." He called his grandfather, who died when Sheldon was five, Pop Pop.
Sheldon has a maternal uncle, Edward, who is called "Stumpy" as the result of a time when he cleaned a wood chipper by hand. Sheldon had another uncle, called Carl Cooper, who was killed by a badger while cleaning a chimney. And another uncle that may have done things to children that were legal in Oklahoma per "The Clean Room Infiltration".
Sheldon has an uncle, Roger and a now-deceased aunt Ruth. In "The Engagement Reaction", Sheldon mentions Ruth died in a hospital when she went there to visit Roger, she caught something and bit the dust a week later and the two of them now share a coffee can on Sheldon's mother’s mantle.
Sheldon's closest friends are Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz, and Raj Koothrappali. Of the three, Sheldon is openly dismissive of Howard and constantly opines that a Master's degree in engineering demonstrates a lesser intellect than that of the others, who all possess science doctorates. Despite that, Sheldon has referred to Howard as a "treasured acquaintance" and a friend at various points. Sheldon considers Leonard his best friend, as they live together and can tolerate each other. Prady stated that "the fact that, despite everything, Leonard considers Sheldon his best friend reminds us of Sheldon's essential humanity." Sheldon can only handle having a limited number of friends in his life at a time, but later shows flexibility when he accepts Bernadette and Amy as part of the social group. In Season 6, the guys ask if comic book store owner Stuart can be part of the group while Howard is in space.
Despite Penny's neither being a scientist nor sharing many of the group's interests, and having constant fights with Sheldon in the early episodes, they became close friends. While some fans support a romantic relationship between Sheldon and Penny, Lorre has stated his opposition to it by saying: "We've stumbled into creating a character who has chosen a lifestyle for himself that is unique. And I don't see any reason to modify it."
It has been speculated that Sheldon may be asexual or aromantic. Series co-creator Chuck Lorre said: "Part of what's wonderful and unique about [Sheldon] is he has chosen not to play in the relationship game either way – heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, any sexuality." This is referenced in "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem", when Sheldon unknowingly attracts the attention of grad student Ramona Nowitzki, and Penny, seeing this, asks his friends what his "deal" (i.e., sexual orientation) is, to which Leonard responds, "Honestly, we've been operating under the assumption that he has no 'deal'."
In the season 3 finale, Raj and Howard blackmail Sheldon into meeting Amy Farrah Fowler, with whom they matched him on a dating website. After some obnoxious comments about the dating website, Sheldon finds that Amy agrees with him, and he grows fond of her when she says that "Any or all physical contact up to and including coitus is off the table." The relationship continues in the fourth season, although Sheldon often points out that they are not in a romantic relationship. The two enjoy intellectual games they create, and Amy and Sheldon openly express the same type of intellectual superiority. After Leonard inadvertently implies that he and Amy may have had sex after a wedding reception they both attended, Sheldon has an unexpectedly violent reaction, karate-chopping Leonard's neck while telling Leonard "She's not for you... not for you!"
In Season 5, Sheldon formally asks Amy to be his girlfriend in "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition" episode. Amy begins a campaign to give Sheldon more attention to increase his feelings for her by embracing his interests. As they watch Howard being launched into space in the season finale, "The Countdown Reflection", Amy is surprised when Sheldon takes her hand for emotional support.
During the first half of Season 6, in "The Parking Spot Escalation" and "The Fish Guts Displacement", Sheldon is pushed further after seeing Amy partially exposed and taking care of her while she is ill. In the episode "The Cooper/Kripke Inversion", after being directly asked by Penny if he would ever have sex with Amy, Sheldon admits to Penny and Leonard that a physical relationship with Amy is a possibility, and being touched is something he is working on. While upset about Kripke, Amy does give him a consoling hug that Sheldon seems to need and want. Even so, Amy has offered other romantic physical contact, and was very uncomfortable when they had to cuddle. In "The Spoiler Alert Segmentation", Leonard temporarily moves out and Amy proposes that she would be his perfect roommate and tries to move in, though Sheldon is uncomfortable with this change in their relationship. While playing Dungeons and Dragons during "The Love Spell Potential", Amy and Sheldon's characters are commanded to have sex within the game. A very upset Amy asks Sheldon if they are ever going to be intimate and he again admits that it is a possibility. In the Season 7 episode "The Locomotive Manipulation", Sheldon passionately kisses Amy on the lips for the first time; though it was more to prove a point, he prolonged it, implying he enjoyed the feeling. A later episode showed him willingly kissing Amy, implying he has gotten more comfortable in such a position of physical intimacy. The ultimate proof of Sheldon having feelings for Amy is given in "the Prom Equivalency" when he finally admits being in love with her: "I love you too. There's no denying I have feelings for you that can't be explained in any other way. I briefly considered I had a brain parasite, but that seems even more far-fetched. The only conclusion was love."
In the eighth season finale Sheldon and Amy get into a fight over their definition of commitment: Sheldon feels his relationship with Amy is going fast on its own, but Amy argues he is taking things too slow and does not properly bestow on her unlimited affection. By the episode's end she has decided to take a break from their relationship. Sheldon is left numb from this, revealing he actually had an engagement ring and ponders what he should do with it.
He once idolized fictional prodigy Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, portrayed by Wil Wheaton, until Wheaton did not show up at a convention attended by Sheldon in 1995. Sheldon had spent 15 hours on a bus travelling to the convention during which time he was forced to break his rule about urinating in a moving vehicle. After this moment Wil Wheaton became number six on Sheldon's mortal enemy list (a list he started when he was 9 on a Floppy Disk since 1989). Wheaton was one of Sheldon's mortal enemies, along with his coworkers Barry Kripke and Leslie Winkle. Later, Wheaton managed to patch things up with Sheldon, only to inadvertently pass the enemy list spot to Brent Spiner.
Reception and legacy
Jim Parsons' portrayal of Sheldon has received widespread acclaim, and is often cited as the main reason for the program's success by critics and fans alike. James Chamberlin of IGN wrote: "It's hard to imagine what The Big Bang Theory would be if it weren't for Jim Parsons' great portrayal of Sheldon Cooper". Matt Roush of TV Guide stated that "there's a spark of divine inspiration in Jim Parsons' uproarious Sheldon Cooper." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote that: "Parsons is doing something rare on network TV: making intellectualism admirable, even heroic".
On July 16, 2009, Jim Parsons was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He was nominated again for the same award on July 8, 2010 and eventually won the award on August 29, 2010. On August 1, 2009, he won the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy, with the show itself winning the award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy for season two. He was nominated again for the same award in 2010 and 2012. Parsons was also nominated for the People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Comedy Actor and a Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy in 2009, 2010, and 2012. On January 16, 2011, Parsons won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy, presented by co-star Kaley Cuoco, for his work on Season 3 and 4. On June 20, 2011, he won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the 1st Critics' Choice Television Awards for his work on Season 4, and was nominated again for the same award in 2012. On September 18, 2011, he won his second consecutive Primetime Emmy Award and was nominated again for the same award on July 19, 2012. In 2013, Parsons was nominated once again for the Golden Globe and received his first nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series.
Some viewers have asserted that Sheldon's behavior is consistent with Asperger syndrome. 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 told Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Ledger that while Sheldon shares traits with people with Asperger's, he was uncomfortable labeling Sheldon as having Asperger's.
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, 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".
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