In Defence Of: Sheldon Cooper

Earlier today an article appeared on my Facebook timeline in relation to a possible spin-off show from The Big Bang Theory which would focus on a young Sheldon Cooper growing up in rural Texas with his conservative family.

As is the general rule with most internet related media; Don’t read the comments. This popped up on my timeline because somebody I know commented “Oh God no he’s the reason I can’t stand the big bang agrivates me”. This prompted me to look through some of the other comments which were probably a mistake. Another gem was “I think the tv execs mistake the appeal of Jim Parsons for an appeal of Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon has become an the most annoying character on a stale tv show.”

To most people the idea of living with Sheldon Cooper would be a nightmare. But, for some of us, living with Sheldon Cooper is a reality. I have found over time that I embody some of the quirks that Sheldon demonstrates. Now already people will probably be leaping to my defence and saying “no, he’s a character, he’s exaggerated and over the top” to which I would agree to a certain extent. However we have to be realistic and understand that this idea for a person came from somewhere, these “quirks” do sit within some of the general population. Therefore when you decide you hate Sheldon Cooper, somebody like me sees that you probably hate me as well. Truth is you hate Sheldon Cooper because you don’t know him. You haven’t lived his life and no matter how good a television show is it can’t make you understand what it’s like to live in those shoes unless you have.

This is why I make a defence for Sheldon Cooper as a character. Whilst I don’t advocate being more like Sheldon, I do suggest trying to understand more about why he does the things he does.

Sheldon has OCD in his routine. His days and weeks are planned out well in advance and he freaks out with any sense of change to this routine because it throws confusion into his world. I experience this too. Whilst I don’t actually do enough to plan every moment of my life, I do understand that a spontaneous change of plan can terrify a person. It feels like somebody has taken time away from you. Even if you’ve planned to do nothing on that day, it’s suddenly a huge deal when somebody wants to make you work or go out because your time is no longer your own. It feels as if a part of your life is being controlled by somebody else and it is terrifying.

Sheldon also has OCD in other things; the way he has his tea made and his three knocks on doors are just some examples. This could have started out as something innocent, it felt good and so he continued it. As habits go they aren’t the worst but anybody can find anything addictive. Perhaps Sheldon finds these sort of behaviours soothing in an otherwise busy mind and sometimes we’ll do whatever we have to for that hit of relaxation.

Sheldon is rather obsessive over “his spot”. He has a spot on the sofa that is the perfect distance for him in regards to temperature, comfort, television watching capability and other things. This is another sense of control. This way Sheldon knows he always has a seat and never has to worry about awkward social gatherings and where to sit because people know not to sit in his spot. It’s one less thing to worry about in a world where he worries about everything.

Sheldon and his “contracts”. He has roommate agreements and relationship agreements that he makes people sign and agree to. This is the work of an insecure person and I know that because it’s exactly something I would do. It’s not that Sheldon doesn’t trust people, it’s that he doesn’t know how to trust people. He’s been hurt a lot in his life (taken from any of the numerous bullying stories and his turbulent home life) and so it’s not strange that Sheldon would feel he has to have some sort of legal agreement that people won’t break their promises. Also given that he’s not particularly great with his emotions and focuses more on logic, this is a more logical thing to do than just trust somebody won’t betray you.

Sheldon is a know-it-all. Sheldon puts more stock in his intelligence than he does in any other facet of his personality. Without his intelligence he doesn’t know who he is. I know exactly how this feels and yes, sometimes we can come across as a know-it-all or pretentious but it’s just our way of making sure you don’t forget about us. It’s another insecurity really; we don’t have a whole lot else we value in ourselves and so we exaggerate the one thing we do value. Just look at the episode with Dennis Kim, a child prodigy that seems to overshadow Sheldon in terms of intelligence and achievements. Sheldon is lost for who he is as a person when he’s not the smart one. Him putting other people down isn’t a malicious thing, it’s his way of reminding people that he has something to offer. If you want more on this then I suggest you read this blog post which I wrote a while ago about how without my intelligence I don’t know who I am or what I have to offer.

Sheldon expects people to do things for him. This is a sad one. Given that he didn’t have the ideal home life growing up, it’s not difficult to see why Sheldon would cling to a time when he felt loved and cared for. As a child (possibly infant stage and before) we have parents to look after us, make our decisions, care for us when we’re sick, drive us around, buy us things, reward us, etc. It’s a mindset that can be hard to break when you have hated the following stage of your life so much. I know I personally sometimes do this because otherwise I don’t think people would notice me. If I didn’t ask them to do things for me or over-exaggerate when I’m sick then I feel that I would fall into the background and be forgotten about.

A lot of what Sheldon does can be put down to insecurities and fear of being alone or forgotten about. They are also classic signs of mental health issues and so to write somebody off as annoying because of mental health issues doesn’t encourage people to be open and honest about them. Some of my favourite moments of Sheldon’s come when he’s open and honest about not understanding people and how alone it makes him feel, when he tries to explain why he’s different without ever truly understanding it himself.

The show, if you don’t like Sheldon Cooper, shouldn’t be looked at as being about him and his quirks. What you should focus on is the people around him who DO live with him and DO put up with him. How do they do it? Why do they do it? They may be fictional but they are better human beings than anybody who says they cannot tolerate and hate Sheldon Cooper.

As somebody who identifies very closely with Sheldon Cooper it hurts me when other people rail on him for being “a horrible person”, “annoying” and “unbearable” because you might as well have just said the things about me.

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