Tag Archives: Sheldon Cooper

Big Bang Theory: The Detrimental Effects of “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

Some of you may know that I’ve done posts on the Big Bang Theory before, one where I used Sheldon and Amy as examples of asexual characters and another where I point out how poorly the writers dealt with Lucy’s social anxiety. This time, I’m discussing how the reoccurring punch line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” fails as a joke and actually has a detrimental effect on some viewers.

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The joke started as a result of the other characters judging Sheldons’ quirks and coming to the conclusion that Sheldon must have some form of autism (although they never call it that on the show). I’m guessing that this came from a lot of fan theorizing at the time and a lot of fans seeing these traits and diagnosing Sheldon as being on the autistic spectrum. The writers were quick to deny this, using the line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” to establish that Sheldon has no such condition.

What bothers me so much about this is that I know young kids with mild autism who identify with Sheldon and love the character because of these traits. These people are desperate for representation and an autistic character who leads a happy, successful life would be a godsend.
The line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” absolutely destroys this perfect representation. Sheldon is not only flat out denying that he has this condition but he also refers as those who do as being “crazy” (or “insane” depending on the episode) which is horrendously offensive.

Sheldon had such great potential to be a well-rounded, representational character. At its creation, the show was designed to take what was a neglected subsection of people and portray them as successful academics. The character of Sheldon embodied this the most. His repulsion of any sexual contact but still being in a happy relationship would have been fantastic representation for asexuals, but as I’ve mentioned previously this was ruined by the sudden switch of Amy’s personality and the constant hints that the couple might one day have sex. Similarly, Sheldon could have been a fantastic role model for children; a child prodigy who became a respected scientist whilst being on the autistic spectrum. But the writers go out of the way to stress that Sheldon isn’t like them. Sheldon is normal, whilst the members of their audience who also display these traits as “crazy.”

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Asexuality in Popular Media

I love seeing asexuals represented in the media, unfortunately it literally never happens.

The three main examples of asexuals that we have right now are Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Lee Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. These three are the only asexuals that I’ve been able to find. (I’ve excluded cartoon characters, since their young audience tends to mean that their inherently asexual.) It is possible that there are other asexual characters out there, but these are the only ones that I see on a daily basis.

One of the main problems here is that asexuality is largely constructed as being something absurdly different. According to TV, normal people can’t be asexual. So the only examples we have are either alien (Dr Who) or possibly aspergic (Sherlock and Sheldon). Asexuals also can’t be female according to the medias representation, because god forbid a woman wouldn’t want to have sex. What a terrible message that would be to send out.

There’s also a massive issue in that although these characters were originally created to be asexual, recent writers and directors have ruined the characterisation.

Dr Who:

The Doctor started off as an asexual. His relationship with his companions was strictly platonic. It can be argued that since Susan is his granddaughter, then he must have had sex at some point however, he also had a daughter by accidently using a progenation machine, so anything is possible.

Matt Smith has been reported as saying that he deliberately played the Doctor as asexual, however the recent episodes have made it clear that the Doctor is very into kissing, regardless as to whether or not he has consent. In fact, this goes so far that it can easily be argued that he sexually assaulted Jenny (a queer, married woman) in the episode Crimson Horror.

Sherlock:

Sherlock is an asexual/aromantic character, regardless as to what the fanfiction tells you. Unfortunately, a lot of adaptions misinterpret his relationship with Irene Adler. In the story, Irene intrigued Sherlock purely because she was the only person to outsmart him. Here’s an extract from the beginning of Scandal in Bohemia;

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.

And equally, Irene has no interest in Sherlock and at the end of the story, she escapes with her husband Norton.
The BBC series tries to keep in aspects of Sherlocks original characterisation, but they were waaaay off base with Irene.

However, that’s not nearly as bad as the portrayal in the American series ‘Elementary’. In Elementary, they make it incredibly obvious that Sherlock has an incredibly active sex life, and he even refers to Watson as a “prude” after she questions him exchanging erotic letters with a woman he’s never met.

There’s a fine line between developing a character and going overboard with the development. The writers of Elementary appear to have missed this line completely.

Big Bang Theory:

At the start of this post I mentioned that there are no female asexuals in media, which is a shame, because we used to have a great one.

When Amy Farrah Fowler was introduced, she and Sheldon made the perfect couple because they were equally uninterested in physical contact and equally uninterested in social interactions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t interested enough, and in the space of one episode Amy suddenly developed a sex drive. Now, watching the new episodes, there are an average of about five ‘Amy is frustrated’ or ‘Sheldon doesn’t understand sex’ jokes every episode.

Asexuality isn’t being represented as a liveable life choice. It’s being represented as a joke. And in an episode that hasn’t aired in the UK yet, the couple kiss. Now, I haven’t seen this episode yet, but I really hope that it isn’t going to be the case that Sheldon finally understands Amy’s nagging and gives in to placate her. If it’s the case that Sheldon develops his own desire to have physical contact, then that’s not quite as bad. But I still don’t see why these characters need to have a sexual relationship to be ‘normal’.

EDIT: Never mind. Big Bang sucks.

Let me know what you think. Are there any asexual characters that I’ve missed off? Is there a decent depiction out there? I’d love to find any other adaptions.

EDIT:

Shortly after writing this blog post, I came across this tumblr post about the tv show Sirens which includes a female asexual character. This hasn’t come over to the UK yet, but I’m really hoping it does as it appears to go against everything that I’ve written about in the post as it includes a female asexual character, whose asexuality isn’t linked to any social disorder. If you have access to it, go check it out and let me know if it’s as good as it seems.