Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Big Bang Theory: Is it moral to make fun of Asperger’s?

Still from The Big Bang Theory

There are many arguments about mental health of Sheldon Cooper, a major character in the Big Bang Theory (I shall further refer to it as BBT) TV series. Jim Parsons who plays this character said in his interview to Variety that Sheldon “couldn’t display more traits” of Asperger’s. The authors of the series denied using Asperger’s symptoms in creating Sheldon’s character, which is very reasonable considering the sensitivity of this issue. Clearly, they wouldn’t want to be rightfully or falsely accused of profiting from making fun of people with Asperger’s. To me, since the screenwriters are perfectly aware of the syndrome, they couldn’t avoid using their knowledge in fleshing out Sheldon’s personality, so the Asperger’s properties were smartly camouflaged with exaggerated geek-ness and eccentricity.

But before we think about the morality aspect it’s worth looking first at another important side of this issue – how to define Asperger’s? There’re Asperger’s bloggers on the web, often calling themselves Aspies, who disagree with labelling Asperger’s as a medical condition or a pathology. They are happy about their difference and uniqueness and claim the right to be regarded as normal individuals. I wonder how Aspies feel about the mass culture industry monetizing their uniqueness by, for instance, making fun of their unusual personalities.

One thing is joking about a sick person, but another – about differences in normal human states or behaviour – man vs woman (you may be accused of sexism), gay vs straight (you may be labelled as homophobic or someone maybe offended and jump off the bridge), iPhone vs Android (your blogger account may be removed by Google, lol) or geek vs non-geek (you may lose your geek friends). So, is it safe to make jokes about Asperger’s? Well, it depends on what kind of jokes you make. The strategy of BBT makers – you can joke however you like as long as you don’t mention the word (Asperger’s).

Asperger’s definition is rather vague. The condition was named after an Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who first observed it in children. In psychiatry Asperger’s is still classified as an autism spectrum disorder and its main specific features among others are difficulties in social interaction, repetitive patterns in hobbies and behaviour and the reduced empathy.

Aspies have mostly normal verbal and cognitive development compared to people with other autism conditions. This is used as an argument in support to recognise Asperger’s as a normal type of human behaviour. Another such argument is that no anatomical or physiological pathologies were found in Aspies.

However, the fact that Asperger’s frequently goes along with anxiety, depression, inattention and aggression may persuade psychologists to keep calling Asperger’s a medical condition.   But then all these co-morbid symptoms may just arise from the pressure from our society as they are common in many other stigmatised social groups:  LBGT, physically disabled people or ethnic/religious minorities.

Now, as I noticed my rambling turned out to be an effective sleeping pill, I’m going back to Sheldon. Which of his qualities make the audience laugh and to what extent they fit into the Asperger’s description?

  • Repetitive behaviour Penny (knock, knock)! Penny (knock, knock) Penny (knock, knock);
  • Reduced empathy;
  • He misreads facial expressions and doesn’t get jokes;
  • His verbosity is as notorious as his ineptitude of normal communication;
  • No idea of tact;
  • Great abilities in maths and obsession with figures and precision.

All of these are qualities often observed in Asperger’s. And let’s be honest, they makes us laugh.

What about other things like:

  • Geeky and eccentric traits;
  • Avoidance of drugs (tobacco, alcohol);
  • Germ phobia.

These are not the Asperger’s features. To me, they arise from Sheldon’s extreme focus on intellectual topics, which he ranks as much more superior to materialistic or emotional interests of other people. Sheldon is perfectly aware of huge negative impact of infectious and toxic agents on human health. And because he is self-centred and in a way even narcissist (he probably thinks the high IQ makes him superior to other people), he likes showing off those unusual properties (high susceptibility to germs and booze, brain of a polymath, etc.) to others to validate (and to prove to himself) his special and superior nature and to compensate for his socially inadequate traits he’s perfectly aware of.

Sheldon is funny because he’s a misfit, a source of unstoppable weirdness, geeky wit, eccentricity and social misconduct. But it is his harmless nature mixed with the above-listed things what makes him so popular.  So, is it moral to laugh at him?  I think YES… provided it’s not an evil laugh.

So what happens to Sheldon when he does get drunk?

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  • Inga Golovatova

    Personally, I find Sheldon touching. His outstanding intelligence makes him a kind of a social outcast, so we can both laugh and sympathise with him. Biut I’m just a girl, probably, as stupid as Penny)))

  • GrigoryRyzhakov

    Inga, both you and Penny are not stupid at all, you are guided more by common sense rather than mathematical models.  )))

  • Kristen Lamb

    I think humor births love and affection. We laugh because he is such an outlier, but we adore him because of it too. Sheldon often says the things all of us are thinking, but we have too many social hangups to voice. He is that inner child who is always truthful and we adore that.

  • GrigoryRyzhakov

    well said, Kristen! I wish that many more of us preserved our inner child and being an outlier like Sheldon wasn’t a scary thing to endure )))

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/nicola.monaghan Nicola Monaghan

    I think the portrayal of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory is done with a lot of affection. For me, they are not poking fun in any way at Aspergers per se, just putting someone with those traits in funny situations. It’s no different, really, to the way they use quirky personalities and silly situations in Friends. There’s no realism in these shows and definitely no malice.

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

       I agree with you, Nicola, no malice was intended there. I think that in order to make Sheldon more credible the script writers rpobably used some well-known Asperger’s traits. In the end, we have a character who is loved and adored by millions of people. Hopefully, part of this love will go to real people with this unique form/spectrum of personality.

  • Sparky

    Most people don’t realize just how many Aspies live on the internet.
    They are drawn to it like a magnet.
    No, they are not all harmless cute funny Aspies like Sheldon Cooper.

    Only a few years ago it was a common myth that Aspies
    were harmless, good and incapable of lies or evil.

    Workers in group homes reported otherwise, describing
    how they embraced the challenges of their socially misfit
    situation by trying to deceive “neurotypical” people, having
    contests to see which of them could pull off the best deceptions.

    While they may avoid social interactions with the world in
    general, they very much communicated over the internet
    and especially with other aspies, even forming their own
    subcultures on the internet. Not all of these subcultures
    they form on the internet are evil, but many are.

    Unfortunately the Aspie subcultures on the internet
    lead them into an Aspie form of “radicalization” where
    they feed others their negative thoughts and those are
    echoed and reinforced.

    Many of the school shooters were in fact Aspies.
    For a while, the news media intentionally avoided
    reporting that they were Aspies. If you look up the
    reporting on Lanza and check dates you will see
    that for weeks they avoided reporting Aspergers.
    Even when they described oddities of his daily routine
    that blatantly indicated Aspergers, they still avoided
    that word. People in the psych field did not want
    Aspies to be targeted or blamed for what some Aspies did.

    Not all Aspies do evil things like shooting up schools.
    On the other hand, most of the school shooters really
    were Aspies, even when the news media intentionally
    avoided that detail.

    When they first went to kindergarten the other kids
    quickly recognized by their behavior that they have
    social problems and shunned or avoided them. This
    likely did not get better as they moved through
    their school years and they became more and more
    angry at people in general. They may or may not
    have been diagnosed with Aspergers before they
    graduated from High School.

    Some little kids are now diagnosed with Aspergers
    before they even go to Kindergarten and there are
    therapy and treatment programs that may help them.
    Time will tell. Hopefully it keeps them from developing
    a seething anger at people in general.

    Within their online subculture they express a lot
    of anger at neurotypicals (NT) (normal people).

    If you don’t have Aspergers and get into an argument
    with one of the bad ones, your biggest strength will
    probably be common sense or people skills.
    Those are alien to Aspies. They lack cognitive empathy.

    If you catch one telling lies and ridicule or expose them
    you may be stuck with a “pet Aspie” stalking or harassing
    you on a daily basis, for month or YEARS.

    It’s very common for Aspies to have “comorbidities” like
    ADHD, OCD, hypersensitivity to touch (clothing), light, sound
    or smell. They may also have schizophrenia, BPD or
    exhibit echolalia or coprolalia, among other problems.

    Aspies are not all bad but then not all schizoprenic
    people are mass murderers either.
    The ones that turn bad turn really very bad.
    Even if they do not shoot up a school.

    Several of the school shooters each wrote an online
    angry “manifesto”, some describing their social rejection
    or bad luck with dating.

    I have an online stalker right now who is blatantly an Aspie.
    He is not my first and probably not my last “pet Aspie”.
    He was raging against religion when I found him, moved
    on to hypertechnical arguing about whether or not
    dirt is alive and eventually he told grandiose
    bragging lies and got caught. This made him angry and
    he posted threats, lots of violent ideation and urged me
    to commit suicide. I pointed out how foolish this all was
    since his sister is a psych professional (MA Therapist)
    which only made him even more angry and obsessed.
    His anger and OCD has him furiously stalking me
    to no success. Apparently his savant strengths are
    not as a hacker.

    He tried to manipulate some other online ragers to
    do his dirty work. First he tried using a group of
    outdoor cat hoarders, and then he tried using a
    political rager who I had exposed as an actual
    convicted meth head and convicted stalker.

    Typically they talk up their machismo and success
    when actually they are more like a grown man
    actually living in his Mommy’s basement being a social recluse.

    Sheldon is an idealized cartoony depiction of an Aspie.
    The Aspies themselves mock “NT’s” for thinking that’s
    how they really are.

    For some insight into how one Aspie’s mind works read this:
    http://www.psychforums.CoM/asperger-syndrome/topic9069.html

    • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Jason “Old School” Makian

      Sparky, aka, Gregory Scott Hanson of Cedar Rapids, when you look at your arrests and the things you’ve done in life (by your own admission) you are the very textbook walking living definition of Aspie.

      Over 30 arrests, and not one of them was your fault (according to you)…textbook sociopath, gwaggie. And the fact that you wrote so much about torturing cats is no surprise considering that is also very aspie of you.

      • Sparky

        I am not the person you claim I am.
        That person certainly must have caused you a whale
        of a lot of butthurt to motivate you to spend more than
        a year stalking and trying to harass the person you
        think I am. My posting history is private in Disqus
        but you were determined and searched hard to
        find my other posts in Disqus.

        What did that guy do to give you so much butthurt
        that you would spend more than a year stalking and
        harassing somebody you think is him?

        Recently you went to the trouble to hunt down many of my
        posts whether 2 years old or recent and despite my posting
        history being set to private in disqus.
        Regardless of the subject or the posts age you’ve taunted
        and posted “dox” on the person you think I am.
        Did you ever consider that you are telling people more
        about yourself by your actions than you are about
        the person you are supposedly doxing?

        You posted what you say is his criminal history but
        then you make claims that contradict your own “dox”.

        At least your behavior is slightly more appropriate
        in this discussion of whether or not it is moral to
        make fun of people with your brain disorder!
        Your actions certainly make the morality issue academic.

        If I really were the guy who gave you that much butthurt
        and you kept hounding me, why wouldn’t I just blast you
        with more of that same butthurt?

        If he catches on to you and gives you another blast of
        butthurt, won’t you be responsible for “asking for it”?

        • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Jason “Old School” Makian

          LOL! I love when you say this…Gregory Scott Hanson, the person who shares Sparky’s ip and deleted oh so many posts about Minnesota and Cedar Rapids, it makes total sense you would pretend not to be you…the things you done in life to little naked kids, beating women, all of it…so horrid you can’t deal with your own reality.

          Don’t worry, Gregory…when you stalked me I told you I would never quit trying to help you…we’ve only just begun!

          • Sparky

            How exactly did he cause you such grievous butthurt?

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Gregory Scott Hanson (aka, the guy using Sparky’s IP address, from Cedar Rapids), yes, you deleting all those posts is a spanking and I am butthurt….that is why I changed my nym, because you butthurt me.

            I hope the butthurting you are giving me continues, because we love the laughs!

            It would truly butthurt me some more if you tried to delete more of your posts where you admit you are Gregory Scott Hanson! LOL!

          • Sparky

            It seems that you have a strong emotional NEED for me to be that person you claim I am.

            When I cut and paste messages from the person you claim I am and then delete them directly in front of you it seems to send you “around the bend”.

            You exhibited an almost Pavlovian response!

            That monumental butthurt started your obsession with getting your personal revenge on that guy for more than a year!

            Or was it longer?

            When and HOW did he actually give you this monumental SPANKING you are out to avenge?

            Don’t be so shy about the grievous butthurt that started you on your obsession. Tell everybody how you got spanked and when.

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Oh Gregory Scott Hanson…you have a stronger emotional need NOT to be you. The things you’ve done in life, your arrest record, the things you wrote about torturing cats.

            You accidentally admitting you were you, and you deleting your posts about being from Minnesota and Cedar rapids, that’s just fun. We know you are you because of the link you clicked!

            LOL! But you know I do love it when you deny it. Look at the upside, since you are pretending not to be the guy we know you are, you won’t be one bit bothered when we “get a little more personal” with the details of your horrid life!

            Keep the butthurting up! we love it!

          • Sparky

            I don’t have a strong emotional need not to be me!
            I’m quite happy being the me that I really am.
            But I am not the person you keep claiming I am.
            Even that guy himself can’t be everything that you claim!
            When you “dox” somebody wouldn’t it work better
            if you avoid contradicting the records you post?

            Isn’t it foolish to claim 29 arrests on the guy
            when the records you posted show much less?

            Why claim he has felonies when the records
            you post only show a few misdemeanors?

            Exaggerating so much just revealed your
            dishonesty and desperation.

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Oh Gregory Scott Hanson, you most certainly do have a strong, mentally unhealthy need to pretend you aren’t Gregory Scott Hanson.

            In addition to your IP, your own posts signed as Greg Hanson, your own posts about your shared upbringing, your own accidental admission…all of that. We know someone who knows you, knows you personally. But more on that much later.

            But it’s okay, Gregory Scott Hanson of Cedar Rapids. We 100% know Sparky is you, and that fact that you pretend you aren’t you tells us deep down, the things you’ve done in life, the felonies, the child abuse, the beatings, deep down you know the person who Gregory Scott Hanson is, is such a monster you have to run from it.

          • Sparky

            I am not the person you claim I am.
            You keep pretending that you proved something with my IP address, so I have asked you many times to post the IP address you supposedly captured. You have not.
            The easy answer is that you lied.

            You posted what you said was the criminal records for the guy you claim I am. Later you made claims about him that contradict those same records. 29+ arrests, felonies, etc.

            You caught yourself telling lies.

            When asked about what caused the butthurt that drove your obsession for at least the last year, you cited recent events, blatantly a lie. Apparently you really do not want to explain how he caused you that much butthurt!

            Are you sure that you didn’t actually do it to yourself?

            Like when you claimed you live in a $100 MILLION dollar home, owned by you free and clear..

            You didn’t enhance your credibility.

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Oh Gregory Scott Hanson…someone with an arrest record like yours doesn’t understand what it means to keep your word. I swore on your children’s lives I would post your IP once you posted your Kristen Lindsey support petition..you are too afraid to.

            Gwaggie, I shared your IP on disqus many, many months ago with another Disqus member. Now Grags, I am happy to share your IP if you can’t find what I wrote, but you have to honor the deal.

            Tsk, Tsk, Tsk

          • Sparky

            Nice example of your psychopathology, all in one post!

            – “Bargains” you make without the other person’s OK
            expectations that they need to honor those imposed “bargains”

            – Swearing on someone else’s children

            – Unable to post the IP address you switched to
            the “check is in the mail” defense.

            – What kind of impotent lunatic pretends at a fictitious
            “bargain” where the lunatic refuses to back up their own claims
            unless their opposition gives them what the lunatic wants?

            June 7th 2016 9PM (Eastern)
            Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme wrote:
            Oh Gregory Scott Hanson…someone with an arrest
            record like yours doesn’t understand what it
            means to keep your word. I swore on your children’s
            lives I would post your IP once you posted your
            Kristen Lindsey support petition..you are too afraid to.
            Gwaggie, I shared your IP on disqus many, many
            months ago with another Disqus member. Now Grags,
            I am happy to share your IP if you can’t find what
            I wrote, but you have to honor the deal.
            Tsk, Tsk, Tsk

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Gregory Scott Hanson if it makes you feel better to think “someone” didn’t gather your IP, I grant you permission to lie to yourself. I swore on your children’s lives I have it….and me swearing on their lives is far far better than what you did to them…naked in the bathtub, being a deadbeat dad, etc, etc. Your IP was posted and has been mentioned by another poster.

            Here, I found something to help you with the butthurt you’ve been feeling about being you… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65b27f0f6ce3b49c073fc541ecad56b11ce7c7bc85f284118e5a59924409ec13.jpg

          • Sparky

            That guy you claim I am caused you some kind of
            traumatic butthurt to make you obsess like this
            for over a year seeking some sad kind of “revenge”
            on him. Rather than admit to it, you tried telling
            stupid lies blaming your year + long butthurt onto
            something that took place last week.

            I’m finding it harder and harder to feel sorry for
            the butthurt he gave you.

            It’s starting to look more and more like you
            deserved whatever grievous butthurt you got.

            You started out pretending that you were doing
            some sort of public service by warning people
            of that evil nasty man, but soon it was apparent
            that you were on an obsessive personal vendetta,
            angry that he had caused you personally
            a grievous butthurt more than a year ago.

            You carefully avoid any explanation of exactly
            HOW that grievous butthurt took place at his hands
            or when it took place.

            You tripped yourself up by posting his “dox” detailed
            criminal record but then making claims that same record
            does not support. At one point you claimed he had
            felonies. Later you said he had been arrested more
            than 29 times.

            These lies you told recently lead me to believe
            that you actually deserved that giant SPANKING he gave you.

            I’m betting that just like here, you told big lies so
            stupid that you tripped yourself up and bruised your sad ego.

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Gregory Scott Hanson, the guy pretending not to be Sparky…

            I told you when you stalked me I was going to help you…this isn’t revenge, it’s therapy….and you need a lot of it.

            I created a custom 12 step program for you, I’ve tried to help reunite you with old friends, we’ve helped you re-live your arrests for child abuse, battery and the laundry list of other things.

            And it’s cost me one huge butthurting…you’re welcome!

          • Sparky

            Why do you bother to post claims that disagree with the “dox” you posted about the guy you claim I am?

            When was he supposedly “arrested for child abuse”?
            Case number?

            How could he “re-live” an arrest that the court “dox” says never took place?

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Hehehehehe..Gregory Scott Hanson, we love when you get defensive about your arrest record. You did state that you were a founded child abuser, and that you were accused of raping Kristen Watkins.

            Our pointing out your life, Greg, will help you heal.

            Gregory Scott Hanson of Cedar Rapids, founded child abuser, supporter of cat torture.

          • Sparky

            Oh dear, your brain is broken.
            Now you’re saying that you posted the name of his rape victim?
            That doesn’t seem very smart, ethical or compassionate of you.
            Seems really stupid!

            I think you are disinterested in providing any proof because
            you know you lied outright.

          • Sparky

            “accidental admission” ?????

          • http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm Gregory Scott Hanson Buthurtme

            Gregory Scott Hanson (the lover of cat torture posting as Sparky), don’t you remember when you said you were you on May 18th? Did you delete that post along with the posts about being from Minnesota and moving with Sparky as well???

            LOl!