March 24 – Happy Birthday, Jim Parsons

Posted on March 24, 2016

Jim Parsons probably gets called “Sheldon” all the time.

He's widely known for playing the quirky theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper on the long-running comedy TV show The Big Bang Theory.

And unlike many of his costars, he looks a lot like his character (although he doesn't dress or talk or act like his character):

 LEFT: Actor Jim Parsons

RIGHT: Theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper

LEFT: Actor Johnny Galecki

RIGHT: Experimental physicist Leonard Hofstadter

LEFT: Actress Melissa Rauch

RIGHT: Microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski

LEFT: Actor Simon Helberg 

RIGHT: Engineer / Astronaut Howard Wolowitz

LEFT:  Actress Mayim Bialik 

RIGHT: Neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler

LEFT: Actor Kunal Nayyar

RIGHT: Astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali



Jim Parsons was born in Houston, Texas, on this date in 1973. He loved acting ever since he was six years old and acted in a school play.

Parsons has done a lot of plays and has had small parts in movies and TV shows – but The Big Bang Theory has been so popular – with hundreds of episodes through nine seasons, and counting – it's dominated his time and acting efforts. Nevertheless, Parsons has found time and motivation to also appear on Broadway in several plays.

Parsons has earned a lot of praise, and won a LOT of awards, for his portrayal of Sheldon. Here are some of the awards:
  • a Television Critics Association award for individual achievement in comedy
  • 4 Primetime Emmy Awards and 6 nominations
  • Golden Globe
  • a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • a People's Choice Award, and a Teen Choice Award
  • TV Guide Award
  • 2 Critics' Choice Television Awards

What about the Sheldon controversy?

I have recently read a lot of controversy about the show The Big Bang Theory, and about the character Sheldon Cooper. A lot of people think that Sheldon has Asperger syndrome, which puts him on the autism spectrum. Although the show's creators say he doesn't have Asperger syndrome and isn't on the spectrum, some characters refer to Sheldon's OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and Sheldon has talked about having relationships and dealing with people being hard for him.

Some people, many of whom are themselves on the autism spectrum, say that despite the fact that Sheldon remains unlabeled, he clearly is seen by everyone as having Asperger syndrome / autism. And they point out that he is often criticized by other characters, he is often the “butt of jokes,” and his oddities are used for comic effect. They say that the show, and the Sheldon character, hurt real people with autism.

Other people, some of whom are themselves on the autistic spectrum, say that the show is positive for people with autism. Sheldon is successful in his career and has friends and a romantic partner. These fans talk about sweet moments between characters; they point out that nobody in the show tries to medicate Sheldon, and nobody puts serious effort into changing him. The other characters enjoy him, are irritated with him, help him, are helped by him, miss him when he is away, and ultimately love and accept him.

By the way, I noticed that Wikipedia doesn't describe Sheldon as a character with Asperger syndrome; instead, he is identified as having social apathy—which means not particularly caring much about other people's thoughts and lives, finding little interest in meeting or listening to them. That sounds like a pretty good description of Sheldon. Here is a quote from the episode “The 43 Peculiarity”:

Sheldon Cooper: “You may not realize it, but I have difficulty navigating through certain aspects of daily life: understanding sarcasm, feigning interest in others, not talking about trains as much as I'd want to. It's exhausting!”

I guess that asocial behavior is often associated with autism / Asperger syndrome. I'm not sure if social apathy is, as well.

More controversy?

I have also read several criticisms that TBBT makes fun of nerds / geeks, that it is a show about smart people for dumb people, and that it gets nerd / geek culture wrong – and not hugely and hilariously wrong, but just “off” enough to make real nerds and geeks rage.

But I've also read a lot of articles by nerds / geeks who love the show. They feel that a lot of jokes in the show laugh WITH the characters, not AT the characters; they also point out that sometimes it's fine to laugh at particular actions or words of the characters, just as it is sometimes fine to laugh at themselves.

Also, a lot of scientists and geekdom stars have participated in the show. I'm pretty sure most of them wouldn't have done so if they felt that the show was offensive.

On what other sitcom can you see Bill Nye the Science Guy, famed physicist Stephen Hawkins, astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Darth-Vader voice actor James Earl Jones, comic book icon Stan Lee, Firefly actress Summer Glau, Star Trek actor / twitter star George Takei, Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, and Star Trek actor / nerd culture icon Wil Wheaton? 

And more, soooo many more!

Not only was actor Leonard Nimoy and his iconic
character "Spock" an important recurring theme
in various episodes of The Big Bang Theory,
after he died his son Adam Nimoy made a guest

My thoughts...

I have to admit, I love this show, and I love the Sheldon character. I am still processing the criticisms of this show, reading opinions of detractors as well as fans, and I am trying to be mindful of these concerns as I laugh at and talk about the show.

Also on this date:

Commonwealth Covenant Day in Northern Marianas

Plan ahead:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:

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