He is a genius, he is weird, and he is funny. He is Sheldon Cooper. During the four seasons (87 episodes by season’s end) we have seen Sheldon, along with the ever growing cast of The Big Bang Theory, participate and endure one humorous event after another. We have seen every character, except for Raj, grow and develop but the biggest developments have been from Sheldon himself growing from the original wise shaman to the social idiot and to the eventual mean spirited prick.
Right off the bat I have to warn the world – SPOILERS –.
I have said it in the past; Sheldon is the glue that holds the series together. It would not be popular without him, but neither can the show be based around him. Sheldon’s popularity has even resulted in Jim Parson being nominated for eight awards and winning three, an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Favorite TV Comedy Actor from The People’s Choice Awards in 2010 and the Individual Achievement in Comedy from TCA Awards in 2009.
Before you can examine Sheldon’s evolution you need to look at who he is. Sheldon is a prodigy and a genius. With such come the traditional accompanying qualities: inflated ego, social ineptness and an inability to emotionally relate with others. He suffers from at least one unnamed disorder, but the obvious possibilities are obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and/or Autism. This allows for some of Sheldon’s other quirks: the need or order and organization, the need for ‘His Spot’ and the lack of empathy for the world around that doesn’t concern him.
This is Sheldon Cooper.
Now we look at the evolution of Sheldon. Back in the beginning, way back in the pilot, Sheldon was the quirky roommate (there always has to be one) who acted as the wise shaman for Leonard’s relationship woes. He knew about love, about ‘romantic leagues’, about the accepted social norms and graces and even guided Leonard along the path to love.
This was Wise Sheldon.
Wise Sheldon guided Leonard. He may not have approved of the relationship, often warning him against perusing Penny and suggesting he goes for someone more appropriate, but he would help his roommate and on numerous occasions gave him romantic advice on how to win over the blond waitress.
I liked wise Sheldon – then the fans spoke and Sheldon changed.
Let me introduce Weird Sheldon.
This Sheldon knew nothing about love, could not read a person’s body language or emotion, and had no understanding of sarcasm. He knew only the basics of social norms and often required Leonard to be his guide and translator from the language of normal to the tongue of Sheldon.
When the show took off the fans began to respond and they all said the same thing. They loved Sheldon but more so when he was weird. So Sheldon changed and he lost his depth. Dr. Cooper got weirder and weirder. He developed more quirks, such as Hypochondriasis, and his original traits had been increased in severity to a laughable source.
I liked Weird Sheldon.
Then the studio went further. The changed him again. He became Cartoon Sheldon.
Once again Sheldon has his traits amplified and with such got put into outlandish situations that normally were reserved for Homer Simpson and Peter Griffen. Sheldon gained a catchphrase (Bazinga!), underwent a mental breakdown that involved him working at the cheesecake factory and playing hide and seek in a ball pit, adopting twenty five cats (an animal he despises and hates), locking himself in his room and building a Sheldon Robot, attempting to have a child – for science- without sex, and even getting a new female confidant who is essentially a female version of himself named Amy (a character that while I had little enjoyment for originally I have grown to enjoy after they made her differ from Sheldon). They even gave him an arch-enemy: Whil Weaton
Each of these evolutionary paths of Sheldon have been the same person and held the same traits but recently something changed. A building story line for the fourth season has been the romance between Leonard and Raj’s sister Priya and the way it affects the group.
Right off the bat I have to put out this disclaimer: I don’t like Priya. She is a selfish, obnoxious spoiler rich kid brat who is manipulating Leonard, forcing him to change who he is, demanding he no longer hangs out with his friends and even after their relationship has been formalized and begun she refuses to tell people and is embarrassed by him. As seen in the Agreement Dissection she cares more for herself then she does for the relationship she’s in.
Whew…That just came pouring out didn’t it?
The new relationship has alter the status quo of the entire group and because of such has forced Sheldon outside of his comfort zone. I enjoy that part of the storyline.
In the most recent episode, The Agreement Dissection, Sheldon has the longstanding roommate agreement tore apart by Priya’s legal prowess. Sheldon is flabbergasted and has his order and schedule torn apart by the trio’s newfound freeness. This sends Sheldon over to Penny’s to complain which results in him being sucked into ‘Girls Night’ with Penny, Bernadette and Amy. The episode plays out with Sheldon and Amy dancing, Amy getting drunk, her kissing Sheldon and trying to initiate ‘coitus.’
I like the episode so far. It was a funny Sheldon episode that was well grounded and not Cartoonish. It expanded on the Shamy relationship and pushed the idea of Sheldon actually entering into a romantic relationship and even having sex.
Then the end of the episode happened.
Sheldon rewrites the Roommate Agreement to better suit him and demands that Leonard signs it. He refuses. Sheldon then activates a computer program that unless Leonard signs the agreement that an email will go out to Priya’s parents revealing to them that she is in a secret relationship with a white man (an aspect they despise.) Priya then demands that Leonard signs the form or their relationship is done. Leonard caves and signs.
So apparently Sheldon has changed again…Sheldon has become a prick.
Where did this come from? This has never been Sheldon so when did he change?
Sheldon has his flaws, they are numerous. He is self involved, he is selfish, he doesn’t understand a lot of what goes on in the normal world, but he is still a good person. Sheldon is not one for love, he has stated as such, but he would never go as far as to sabotage Leonard’s happiness. He had many faults with Penny but he kept, mostly, quiet about them. (The Zazzy Substitution). He has even encouraged Leonard to try a relationship with Penny (The Tangerine Factor).
Sheldon has also been loyal to his friends coming to their aid in a time of need, be it fixing a space toilet (The Classified Materials Turbulence), freeing the Mars Rover (The Lizard-Spock Expansion), lending Penny money (The Financial Permeability), teaching Penny how to better run her business for no gain of his own (The Work Song nanocluster), saving Leonard from the interference from an international spy and even saving Leonard’s life from a jet fuel explosion and not reporting him to the FBI, homeland security or the tenant board (The Staircase Implementation). Sheldon even goes as far as to lie to Leonard and Penny to make both happy in their post-breakup period (The Spaghetti Catalyst).
So Sheldon is a good person, it’s the only way we can enjoy him, but what can we read from this latest mean move of his? Sheldon has never been this mean, been this much a prick (and that’s me being polite). Is this a one-shot way off base move for Sheldon? Is this the new him? If so will the show last if Sheldon becomes the prick?
Personally I would like to believe that Sheldon saw something in the Leonard/Priya relationship that he thought would hurt his friend in the long run and decided to begin unravelling the relationship to save Leonard from greater pain. It would be a nice and subtle return to the Wise Sheldon of the pilot and early episodes but after three seasons without it, the idea seems unlikely. Has his selfishness finally gone too far? Only time will tell.