If you’ve never seen The Big Bang Theory, you might assume it’s some tragic sitcom about a load of teenagers trying to get laid ‘with hilarious results’. Thankfully you would be wrong. It’s actually about four physicists (although the getting laid bit is about right), and if you love nerds you need to watch it.
Clearly a LOT of people love nerds, because if you Google ‘big bang theory’ the first result is the show’s Wikipedia page (which does have spoilers). You’ll have to scroll down a bit further if you’re interested in the actual theory about the big bang. I wish I could say the show challenges prevailing stereotypes about scientists… except it doesn’t. But somehow I don’t care, because the character who steals almost every scene, Dr Sheldon Cooper, is my new not-so-secret crush.
He’s amazing – a completely unapologetic nerd/genius who genuinely doesn’t care what other people think of him. Which is just as well, because he’s self-centred and confused by their emotions. He’s totally convinced he’s more intelligent than almost anyone else (which is true) and can’t understand why you wouldn’t point out other people’s mistakes and stupidity whenever the opportunity arises.
Essentially Sheldon is very rational and is almost oblivious to the feelings of others. He’s happy to say exactly what he thinks – for example when he finds Penny, his next-door neighbour, getting up close and personal with his friend Leonard:
“Hello, Penny. I realize you are currently at the mercy of your primitive biological urges. But, as you have an entire lifetime of poor decisions ahead of you, may I interrupt this one?”
Or while discussing the pros and cons of sperm donation with Leonard:
Sheldon: “But then some poor woman is going to pin her hopes on my sperm, what if she winds up with a toddler that doesn’t know if he should use an integral or a differential to solve for the area under a curve?”
Leonard: “I’m sure she’ll still love him.”
Sheldon: “I wouldn’t.”
For me watching Sheldon is a bit like wish fulfilment. I’m not a physics genius (or any kind of genius) but I think we would all love to ignore other people’s opinions while at the same time expressing our own with no thought for the consequences. In the real world this would probably result in a lot of slaps in the face and grovelling apologies, but luckily for Sheldon his friends accept him for the freak that he is.
He is also touchingly obsessed with science. It really is everything to him, and he does his best to make sure that no-one gets in the way of his rational approach to life. It’s inspiring, but also a good reminder of why nobody can be rational all the time – at least not when other people decide to add unpredictable variables to the equation.
Sheldon is a brilliant fictional scientist. He embodies the highest principles of science, while showing why these principles sometimes don’t work when they come up against messy reality. And he’s charming, despite being selfish and a huge intellectual snob. Don’t ever change, Sheldon, I love you just the way you are.