While a character like Max Braverman from Parenthood was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, as part of a storyline on the drama, most TV characters who are probably autistic have not been recognized. Over the past ten years or so, there have been several TV shows that depict autism or have characters with Asperger's. Some of these fictional characters on the spectrum will seem pretty obvious, while others may surprise you.
Some of the defining characteristics of Asperger’s include: obsession with odd things or unusual topics, limited social ability, the need for a set routine, robotic speech, an inability to make eye contact, awkward mannerisms, the inability to pick up on social cues, and the inability to detect sarcasm. Different people who are on the spectrum will display different traits. Do any of these symptoms remind you of your favorite television character?
Is it weird that Abed from Community uses his insane knowledge of pop culture as a means to communicate? Is it odd that Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black nearly loses her mind during the prison riot because her daily routine gets totally out of whack? Ever wonder why Sherlock Holmes does not have any friends?
Check out these fascinating TV characters on the spectrum. While it’s true that their creators may not have officially announced their diagnosis, there’s at least enough evidence to make a strong case. Did we miss any of your favorite fictional characters on the spectrum? Let us know in the comments section.
- Photo: BBC One
Arthur Conan Doyle's detective character Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1886. Since that time, the iconic character has been portrayed in dozens of different films and television shows. In BBC's hit series Sherlock, which premiered in 2010, the titular detective is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Whether or not Sherlock Holmes is on the spectrum is a matter of great debate. However, the National Autistic Society has come out and said that Holmes's photographic memory and ability to solve hard crimes with just tiny pieces of information may indicate that the detective is autistic. Robyn Steward, an autism consultant and trainer and ambassador for the NAS, said:
“Sherlock really focuses on one thing, for example in the latest series there is an episode where his brother comes over to New York and they are supposed to be going for dinner but Sherlock says we can’t, we are working on this case – it is an unnecessary distraction... He also has this ability to concentrate and he memorizes and links things in quite a unique way, all these things could be linked to being on the autistic spectrum.”
- Series: Sherlock
- Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
- Photo: CBS
The writers at The Big Bang Theory have stated that when they came up the genius character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, they were not thinking he would be autistic. There is certainly no doubt that Sheldon has a severe case of OCD; however, Sheldon does display a few of the key characteristics of Asperger's. He does not get sarcasm; he is an undeniable genius; he's socially awkward.
Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, read the memoir Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison. It is about the writer's life with Asperger's. Parsons immediately saw the comparisons between his character and Robison.
"And the comparisons were undeniable. A majority of what I read in that book touched on aspects of Sheldon. Since then, the more I’ve heard about it or talked about it with people who know more about it than I do, it seems that Asperger’s is not such an uncommon thing for extremely smart people to have. Or, like Sheldon, to have aspects of. There’s an awful lot of people who seem to border on that genius level that are also dealing with an Asperger’s-like detachment from emotional life as we know it. Even though really it just seems like detachment."
- Series: The Big Bang Theory
- Actor: Jim Parsons
- Photo: Fox
Dr. Temperance Brennan, also known simply as "Bones" on the crime show Bones, is a forensic anthropologist. She is obviously extremely bright but is also socially awkward and takes everything literally. Bones is also not very good at detecting sarcasm.
The writers at Bones never came out and explicitly confirmed that Temperance has Asperger's. However, the show's creator Hart Hanson said that he based the titular character in part on a friend of his with the condition. Hanson revealed that the show's decision to keep Bones's affliction on the down-low is largely because it airs on Fox:
"If we were on cable, we would have said from the beginning that Brennan has Asperger’s... Instead, it being a network, we decided not to label a main character, for good or for bad. But those elements are in there."
- Series: bones
- Actor: Emily Deschanel
- Photo: Channel 4
Maurice Moss is an extremely intelligent computer nerd and programmer from the British television comedy the IT Crowd. Moss has been championed by the Asperger's community because of his ability to "embrace his weird." He is essentially not sorry for being odd and having bizarre quirks in his personality. These odd quirks include things like fainting when anything female-related comes into a conversation. He also needs to spray his ears with a bottle when they get too hot and cannot even begin to follow a conversation about football.
- Series: The IT Crowd
- Actor: Richard Ayoade