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Meta: Sherlock, Aspergers and Autism - the psychiatrists opinion

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Again, not one of mine, this is another meta by wellingtongoose on livejournal.

 

In this meta wellingtongoose has discussed Sherlock's possible autism/asperger's with 3 psychiatrists. The overwhelming conclusion is that Sherlock (as shown on screen in BBC Sherlock) is NOT someone with an ASD, which I know might not sit well with some people. However, the evidence is well thought out and presented and some good points are made. Wellingtongoose is not the first person to refute Sherlock's supposed Asperger's diagnosis.

 

Seeing as this is a tv series, and fantasy, we can choose to believe what we want.

 

I personally think that Sherlock does display some traits of Asperger's, but that doesn't mean he has enough to give him a diagnosis. There are any number of people who, due to other factors (such as intelligence, upbringing and general personality),  are just downright eccentric.

 

Diagnosing Sherlock: Why he doesn't have Asperger's

 

Read at your own risk.

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Being skeptical by nature, and therefore leery of labels, I'm perfectly willing to believe that Sherlock is simply being Sherlock.  The only mention of Asperger's on the show is John's "diagnosis" in "Hounds," and based on John's tone of voice, he didn't state it with certainty, he offered it as a possibility, because Sherlock's behavior sometimes reminded him of that syndrome.

 

God knows that growing up in the same house with Mycroft would be enough to give a person some interesting personality traits!

 

I'm thinking that from a how-to-handle-this-guy point of view, though, it could be helpful for John to be familiar with the Asperger's literature, regardless of whether Sherlock is a textbook case.

 

Thanks for the new link, aely.  I will go and have a read.

 

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The interviews were so insightful and interesting to read, thank you so much aely.  I too am happy just to view him as.....well....being Sherlock Holmes. Maybe this version is more on the cruel side....but he could be in Canon as well. He did put down the Met police force quite often and he wasn't all that kind about it. But seeing as who wrote it and the time period it was written in, Doyle was an English gentleman and his Holmes would be more constrained.

 

The diagnosis for asperger's is not modern nor new. It goes back to some of the "research" being done on the Canon Holmes that came out the as early as the 50's and 60's but then this was a new area of study and little was known about it.

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Hey, thanks for linking to those interviews. Too bad I didn't see this earlier. Very interesting. Although I kind of resent this guy saying heroes like Sherlock were a fad because they made people feel less inadequate compared to them ("I might not be that bright but at least I have better social skills").

 

Maybe I should not argue against a professional when it comes to why I like something, but I don't think he got it entirely right. There is more to a flawed hero than making people feel better about themselves. Sherlock just isn't too good to be true, to begin with. He's believable even though his personality is clearly a fictional construct and probably wouldn't be possible in real life. He is interesting. Think about it, there have been only six 90-minute episodes and here we are still discussing why he did what and whether he really cares for his friends and would he give government information to a villain and did he ever have sex and so on and so forth.

 

There is another angle to the "poor social skills" thing. Don't we all feel touched by how considerate John, Lestrade, Mrs Hudson and Molly are towards Sherlock? How they bear with his eccentricities and his egotism, how they make sure he doesn't take drugs, how they love him in spite of and for who he is? I think the flawed hero isn't so popular because one compares one's self favorably to him but because if a man this outrageous is this much loved, then there is hope for us other flawed people out there to find love for who we are ourselves. So. There.

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I think the primary appeal of the "flawed hero" is believability.  If you have some character who's 100% perfect all the time (and I'm desperately trying not to think "Mary Poppins" here), it's just not realistic.  Everybody has some flaws.  So if a hero is really, really good at some things, it needs to be balanced by their being pretty bad at some other things -- just like a normal human being, only more so.

 

Also, as with any character, the flaws make for a more interesting story.  As you said:

 

He is interesting. Think about it, there have been only six 90-minute episodes and here we are still discussing why he did what and whether he really cares for his friends and would he give government information to a villain and did he ever have sex and so on and so forth.

 

Exactly!  I mean, who would you rather watch six episodes about -- Sherlock Holmes or Sir Lancelot?

 

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Oh dear, I tried not to say anything about Mary Poppins because she has absolutely nothing to do with this thread or this forum and it makes me look like a total nerd if I do, but I can't help it. I love her figure, because, in the children's books she comes from, she is very far from perfect, being vain, proud, reserved and stiff. Somebody who you at first think is awful and then slowly and gradually discover the hidden merits and soft spots of.

 

Oh no, imagine six episodes about Sir Lancelot. Although, come to think of it, he had an affair with his boss's wife, so to speak. So maybe that would make for an interesting story. Why doesn't somebody write a TV adaptation of the knights of the round table in 21st century London?

 

Back to Sherlock and flawed heroes. That does seem to be a modern thing, because the original Holmes is much more of a shining figure than Sherlock and so are other older heroes compared to those that are currently popular (just to pick a really stupid example, think of Superman vs Batman). The psychiatrist I got annoyed with may be right when he calls it a fad. But I think it's a good one and one that may say a few things about our culture which are not all bad.

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... the original Holmes is much more of a shining figure than Sherlock and so are other older heroes compared to those that are currently popular (just to pick a really stupid example, think of Superman vs Batman).

 

Not disputing your actual point, but which example do you mean as older, and which as current?  They both go way back in comics, and they've both been in recent movies.  Or is that what you mean, the original comics version of each vs. the current movie version?

 

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Oh dear, I knew it was a stupid example. I dislike superheroes in general, actually. Let me see, when I grew up, we watched Lois and Clark (well, this little girl watched Gargoyles to be honest, but most of the kids in school watched that) and he was popular because he was super-perfect and so on. Now, the kids seem to be crazy about the Dark Knight (and he's still less appealing than the Joker).

 

I probably could have made my point by just comparing BBC's Sherlock to Doyle's Holmes. Stick to what you know...

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Seeing as this is a tv series, and fantasy, we can choose to believe what we want.

Yes! I like that! That is just what fiction is for. I don't care much whether Sherlock technically does or does not fulfill criteria for a few diagnoses. I don't think they wrote the line where John says "his Asperger's" to let us know that they really think he does, but just as a nod to those people who believe so. Besides, it was funny.

 

Whether or not his personality could actually exist the way it is written in real life - who knows. I don't believe there are any limits to individuality. It doesn't really matter as long as he continues to exist and make sense on the page and the screen.

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Oh dear, I tried not to say anything about Mary Poppins because she has absolutely nothing to do with this thread or this forum and it makes me look like a total nerd if I do, but I can't help it. I love her figure, because, in the children's books she comes from, she is very far from perfect, being vain, proud, reserved and stiff. Somebody who you at first think is awful and then slowly and gradually discover the hidden merits and soft spots of.

 

Sorry for pushing your Poppins button!  My wise crack was of course based on the movie version, who modestly describes herself as "practically perfect in every way."  I'd just had a bit of a struggle to word my main sentence (just before that parenthetical remark) in some other way.

 

Oh no, imagine six episodes about Sir Lancelot. Although, come to think of it, he had an affair with his boss's wife, so to speak. So maybe that would make for an interesting story. Why doesn't somebody write a TV adaptation of the knights of the round table in 21st century London?

 

Well, The Rockford Files did have an occasional character named Lance White (played by a slightly pre-Magnum Tom Selleck), who was an obvious takeoff on the knight.  He was pathologically moral and everything he did worked out perfectly, even if he made a mistake.  Bugged the socks off of Rockford!

 

Back to Sherlock and flawed heroes. That does seem to be a modern thing, because the original Holmes is much more of a shining figure than Sherlock and so are other older heroes compared to those that are currently popular (just to pick a really stupid example, think of Superman vs Batman). The psychiatrist I got annoyed with may be right when he calls it a fad. But I think it's a good one and one that may say a few things about our culture which are not all bad.

 

Flawed heroes seem to be a recurring fad.  For example, back at the tail end of Conan Doyle's career, there were short-story protagonists called Hopalong Cassidy and Boston Blackie, shady fellows who were sometimes on the side of the law.  But then they got cleaned up for movies, radio, and television.

 

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A lot of the so called "Hard boiled" American detectives of the 30's, 40's and 50's were tough and flawed. Hard drinking, chain smoking, not able to keep a good woman.

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I believe you're right about that, Fox, though I'm certainly no expert on them.  But speaking (as I was briefly, back there) of Rockford, it occurs to me that he's a pretty flawed hero as well -- in one episode when a client sees him picking a lock and asks "Is that legal?" he replies (approximately), "Honey, I'm barely legal on a good day."  That was a late-70's show.

 

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I allows took him to be more cocky then flawed, but it could be that to me when someone says that someone is "flawed" means that person has some real personal issues which I didn't see Rockford as having. He just liked rubbing the cop's noses in how easily he could solve crimes running rings around them.

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A lot of the so called "Hard boiled" American detectives of the 30's, 40's and 50's were tough and flawed. Hard drinking, chain smoking, not able to keep a good woman.

 

Yes, of course... Hello, Mr Marlowe! Phillip was flawed all right, but as far as I know, he was, like the original Holmes, never allowed to be weak. There's a fragility about Sherlock that I find particularly intriguing. And it's not because it makes me look stronger (it does not...), but because it makes me care more about what happens to him. He's a hero you can admire and yet feel anxious and a bit protective about at the same time.

 

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Poirot is also flawed in his own way - he's a tad OCD and something of an over zealous perfectionist. Having said that, that eye for little details (as with Holmes) is what makes him such a good detective.  David Suchet, the actor who has played Poirot for 24 years, said in an interview that he wouldn't want to have to share a house with him!

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because it makes me care about what happens to him.

 

  And that is the secret of any really successful characters, whether it is tv, movie, or book.  The writer and/or producer has to find a way to hook their audience into their story and caring about the main characters is the tried and true blue way of doing that.

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Personally as someone with mild ASD I have often noticed some little behavioural traits I share with our beloved detective, but I never fully believed either way what he might have because nothing has ever been confirmed in canon and throwing a diagnosis on him otherwise would be slightly I nappropriate in my opinion. There's a character in the Big Bang Theory people have had the same speculations about, but he shows even more of the classic traits and the writers simply said they didn't want to label him.

 

To be honest sometimes a character being given the diagnosis of such a condition in a show is not always the best thing, as while some use it for character depth or to raise awareness, others have made the issues of some mental and social problems into the butt of a joke. Very glad that this wasn't the case for Sherlock.

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I personally hate to see anyone labeled (other than perhaps for therapeutic purposes).  A label makes it so easy to pigeonhole someone -- and heaven knows Sherlock would need his very own pigeonhole!

 

Nice to see you posting again, Hana!  :wave2:

 

 

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The only label that works for Sherlock is his name, i think. My psych professor always described these sorts of disorders on a spectrum, which seemed like a roughly accurate way to look at them. ASD, sociopathy are the far ends of the scale, and all personalities have tendencies one way or the other :)

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I'm not inclined to believe the Aspergers diagnoses so easily thrown out either.  Here's a bit of Asperger info from someone who has it and offers parents and others ways of dealing with it:

 

http://www.aspergerexperts.com/go/missinglink/

 

Somehow I don't see Sherlock as being unmotivated.  Bored, yes, but never unmotivated.  I also don't see him on sensory overload, although I sometimes see him on brain overload.  But he is able to accommodate any difficulties in these areas and to get himself back on track if he has a momentary brain cramp.  

 

However, he is highly intelligent and specially gifted with certain mental skills, stuff that likely put him at odds with others.  He never really learned to play well.  Even just having the police/authorities shut him down in his youth about the Carl Powers case probably caused him to withdraw further.

 

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Yeah, I think for the first week I thought it was possible, but ... no. If I were forced to choose a disorder for Sherlock, I'd choose narcissism. But even that paints him too broadly.

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If I were forced to choose a disorder for Sherlock, I'd choose narcissism. But even that paints him too broadly.

 

 

I think so too, that he's near a narcissist but not quite there, especially after HLV and what he did for John and Mary. To me he's somebody, who due to his high intellect developed less quickly in other (social, emotional) areas, perhaps a bit obsessive, but I wouldn't like to label him, as others have said.

 

He's also quite self-destructive at times, there are several moments in the series where I am shocked at the stupidity of some of his self-destructive behaviour- in A Study in Pink, where he almost takes the pill, just out of curiosity. I take the most issue with him in His Last Vow, where he totally underestimates Magnussen, (if anyone could guess Mind Palace, it should have been him!) and then shoots him... which I'm not sure was wise or necessary. I do sometimes wonder if in HLV, Mycroft was the one pulling the strings, realising that Sherlock could be manipulated into offing Magnussen if they played the Watson card. Sherlock has some impressively sized blind spots, for a very clever man.

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Yeah, I think for the first week I thought it was possible, but ... no. If I were forced to choose a disorder for Sherlock, I'd choose narcissism. But even that paints him too broadly.

 

His most outstanding characteristic seems to be some combination of intellect and intuition.  Other than that, I think he describes himself as well as he can be pigeon-holed -- high-functioning sociopath.  But only mildly so, at that.  With perhaps just a touch of some other things such as Asperger's.  In other words, a fairly typical intuitive genius.

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He's also quite self-destructive at times, there are several moments in the series where I am shocked at the stupidity of some of his self-destructive behaviour- in A Study in Pink, where he almost takes the pill, just out of curiosity. I take the most issue with him in His Last Vow, where he totally underestimates Magnussen, (if anyone could guess Mind Palace, it should have been him!) and then shoots him... which I'm not sure was wise or necessary. I do sometimes wonder if in HLV, Mycroft was the one pulling the strings, realising that Sherlock could be manipulated into offing Magnussen if they played the Watson card. Sherlock has some impressively sized blind spots, for a very clever man.

Wow, there's a new one ... Mycroft manipulating Sherlock into shooting Magnussen? Oooo, do we really think he's that .... erm, twisted? If it turns out to be true, I hope John punches his lights out.....

 

Yeah, I think Sherlock overestimated himself in HLV. And in spite of John's words, I don't find him particularly wise -- perceptive, clever, insightful ... but not wise. Too reckless for that.

 

His most outstanding characteristic seems to be some combination of intellect and intuition.  Other than that, I think he describes himself as well as he can be pigeon-holed -- high-functioning sociopath.  But only mildly so, at that......

Mildly high-functioning, or mildly sociopathic? :D

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Dear Arcadia, mildly neither! We have discussed elsewhere that the term "sociopath" doesn't exist in modern psychiatry, he could be diagnosed As PDS-NOS, meaning with a disorder that cannot be pigeonholed and is not yet studied enough to be evaluated.

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