First off, you might be wondering what Aspergers Syndrome is. The blogger Cool Blue Reason has a good explanation of it in relation to the autism spectrum (and it isn't overly complicated like the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual; the tool of diagnosis for psychologists) definition would be). (Also, there's a really interesting post on Aspergers in women, which is way better than any psych text I've come across, so give that a read if you're interested.) I have a personal connection to Asperger's, as I'd stated in the previous post, as a couple of my friends are Aspergians. Thus, when I heard theories about Sherlock being Aspergian, my ears pricked up.
As entertaining as the quote, "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research" might be, and as much as I enjoy quoting it, I also know there's no such thing as a high-functioning sociopath. Sociopathology is... complicated. Really complicated. There aren't levels of "higher functioning" like we use to talk about autism, mainly because sociopathology is far different than autism (autism is hereditary and genetic, while sociopathology is related to the personality and more vague in its cause). The number one thing about sociopaths/psychopaths (the words are essentially interchangeable; some people try to distinguish a difference but in my experiences with psychology, psychologists more or less uses them to express the same concept. Sociopath is used more widely today, though antisocial personality disorder is the technical term - and yes, this gets really confusing as being "antisocial" has gotten confabulated with social anxiety/ avoidant personality disorder) is that they generally do not know they are psychopaths, do not attach to such labels, and would not be proud and assert that identity. According to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, (not sure if this is the best text on sociopathology, but it was an easy, interesting read and it's what I've got) sociopaths "are infamous for their refusal to acknowledge responsibility for the decisions they make, or for the outcomes of their decisions. In fact, a refusal to see the results of one's bad behavior as having anything to do with oneself - 'consistent irresponsibility' in the language of the American Psychiatric Association - is a cornerstone of the antisocial personality diagnosis" (Stout 49-50).
This is the number one reason that Sherlock is not a sociopath. Sherlock does accept responsibility
I could go on and point out how Sherlock Holmes is written and performed in such a way that he appears as an Aspergian, but thanks to loyal reader Rachel, I know of some really fantastic essays by the previously mentioned Cool Blue Reason which you can find linked here. They are brilliant essays with way more knowledge than I have and really great scene analysis from the show. One final thing I'd like to discuss a bit though is something Cool Blue Reason points out, which is the way Sherlock's Aspergers is dealt with on the show. John does mention it at one point (in "The Hound of Baskervilles") but I don't even remember this exchange (I've only seen this episode once - I know; I'm sorry) but not in a very positive or accepting way. As much as I love Sherlock being represented as Aspergian, I'd love it far, far more if he was presented as openly Aspergian and as a way of better explaining his behavior, rather than pathologizing it. As we head into series/season 3, I'm hoping for maybe some of this happening, but we'll see. Some fans are really against people labeling characters this way and I can sort of understand that. But this behavior goes back to the Conan Doyle stories and, honestly, they have expressed this idea in the show. Why not go one step further, make it canon, and present a likeable, recognizable figure that can better represent Aspergians in a creative, complex, and engaging way? Why not take a further step towards accepting that not everyone is allistic and thinking that everyone is can be deeply damaging?
Also, it seems like this twice a week posting is working really well. As I've unofficially been doing it, I'm officially stating that posts will fall on Wednesdays and Saturdays every week (though considering many of you read this from other parts of the world, it might very well be the next day for you before it gets posted. Yay wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff). And as a preview, Saturday's post will be on writing and my personal experiences with it (be prepared for random literature and psychology references, as well as a hefty dose of self-promotion because... well, you'll see :D).
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. Broadway Books, 2005.