I'm not a big fan of modern television. Perhaps this minor annoying trend that I've noticed lately with CBS network programming will show you why.
And what is that trend? Well, I'm beginning to think that the 'S' in 'CBS' doesn't stand for 'System', but instead stands for 'Sociopath'.
I don't watch a lot of CBS programs, but until recently, I had a few favorites. However, as the season wore on this year, I found myself enjoying each of these programs less and less. Sure, the comedies were funny, the crime dramas well written and intriguing. But all the while, something deep in me was trying to fire off a few internal alarms. Something was wrong with these three programs, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
Until today, until the airing of the November 15th episode of 'Sherlock Holmes'; one of the three CBS programs I've been watching frequently. The final realization of what bothered me about these three programs stood me up right off the couch; a true 'Eureka', "My God, how could I have MISSED that?' moment.
I considered my theory for awhile. Believe me, it is STILL a theory: I don't know the producers, directors, or writers of these three programs. The common patterns between the three programs is pure supposition at this point. I don't believe I am, but I could be wrong about this.
All the same, I'm going to share it with you now, anyway.
So, what is this pattern that I've suddenly noticed that the three major characters of 'The Big Bang Theory', 'The Mentalist', and 'Sherlock Holmes' seem to all have in common?
The realization that I came to today is this: All three major characters of the above shows, 'Sheldon' from 'The Big Bang Theory', 'Patrick Janeway' from 'The Mentalist', and 'Sherlock Holmes' of 'Sherlock Holmes' are Sociopaths.
Now, being a sociopath doesn't ALWAYS mean that they're evil, cold-blooded killers. Many sociopaths are quite law-abiding, somewhat 'normal' people. Unless you were well acquainted with them and knew the signs or had been used and abused by them, you'd never know they had a psychiatric problem at all.
The modern sociopath isn't the evil, psychotic killer that television generally portrays them as. They are both male and female, young and old, Canadian, American, or Mexican, rich, middle-income, or poor, extroverts or introverts, Married or Single, or living alone (or with a family) or living with Momma.
So how do you spot one? What is a sociopath?
In simplest terms, A sociopath is a person who's entire mental mindset, outlook, attitude, and purpose in life is completely, one hundred percent selfish. They are quite incapable of normal human emotion, either good or bad, although they are frequently very talented at FAKING human emotion, when they have to. They use these simulated emotions to attract victims into their lives and, once that happens, they slowly and quite literally milk sustenance out of these people for their own selfish benefit and purpose.
When the victim has nothing more to give the person or becomes wise to their true nature and motives, then the victim is quickly and quietly discarded from the sociopath's life. They move on to more fertile territory.
They experience no true remorse at all and, if confronted with their actions, they will turn that confrontration around and use the very act of being confronted as proof that the person is "out to get them", or "is hateful and evil", or that person "doesn't understand them".
The good people at <a href="http://www.reference.com/motif/Health/how-to-deal-with-a-sociopath">www.definition.com</a> have a nice succint definition:
One of the first steps in dealing with a sociopath is figuring out if the person in question is indeed a sociopath. In a nutshell, a sociopath is someone without a conscience. The tricky thing is that a lot of sociopaths have learned to mimic feelings of empathy, thus making it harder to recognize them for what they are. Once you have determined that you are dealing with a sociopath the best way to deal with them is very simple: get them out of your life! This may sound drastic but remember, you are dealing with someone who wreaks havoc on peoples lives with no feelings of remorse whatsoever.
Wow, that's a pretty scary theory I'm proposing. Can it possibly be true, where the three main characters of the CBS TV shows are concerned?
More importantly: if it is true, even in the slightest bit, then why would a major TV Network such as CBS employ this story-telling technique in so many programs? Is that a bizarre coincidence or a purposeful choice on their part?
The character of 'Sheldon Cooper' from 'The Big Bang Theory' fits the above descriptions to a tee, in my opinion. He is haughty, arrogant, self-centered to a fault, belligerent. He is completely and utterly incapable of true emotion, unless that emotion is 'arrogance'. Even on the occasions where he seems to assist his roommates, he does so only for self-aggrandizement, in situations where 'helping' the others also benefits his own character, somehow.
'Patrick Janeway' of 'The Mentalist' follows the same pattern. But wait a minute, you say: He's angry about 'Red John' and the murder of his family. Isn't that an emotion? If it were real, then yes, it would be. But is it? Or is that 'anger' just a masked arrogance that this crime took the attention off of him? Not only did that fictional event destroy his original career (as a fake TV Psychic) and take him out of the public eye, but it also was a classic case of the one event that often DOES make a sociopath turn unruly or violent: Someone BESIDES him finally had a major impact on the events of his life.
A Sociopath would never, EVER, allow that to happen without retribution.
Alas, it was tonight while watching "Sherlock Holmes', however, that this 'eureka' moment finally took hold and hit me. In tonight's episode, Sherlock is upset with his guardian (played by Lucy Liu) because she stumbled across some private information about his past that had led him to his problems with drug addiction and depression.
I got the same impression as I did while watching Sheldon Cooper or Patrick Janeway: The resulting anger, rage, and resentment he showed was a mere mask for him being pulled off of the 'Center Stage' by something other than his own actions. And his brief and apparently contrite change at the end of the show, when he finally started to talk about the private information that Dr. Watson had uncovered was merely a 'saving face' moment, not a change in heart. Even while he delivered that obvious attempt of the show writers to salvage their character, he did so with his arms crossed, an angry glare in his eyes, and while chewing at his lip.
To someone that studies kinesics (body language), that pose simply screams of deceipt.
At this point, you're probably wondering 'okay, so what? What's the big deal? Heroes in dramas have been villains before... why is this 'trend' you speak of so disturbing to you?"
Good question. Yes, some very famous fictional characters have been less than saints, in times past: Captain Ahab of 'Moby Dick' comes to immediate mind, as does Don Corleone of the 'Godfather' movies. Hell, even 'Batman' is a seriously dark, disturbed individual, isn't he?
However, as a writer, or even as an avid lover of good story-telling, there is one cardinal rule about protaganists (fictional 'heroes') that must always hold true, if the tale is to be meaningful, lasting, and have true entertainment value beyond the cheap laughs, shock of horror, or cleverness of logic.
They have to be endearing to us, somehow. We have to watch them and see just a TINY slice of ourselves in them. We have to identify with them, admire both their failings and triumphs, and want to BE like them, just a little, in our own mundane lives.
That's the ultimate purpose of fiction, after all: Not just to entertain, but to teach and inspire us, and to show us that even heroes sometimes go through the same pitfalls and mistakes that we do but ultimately overcome, in the end.
And if they can overcome, then perhaps we can, as well...
Watching these three programs now, I cannot help but wonder if the powers behind this 'trend', a trend that appears to be both well seeded and purposeful, aren't performing a little social engineering with all this, at our expense.
Is this trend a thinly disguised attempt to get US to be as selfish as these heroes? Is CBS carefully conditioning us to desire that same sort of complete, obsessive, selfishness in our own lives?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But even if they're not, in my opinion, it's a heavy-handed tactic, a supremely poor example of fictional story telling, and a very VERY poor example to be setting for the writers, directors, producers and actors of tomorrow who may be watching today.
Next thing you know, they'll be showing us a TV program about a blood-thirsty serial killer who solves crimes for the police by day but roams the street butchering innocent victims by night...
Oh, Wait! They already do! I know that show! That one is called 'Dext...'
Meh... enough of this. I'll save that for some future literary angst....
Ralph R Stadig, East Haven, CT