The Real Reason TBBT's Sheldon Was Mean To Howard Was Deeply Psychological
Let's go down this rabbit hole.
- While Sheldon's eccentric behavior has become the centerpiece of TBBT, there was one particular part that didn't sit well with the majority of fans.
- All viewers, new and old, notice how mean Sheldon is to Howard.
- In fact, such an attitude was explained by the sitcom and its spin-off, Young Sheldon. There seem to be at least four reasons for it.
While all members of the Pasadena gang were treated equally by the creators of The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), Jim Parsons' Sheldon was undoubtedly the face of the show. He was the main provider of the nerd humor the sitcom relied on, and his communication style was always the source of audience laughter.
But in some cases, Sheldon went overboard with being a self-centered genius. The particular dynamic that still doesn't sit right with many fans is the way he treated Simon Helberg's Howard.
Although Parsons and Helberg became best buddies in real life, their characters remained in a strained relationship from the beginning to the end of TBBT. When it came to Howard, Sheldon always seemed to see red. He was mean and condescending, which confused fans.
The show and its spin-off Young Sheldon, however, gave a good explanation for this unpleasant behavior of the protagonist. If you look at the big picture, as well as a few individual episodes, you'll see that the reason for the bullying lies deep in Sheldon's psychology.
Howard was mean first
The most obvious motivation behind Sheldon's attitude toward Howard is revenge. In S7E17, Friendship Turbulence, Bernadette asks Sheldon why he is so mean. And he gives her a straight answer: Howard tormented him with pranks in the early stages of their friendship.
He called him offensive names, messed up his work, and subscribed to inappropriate magazines. But a few pranks is no reason to be so spiteful, you might think. Well, we are just getting started.
Sheldon hates engineers
The most popular jab Sheldon used against Howard was that he was an engineer without a Ph.D. Somehow, engineering was always a lesser field for him.
Young Sheldon S5E7, An Introduction to Engineering and a Glob of Hair Gel, in which Howard had a voice cameo, explored this irrational hatred. In the episode, we see that although Sheldon was a boy genius, he had his struggles in school.
His first engineering assignment was particularly difficult because his professor refused to help him. And when Sheldon finally managed to finish it, the professor called him 'tardy.'
Imagine what an insult this was to the boy who had always been praised for his intellect. No wonder Sheldon hates the very idea of engineering.
Howard succeeded where Sheldon couldn't
As a direct result of the previous point, Sheldon has another deep-seated reason to hate Howard's guts. He succeeded in the one area where Sheldon failed.
It is clear from the TBBT run that whenever any character needs some engineering or mechanical work done, they ask Howard for help. He can do anything from installing a security system to building a robot. And it is a constant reminder to Sheldon that he could never be that handy.
Howard is the toughest nut for Sheldon to crack
Engineering aside, there is another, probably the deepest, reason why Sheldon is unfriendly to Howard. He's subconsciously afraid of him as the one person in the gang he can't control.
Everyone in the friend group seems to put up with even the most ridiculous of Sheldon's demands. Everyone except Howard. He is usually the first to question Sheldon's authority and resist his demands, which makes him the biggest threat from the protagonist's point of view.
So it seems that if Sheldon had his way, Howard would be the first to be kicked out of the Pasadena gang.