Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Young Sheldon season 6, episode 7.
In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon can’t stand the thought of sharing credit, and Young Sheldon season 6 finally illustrated the source for this character trait. The events of Young Sheldon don’t always line up with its predecessor The Big Bang Theory. From Meemaw’s different character in The Big Bang Theory to George Sr’s far kinder portrayal in the spinoff, Young Sheldon regularly offers a distinctly different version of events from the earlier hit.
However, this doesn’t mean that Young Sheldon can’t uncover the root Sheldon’s foibles. In The Big Bang Theory season 2, episode 6 “The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem,” Sheldon shows his toxic side when he kicks out an endlessly devoted grad student because she asked for her share of a discovery’s credit. In Young Sheldon season 6, episode 7, ”A Tougher Nut and a Note on File,” Dr. Linkletter sews the seeds for this obsession when he gets rid of a pestering Sheldon by offering to help him only if he is willing to share credit. Sheldon refuses, starting a pattern that stays in place until he acknowledges his friends, family, and love interest’s contributions in The Big Bang Theory finale.
Why Sheldon Refuses To Share Credit
Like Leonard’s cheating on The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon’s obsession with taking credit for his discoveries is often cited as one of his biggest character flaws. Upon a re-watch, the insistence can seem overzealous and mean-spirited. However, “A Tougher Nut and a Note on File” does justify the character trait. To be fair to Sheldon, he doesn’t demand monetary remuneration for his findings, as proven by his willingness to hand the university his priceless grant database idea for free at the end of the episode. As such, it is no wonder that he obsesses over credit since it is all that Sheldon asks for from his discoveries and ideas.
Why Sheldon’s Credit Focus Is Toxic
However, just because there is a justification for Sheldon’s credit obsession doesn’t mean that the tendency is any less toxic. Sheldon is more like Mary than he thinks and his zeal about hoarding credit for shared projects does call to mind his mother’s superiority complex. This, in turn, can stand in the way of Sheldon working as part of a team, as well as threatening his relationship with Amy Farrah-Fowler by making his partner feel under-appreciated. Like many of Sheldon’s flaws, his need to be the sole-credited name on a given project plays into his egotism and hurts those around him as a result.
That said, Sheldon’s willingness to hand the university a phenomenally valuable invention for free does display a generosity of spirit, as does his frequent willingness to lend money to friends in The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon’s ability to be more altruistic comes out in force during The Big Bang Theory finale when he credits his friends with his professional successes. Like Sheldon’s obsession with his spot, the character’s zeal for taking sole credit has its roots in Young Sheldon. However, Sheldon successfully overcomes this character flaw when he fulfills his lifetime goal of earning a Nobel prize and dedicates his shared win not to himself, but to his friends, Amy Farrah Fowler, and his family.
Sheldon manages to swallow his pride and accept that collaboration, friendship, and teamwork made him the man he is in The Big Bang Theory finale, but his Young Sheldon self is nowhere near starting this journey. Sheldon’s unusual priorities mean he can come across as both arrogant and selfless at the same time, something that is explained when Young Sheldon season 6 hints at Sheldon’s future adventures by depicting his early, adamant inability to share credit even when it would make a project easier and more achievable. The roots of The Big Bang Theory antihero can be found in Young Sheldon’s lead character, from his massive ego to his surprising altruism.
Young Sheldon season 6 airs Thursdays on CBS.
Next: Young Sheldon Teases Season 6’s Saddest Twist