What do you get when you cross nerd culture with a sitcom format and toss in a handful of talented actors for good measure? Apparently, a television staple, seeing as Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady took these elements and created "The Big Bang Theory," which went from a small screen experiment to an entertainment phenomenon in short order. It spent over a decade on the air, racking up numerous awards and expanding its immense fanbase in the process. Not to mention, some of its characters have even become integral pieces of the pop culture puzzle.
Arguably the most famous name to come out of "The Big Bang Theory" is Sheldon Cooper, portrayed by Jim Parsons throughout the program's entire run. His dry sense of humor, lack of social awareness, and "Bazinga!" catchphrase helped make Sheldon a TV icon — one who now has his own series. As "Big Bang" neared the end of its run, "Young Sheldon" premiered to carry on the torch and is already up to five seasons. As the title implies, the show follows Sheldon (Iain Armitage) throughout his formative years, exploring who he really is and where he came from.
In realizing this premise, "Young Sheldon" has provided context for many of Sheldon's quirks and redefined him as a person. One, in particular, has even gone from a funny side gag from "The Big Bang Theory" to something genuinely tragic.
Of the numerous running "Big Bang Theory" jokes that center on Sheldon, the one that defines him the most is his mysophobia or fear of germs. Season after season, his visceral hatred for sickness and bacteria got brought up, giving Jim Parsons a chance to deliver an over-the-top, chuckle-worthy performance every time. This holds true for episodes focused on hospitals as well since they're loaded with people coughing, sneezing, and the like. Although, thanks to "Young Sheldon," you may want to think twice about laughing next time one such "Big Bang" episode hits the airwaves.
For much of "Young Sheldon" up to this point, Sheldon's father, George Cooper Sr. (Lance Barber), has struggled with his health. As Screen Rant notes, his Season 1 heart attack and the chaos it generated in the Cooper household must have been traumatizing for a young Sheldon to go through. Worse yet, this upheaval of day-to-day life has occurred on multiple occasions as George nears the end of his life. That's a lot for a developing child to take, especially considering it's his own father who's constantly flirting with death, so it should come as no surprise that his anxieties have bled over into adulthood.
Say what you will about "The Big Bang Theory" and "Young Sheldon," but it's hard to deny that this retroactive explanation for one of Sheldon's biggest fears is not only clever but incredibly sad.