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The Sheldon Theory That Changes Everything On The Big Bang Theory

Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper – played by Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, respectively – on "The Big Bang Theory" were roommates for most of the 12 years the hit series was on the air. The two first met when Leonard answered Sheldon's ad, needing someone to drive him to and from work (as fans know, Sheldon cannot drive, and it proved quite hilarious when he had to take Penny to the hospital). Having to drive Sheldon proved the least of Leonard's worries, however. He soon finds out that Sheldon is highly neurotic, stubborn, and difficult. In fact, Leonard was required to sign a roommate agreement before Sheldon would even consider him. Throughout the series, Sheldon cites the agreement and its often ridiculous clauses when he thinks Leonard is stepping out of line.

Because living with Sheldon is such a chore—Leonard has compared his friend to a first pet that could ruin your life—many have wondered why Leonard puts up with him.

According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, some have said that perhaps Leonard seeks validation from emotionally-withholding people, having grown up with a mother who is essentially a female version of Sheldon. Maybe that upbringing fuels a desire to take care of someone, so he could feel he is doing something right. One Reddit user, however, had a different idea: that was that Leonard is actually being paid by the university to look after their genius employee. 

Paid to keep Sheldon?

Cwade03 posed the theory to Reddit about three years ago. The idea came to them during an episode where Raj is Skyping with his family back home in India. It is mentioned that the CalTech employees have "limited earning potential," implying that they receive less-than-desirable incomes. If their earning potential really is limited, then how do Leonard and Sheldon pay for rent, comics, laptops, and other nerdy goods?

"My theory is that the university is paying Leonard extra to keep an eye on Sheldon, Howard and Raj," Cwade03 explains. The user came to this conclusion given the personalities and actions of the other three in the show. In addition to Howard's reckless behavior and Raj's fear of police and being sent back to India (which may be because he is wanted by the government), Sheldon seems to be unable to grasp simple concepts, and thus, cannot see that his choices and actions are wrong.

If this theory holds any truth, it begs the question: How are they still employed? Well, Cwade03 answers that, too. Sheldon, Raj, and Howard are geniuses, probably some of the best the university has seen. Perhaps the head of the school is desperate to hold onto them and knows the only way to do that is to keep them out of trouble. Enter Leonard, who is arguably the most practical of his foursome. "Leonard was hired to carry out research and watch over and protect these simple minded men," Cwade03 says.

Why would Leonard do this?

Another question we have to ask is why Leonard would agree to such a task. After all, it is clear in the context of the series that living with Sheldon is far from easy. When one considers the theory, however, it does make some sense.

If Leonard has "limited earning potential," as stated in the episode, then he has to be prudent when it comes to his money. And that leaves little room for the nerdy lifestyle we often see the characters indulging in. It would be near impossible to afford such a nice apartment in Pasadena, go to Stuart's comic store nearly every other day, attend conventions, and buy any other pop culture merchandise. When this strange assignment came up, Leonard was probably hesitant, but when he realized he didn't have to worry about choosing between keeping a roof over his head or being a geek, it was a simple decision.

Of course, it must be extremely stressful having to deal with his friends and their shenanigans, but as Leonard slips under the covers with an issue of a rare comic he probably couldn't otherwise afford, it is surely worth it. However, this plausible explanation is not without its detractors. As some people argued on Reddit, Raj comes from a well-to-do family, possibly skewing the meaning of "limited earning potential." Meanwhile, Sheldon appears to save a substantial amount of money, possibly suggesting the pay is just fine.