The Big Bang Theory is currently the top ranked comedy show on television. This makes sense, as the show brings many faucets of nerd culture to mainstream, has some witty dialogue, and is the show that CBS can sell as television that makes you smarter. As a physicist’s daughter and friend of the scientifically inclined, I have met many individuals that I can compare to the show’s beloved but awkward characters. Even Dad is overjoyed that more people now understand his Schrodinger’s Cat t-shirt.
However, I have concerns. The stereotyping of women, men, geeks and foreigners alike is blatant. Every viewer knows this. They are laughing at stereotypes and pop culture references. It is created to be lighthearted fun, and the formula obviously works. Most people are not offended by this show. The following three points are worthwhile. Pay attention to what you are laughing at.
1) The audience is laughing at them, not with them. Acknowledge this. Even when the characters laugh, it is at another’s expense. The geeks seem to partake in every possible aspect of nerd-dom. This many interests, an active dating life, and a highly demanding professional career would be exhausting, expensive, and unrealistic. Oh well, thanks for throwing us a bone and creating the most comprehensively nerdy characters possible. These are men with selective muteism, severe parental attachment issues, and Asperger’s. I’m requesting that TBBT give us a healthy geek.
2) Sheldon is the poster child for Asperger’s Syndrome. His obsessions with cleanliness, routines and perfection, as well as lack of understanding social situations, sarcasm, and sexuality, are always the punch line. These personality traits are understandably inconvenient for his friends and girlfriend. He is constantly mocked for his needs. He isn’t crazy; his mother had him tested. No, he isn’t crazy; he has an Autism Spectrum Disorder! Stop making fun of the different.
3) The women. We are happy when the poor nerds find love. These women fulfill all sorts of stereotypes that I could lament. In the end, I wonder, why can’t Amy and Bernadette wear pants? Why can’t Amy be considered attractive outside of a princess costume?
I don’t mean to say that those who enjoy the show are wrong. It just befuddles me that there is no TBBT character without a “but”. People identify others they have known with the characters, but not themselves. They don’t say “I’m such a [insert TBBT character here]” for a reason. These characters are damaged people, full of stereotypes and flaws, ready for the mocking.