Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Big Bang Theory is formulaic sitcom about a group of male nerds/geeks & their female friend Penny.

Before I begin my little rant, I want to point out that you can like anything you want to like. You are free to your opinion and I am free to mine. If you enjoy Big Bang Theory, more power to you, but this rant is to express how I feel this show is, ultimately, negatively impacting the way people look at and treat nerds & geeks.

I don't think my rant in entirely insightful or innovative, so I'm going to leave it for "Read More". 

The average episode of Big Bang Theory, to my knowledge, sets up your typical sitcom formula A plot and a B plot (sometimes a C plot or continuous thread); the A plot is usually about some conflict between the neurotic nerds, that is trivial to "normies" and the B plot is usually over some social lesson that one of the geeks needs to learn through a series of painfully awkward misunderstanding. Sometimes romance is thrown into the mix to give the show a sense of continuity and tension & sometimes they bring back a guest character, introduce a new one, or have a big decision like whether a character is moving, get married, etc. Being formulaic is not necessarily a TV sin, but the show is a pretty bad offender. The biggest sin of Big Bang Theory is that isn't funny.

But, in my opinion, lots of sitcoms aren't funny. The essence of comedy is timing, surprise, and commentary.  The show's timing is fine, sure, but the show's jokes are set-up, delivered, and brushed off (unless they run them into the ground) in a way that hardly challenges the viewer. You can see the jokes from a mile off and very rarely do they surprise you. So, the show's surprise element is a dud, but what about the commentary? Comedy usually says something about life, typically mocking authority or making observations, but the line between satire & soapbox is thin. As for the show's commentary, that's where the show is most controversial.

The show is a big banner-holder of the rather attractive notion that nerds are no longer pariah but are, in fact, popular. The idea that our society can transcend the school-yard bullying mentality, herald in a new age that celebrates people for their differences & talents, and everyone becomes a geek (a la Revenge of the Nerds conclusion that everyone who has ever been persecuted is a nerd and that nerds should be proud/stick together to stand against the persecution of all nerds, and therefore, all people). And yet, while the characters of the show are well-liked and have many fans, I don't feel they or the show represents nerds, geeks, and other social outcasts in a positive or especially accurate light.

It patronizes their interests as being funny, cute, etc. It paints these nerds as man-children who need the common sense and intuition of a female friend, who like the other female characters mostly exists as a romantic interest for the other characters, to help them get out of their shells. Sure, from time to time, there is an episode where Penny learns a lesson but, more often than not, the show centers around the laugh track lingering too long after a particularly bad pun, a nerdy sounding reference, or one of the nerd's saying something outrageously awkward.

Yet, not only does the show reinforce in the minds of the audience that nerds exist for ridicule, but it also inaccurately portrays nerds. And we nerds care a lot about accuracy. The show is about a group of brilliant scientists that somehow have all this time obsess over every aspect of science fiction and fantasy in popular culture. You don't see terribly successful people winning Klingon boggle tournaments or wiling hours at the comic book store in debate over Marvel's rights to the name "Captain Marvel". That is because brilliant people with research grants don't often have the time to invest into their hobbies like us mere mortals.

On a side note, Big Bang Theory, is brought to you by the "master" of the modern sitcom travesty, Chuck Lorre. He is also responsible for the dreadfully depressingly endlessly unfunny undead Two & A Half Men, the milquetoast bland Dharma & Greg, and, of all his shows the one that boils my blood most, Mike & Molly. Much like how Big Bang Theory is a way for normal people to laugh at the socially awkward and nerdy, Mike & Molly is a dreadful excuse for normal people to laugh at the overweight. His brand of offensively banal "inoffensive" lowest common denominator crap is why TV is all but dying.

If you want to see a show about geeks & nerds, ranging from our small victories to our social ineptitude, watch Community, Futurama, or, perhaps the best option to understanding geeks, Freaks & Geeks. The show is about two groups of teenagers at a typical American high school in the 80's: the titular freaks are a group of pot-smoking slackers/burn-outs that listen to rock & roll and rebel against the authoritative, restrictive, and judgement uptight suburban life that seems to suffocate the show's atmosphere. The other group, the geeks, are a group of underclassmen into Star Trek, Monty Python, and other nerdy pursuits (as seen in the amazing Dungeons & Dragons episode) that are often persecuted for their appearance (fat, unattractive, baby-faced, etc.) and social awkwardness. The geeks are dealing with puberty on-top of finding their lives becoming increasingly complicated by the strictures of social norms. These two groups are often at odds, because the geeks are usually submissive to the rules, but they find that they have more in common because they all understand how it feels to be different. The show doesn't need a bunch of stupid references, a laugh track, or any silly tricks. Instead, it relies on telling stories that happen to real people just like the characters on the show. It doesn't rely on stereotypes. It defies them.

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