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The Problem with The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) stirs mixed feelings in the geek community. Is it beacon of geek culture amongst all the mainstream sitcoms? Or is it a cheap exploitation of an unfair stereotype?


On one hand, the characters in TBBT may be ones that I can identify with but it seems geeks are still still portrayed as weird or pathetic outsiders. Alternatively, TBBT could be a perfect depiction of an imperfect world,  realistic interpretation of flawed humans. Geek or not these characters and the situations they get into could apply to anybody, humans are known to have different hobbies, obsessions, quirks, social anxieties etc. Maybe this show is just one that isn’t afraid to present “adulthood” just how it is, nobody knows what they’re doing and these awkward, dorky archetypes don’t only occur in geekdom. Even trendy people say stupid stuff. The Big Bang Theory has been called the new “Friends”, a long running sitcom that defines a generation, this just happens to be a different group of friends.

For the majority of the series Howard is dependent on his mother and later his wife (who also earns more than he does)… this isn’t because he’s a stereotype of his religion or of his geeky lifestyle… it’s because he’s human, you only need to watch reality TV to see this isn’t exclusively geek. You can apply this to other characters too; Raj’s inability to speak to women, Sheldon’s pedantic superiority. Watch other sitcoms and you’ll probably see the same character traits.

In fact the program might make more sense if you don’t get hung up on the “geek” label, the fact that it is a part of the show and that some jokes may be a little close to home for some viewers do mean that the show will always divide the community. However it is completely possible that the show’s creators don’t have the same lofty interpretation.

One reason I have such a hard time suggesting the show uses damaging stereotypes is that I’ve known these people… I’d have to think back a way (to school or college) but I knew a Sheldon, a Howard, and a Raj... that might have left me being a Leonard but in truth I share something with each of these characters. It’s hard to call them unrealistic or unfair when I grew up with them. The portrayal of Penny is probably the more damaging stereotype, at least in the majority of episodes.

Where I tend to have a problem is how the show handles the geeky hobbies, I haven’t seen one episode that shows cosplay in a positive light, it’s still apparently unbelievable that there are girls in a comic book shop and one episode compares D&D to a night in Vegas and attempts to suggest that D&D is the deviant option when as far as I know it is associated with significantly less organised crime, prostitution and drugs, but maybe I’m doing it wrong.

I generally enjoy the show despite a few other niggles about American comedy having to explain the joke and a tendency to reuse the same material. There are still cringeworthy moments, but for the most part I can look past them, I just don’t think this is something I’ll still be watching in ten years’ time.

 

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