In Defense of The Big Bang Theory (the show)

One of the few sitcoms I actually like is Big Bang Theory. Interestingly enough, this has come under attack a few times. One of the criticisms I’ve heard is that it’s too stereotypical, which is definitely a fair point. The other criticism I’ve heard is that it’s for people who just think they’re nerdy but aren’t really, to which I usually respond with a flat and sarcastic “thanks, guys.”

Before addressing the criticisms further, I want to mention what I like about the show. Every episode feels different. It uses different material to make different jokes. The sitcoms I’ve seen in the past–the ones didn’t immediately bore me or put me off–were good for a few episodes. And then they started to feel like the same thing, again and again. Big Bang Theory doesn’t really have that problem. It doesn’t just stick to the quintessentially nerdy stuff, either, though that’s a big staple for the series. It also goes into culture, relationships, anything. That helps keep it from getting repetitive.

The subject matter also is a bit more relatable for someone like me than the material in most sitcoms. I can’t express how happy it makes me when they make a Joss Whedon reference–it doesn’t happen often, due to the big reference pool, but that makes it better when it does. And they’ll touch upon lots of tiny things, like how certain scientists (not all by any means, but certainly some) might look down on anything from social science to biology to experimental physics.

And of course, I actually think it’s funny.

Is it perfect? No, not at all. It is stereotypical, especially in the first few seasons. They don’t show a great range of people who might be involved in science or geek culture, instead choosing to focus on the types everyone expects to see. The characters are stereotypically smart, too, instead of realistically so. They know way too much about everything. So I see exactly where the first criticism is coming from, though it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the show.

As for the second criticism. Okay, no offense to anyone who holds that kind of opinion, because everyone’s like this about something, deliberately or accidentally. People exclude. I’ve done it, although I try very hard to realize I’m doing it and stop. But it’s hard, I get it. Still, I think this argument is a little elitist. Sorry. People like what they like.

Anyway, I like Big Bang Theory, stereotypical or not.

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2 Responses to In Defense of The Big Bang Theory (the show)

  1. wildbow says:

    As far as I’ve watched the show (which isn’t much – only segments here or there after they pop up in discussion and I feel compelled to see what people are talking about), I’d say my two biggest complaints are:

    a) The laugh track. This is pretty much a dealbreaker for me.

    b) In response to your bit about the show being relatable, I feel it’s not necessarily respectful or informed of nerd/geek culture. Some of the discussion in the ‘Make Love, not Warcraft’ episode makes me think (one of?) the writers never played the game. I’ve never really played it, but I know you can’t have sex in the game, for example, and that’s a key piece of the episode (and the rest of the season?). As I read elsewhere, to paraphrase, it’s not really a WoW (Word of Warcraft) reference, it’s just a reference to cybersex with a mention of World of Warcraft that people will recognize. It’s a popular enough game that anyone between the ages of twelve and thirty knows a couple of people who play it, and so they leverage that for a joke that has nothing to do with the game.

    Worse, people may then think “Oh, so my coworker Bob who plays WoW is actually playing a game with sex in it. He’s creepy.” All to get some cheap laughs at Sheldon playing a girl and the fact that the characters are maladjusted nerdy/geeky people.

    That isn’t to say I look down on people who watch the show. That said, I can’t help but feel it’s playing both ‘sides’ against the other, with geeks and nerds watching for the references (because we all get a bit of a thrill when there’s a mention of that niche/cult interest in popular culture) and the ‘normal people’ who watch to laugh at the maladjusted nerds.

    I think it’d be far more interesting (and deep) to watch a show that explores how thin the line really is between the ‘nerds’ and the regular people, rather than dwelling on the two as distinct groups. We’re all weird, deep down inside, we all have side interests we can’t necessarily chat with our friends and family about. ‘Freaks and Geeks’ touches on that and manages to be funny, deep, respectful of the characters and it does it all without a laugh track..

    • Marie Erving says:

      I do kinda see what you’re saying–I fully admit that the show is stereotypical, and I don’t always agree with everything they put in there, either. And I suppose as someone with the right frame of reference to know how much most of the stuff is exaggerated, I might take for granted the way it would come off to someone who’ll assume that it’s exactly how all people behave.

      But most television has shades of this. If not with subcultures, then with geographical locations. I’ve come across things on the internet where people from other countries assume all of America is like what they see in the shows they watch. I’ve come across these kind of criticisms for all kinds of shows, from something as obvious as Hart of Dixie to something as unexpected as Firefly.

      And it’s fair to feel that way. Everyone has something that bothers them when it’s represented inaccurately. We all just figure out what it is that does and doesn’t bother us, then go from there. I’ve met a bunch of Leonards. I’ve even met a few Sheldons. So it doesn’t bother me. It’s only representative (exaggeratedly) of a very small subset of people who might be part of geek culture, and I know that.

      But yeah, the laugh track is kind of silly. I’ve just learned to tune it out.

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