Back in episode 295 we had our own ürbernerd, Ben McKenzie, talk about The Big Bang Theory and its poor portrayal of nerds on TV. Listener David Lay sent in his thoughts and we present them here in a slightly edited form.
I recall having a first look at The Big Bang Theory when Channel 9 first started airing it (whenever that was), and not liking it enough to regard it as ‘appointment television’. My initial impression was that the show was very much laughing *at* nerds rather than *with* them. But some time later, when the hair was on fire at Channel 9 and they were all about repeats of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory around the clock, I began watching it more regularly.
I studied maths, physics, and computer science at University during the 1990s, so I felt like this was a show pitched squarely, if not, alarmingly narrowly, at me.
When Channel 9 went nuts with TBBT repeats I came to enjoy it. In the later seasons, the balance seemed to have tipped more towards “laughing with” than “laughing at”. I enjoyed it in much the same way I enjoy The Simpsons and Futurama.
And then I listened to Boxcutters episode #295 and heared it spoken of in some confronting terms like “misogyny” and I was startled. There was an initial shock of one’s personal sense of taste has been maligned, and an impulse to fly off the handle into half-cocked, HeraldSun-esque moral outrage. I’ve listened to that segment again several times over the course of the last two or three months, and it has made me re-evaluate my thoughts.
In probably more of a “the scales fell from my eyes” moment. I realise that I’ve been letting some things on TBBT slide.
Like in that episode where Howard and Koothrappali put on fake tattoo sleeves and eyeliner and go to a club to hit on goth girls. It’s easy to picture a macho-jock type date-rapist and say “now *that’s* misogyny”, but Howard and Raj preparing for a night of trying to lie their way into a one night stand isn’t materially different now that I think about it.
I managed to overlook things like this in TBBT because you know they’re so socially inept that they’re doomed to failure. I guess there’s something in the power dynamics: one tends to picture misogyny as being perpetrated by confident and powerful macho types. When perpetrated by sexually inexperienced socially awkward nerds with low self-esteem, it seems less obvious.
Although it’s taken a while for me to get to this point, I agree with what Ben McKenzie has said, and I can see TBBT from more of a distance now.
Something that still surprises me, though, is that I was so readily able to identify the misogynistic humour in other Chuck Lorre productions: specifically
the Ukrainian cook in 2 Broke Girls and pretty much every facet of Two and a Half Men.
Somehow the misogyny in The Big Bang Theory ;escaped my immediate attention.
There are degrees of TV show love. ;The Big Bang Theory was “record on DVR and erase after watching”, but now it’s bumped down to “watch it if it’s on”. Community, for contrast, is “record on DVR and keep it until I get it on DVD” love.
You can send your letters to Boxcutters so we can know what you think.