By The Nerdling
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced the popular sitcom, The Big Bang Theory was going to make its 12th season the final one. This news was met with celebration by many and thoughts this cancellation was about 5 years too late. The stale humor along with the rampant racism, sexism, and homophobia has been well out of touch with the culture change taking place.
I’m going to be honest, I actually watched this show for a lot longer than I am proud of admitting. It is a favorite of my parents and they assumed I would love it, me being a big geek and all. I found the series to be okay. I appreciated references to movies and comics I enjoy. Out of habit, I kept with the sitcom until a few seasons back when I no longer could tolerate the lazy writing, bad jokes, and the toxic behavior displayed by Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj as well as the complicity of said behavior by Penny, Bernadette, and Amy.
It amazed me how long I willing sat through the series just because I wanted to be accepted. My parents and siblings watched, my then co-workers always made references to BBT, and so did many of my then friends. I didn’t want to be excluded. When I started to see the toxicity of the series, I couldn’t openly criticize out of fear of being called way too sensitive or easily offended.
It took some time and confidence to finally say to hell with watching the “popular” TV shows such as BBT and embrace my love of obscure series everyone doesn’t get. Shows like Legion, Preacher, and Channel Zero. I have made peace with the fact that I can’t talk to anyone about most of my favorite series other than you wonderful readers.
But back to BBT…
Pop Culture Detective did two great long form video essays on the toxic masculinity and the rampant misogyny the series normalizes. In both essays he points out these four men continuously perpetuate the sexist behavior, racists tropes, and homophobic bullying under the guise of lovable geek.
Check both out here (they are 20 minutes long each, but very much worth a watch):
In both essays, host Jonathan McIntosh, reveals the series never challenges the toxic natures of these behaviors, but “lampshades” them by acknowledging how bad they are for a laugh.
While the toxic nerd/nice-guy is no new thing, I have always felt BBT and other movies named in the essays have empowered these men into thinking this type of behavior is normal and accepted. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj see themselves as the perpetual nice guys who never get the girl (until they eventually wear them down or force themselves on the women) because women don’t want the nice guy. These men consider themselves victims of a society that doesn’t appreciate them. Their entitled behavior towards women is to be excused, even rewarded, since they are so socially awkward it is a minor miracle they are able to even look a woman in the eye.
Toxic behaviors towards women is not the only sin of BBT. Raj, the one character who is of color, is treated like the token foreign weirdo. He is comfortable with his love of movies, TV shows, and books that are considered “girly” (Twilight, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Sex and the City for example). He wants to drink light beer, have themed parties, and owns a small dog. According to his “friends” he must be a closeted gay man and many homophobic jokes are made at his expense. But it is all okay because it is pointed out by the same characters ribbing on him the joke is homophobic and/or racist. This makes it all okay.
The ending of The Big Bang Theory should be celebrated, but I worry another series similar in nature will take its place. It’s not like the show is getting cancelled because people stopped watching. Jim Parsons is done with the character of Sheldon Cooper and since he is the center of the series…
The TV industry is still dominated by white men threatened by the positive changes others are attempting to make in terms of inclusion, I have no doubt more shows showcasing toxic masculinity and toxic nerdom will be on gracing the small screens of network TV. The best we can do is not watch and hope others will not either.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.