Big Bang, Here’s a New Theory
by AH78 on April 2, 2015 - 4:36pm
The Big Bang Theory is an American TV show screen written by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. The show depicts the daily lives of Sheldon Cooper, Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz, Raj Koothrappali, Bernadette Rostenkowski, Amy Farrah Fowler and Penny. Of these seven characters, six work in the domain of science. Sheldon and Leonard are both physicists; Howard is an aerospace engineer; Raj, an astrophysicist; Bernadette, a microbiologist, and Amy, a neuroscientist. Among these scientists, Howard is the only one without a PhD. Penny’s jobs as a waitress and part-time actress are the only ones that most viewers can identify with, seeing as the other characters often use confusing scientific jargon. The male characters are portrayed as geeks that love to read comic books and play video games, and as nerds that are remarkably intelligent. The representations of the male characters are not ethical because the show presents a biased view of nerds. Despite the male characters’ portrayal based on the stereotyping of nerds, they are able to create a strong friendship between them and are not excluded from society.
The male characters do not conform to the man box ideals of entertainment masculinity unlike those of other TV shows and movies, such as Gossip Girl. These ideals convey the conventions of what masculinity is and the expectations that society has of men. None of the characters are athletic, tough nor intimidating. Instead, they relate more to the nerd box, the box that contains the characteristics of the ideal nerd. They are principally depicted as highly intelligent people, and as having trouble in social contexts such as meeting new people, in particular, girls. Their behaviour does not follow conventional social norms. Sheldon is unable to react properly in certain social situations since he lacks the ability to be sympathetic seeing as he values practicality above all. From Sheldon’s perspective the choices in life follow a system of rules, and his daily routine is planned out in advance. Howard makes inappropriate comments towards women when he tries to seduce them and Raj is unable to talk to women unless he drinks alcohol. Both of Howard’s and Raj’s behaviours should not be represented in the media as it vehicles untruthful morals. At first glance, the show conveys that the lifestyle of a nerd impedes one's ability to conform to social norms, resulting in constant social awkwardness. The show enhances stereotypes to the extreme and therefore, viewers might think that nerds are not people that they want to befriend and they might unconsciously reject them.
As previously mentioned, the characteristic of the men in the show are mainly outside of the man box. Howard is described as a mama’s boy. His masculinity and independence are questioned as he lived with his mother until his marriage and she made his lunch, washed the dishes, washed his clothes and cleaned the house. These characteristics besides those of man ideals make the show ethical. Even though Howard is not a symbol of masculinity according to conventions, he still is able to find a girlfriend later on. However, Howard also sees himself as a player and makes obscene comments to women in an attempt to attract them. Although, he is not successful with girls, it is in this context that he conforms to the man box because of his feeling of superiority over women. The show accentuates the conventions that men are superior to women, as depicted by Howard’s derogatory pick-up lines, which reduces women to mere objects of sexual desire.
Unlike Howard, who is overly confident, Raj has selective mutism which causes him to be unable to talk to women outside of his family. Each time he is in the presence of a woman, he cannot talk, or if he does, he uses his friends as messengers. The only way for him to be able to talk to women is to consume alcohol or to believe that he is drinking alcohol, as the drink allows him to overcome his social anxieties. The problem is that his behaviour can encourage viewers to drink alcohol as a way of overcoming their concerns because it makes one feel more relaxed and therefore less shy. However, this depiction is not ethical. The show conveys that instead of trying to find ways to develop one’s confidence, the person can overcome his/her shyness through harmful means.
On the other hand, The Big Bang Theory also shows that although there is an extensive use of stereotypes to describe the characters, the characters are able to befriend each other through their common interests. Gradually they overcome their shortcomings through the exposure to their outgoing neighbour, Penny, and to occasional social outings. Although they are nerds, it does not limit them from developing strong relationships with girls. Leonard develops a love interest for Penny from the beginning of season 1. Penny is the stereotypical pretty, blond, but not so bright girl that men usually fall for. Their relationship shows that women do not only fall for the handsome man next door, which contrasts with the usual entertainment plotlines. Furthermore, Howard marries Bernadette and Sheldon starts a relationship with Amy. Additionally, the show promotes diversity and multiculturalism. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj form a diverse group of friends, with Howard being Jewish and Raj, Indian. The show represents a more realistic portrait of friendships and interactions by not only have Caucasian male characters.
Briefly, The Big Bang Theory incites the viewers to think that being a nerd has its benefits and downfalls through the use of humour and stereotypes. The representations of the male characters shows that nerds are socially awkward, that men are superior to women, and that alcohol is a solution to overcome shyness. However, it also breaks the stereotypes that nerds don’t have friends and that they are not fun to be around. Overall, the misrepresentation of male scientists makes the show unethical in that the portrayed stereotypes are overly used, which makes the characters unrealistic. However, the show is also ethical because it shows a positive view of the male characters’ personalities that people might not have thought of.
"The Big Bang Theory." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Bang_Theory >