Posts tagged stereotypes
Yeah, I’m a little late to the Big Bang party, I know. Once a show gets that much hype, especially within a particular social circle, I tend to write it off quickly. ~I couldn’t possibly like something that so many other people like!~ After seeing Jim Parsons appear on a few talk shows and finding him intriguing and charming, I finally decided to give the show a shot.
I gave it 4 episodes then declared it a waste of my time and informed my husband that we would no longer be watching the show. Specifically I said “I’m done, let’s stop watching now’. As we are prone to do, we immediately launched into a critique of the show, bouncing pros and cons off each other as if an audience of anxious viewers were waiting to hear our opinions. Recently, it’s been fun to acknowledge how we digest some of our favorite shows differently, often due to our gender biased viewpoints. Shows like Mad Men, Modern Family, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire are a few that we sometimes have differing interpretations of, all of which rely heavily on relationships and events that put a spotlight on the gender specific ideals of that time period, family or social environment.
When it came to digesting The Big Bang Theory, there was no difference in our opinions. The show is based heavily on some old and tired ‘geek culture’ stereotypes and lacks enough of funny scientist Sheldon to mask how offensive it is. Even leaning on the use of a chunk of the cast of the highly popular Roseanne isn’t enough to carry the comedic weight of a distasteful main artery clogged with bumbling, socially inept, sexually terrified geeks. Yes, the deep cut science, video game and pop culture references are fun and well represented, I admit. The relationships and depth of the characters, however, are not.
How sad is it that after so many years of well written, successful, charming and attractive geeky tv characters we find ourselves back to this? The group of friends who congregate in Sheldon and Leonard’s meticulously organized apartment while away their days playing an MMOG, debating scientific theory and the practical uses of it and proudly announcing their career achievements, yet this same group seem to lose half their brain power when faced with the air-headed, blonde waitress who lives across the hall.
Penny doesn’t seem to understand much of what her neighbors say to her, in 4 episodes I never heard the girl mention any career motivation beyond working at Cheesecake Factory and she often asks for favors from the guys but never volunteers to help out in return. Leonard grovels at her feet, doing everything he can to impress her while she casually ignores his crush and unabashedly explains how spending the weekend with some equally attractive and dim witted guy wasn’t that much fun. Meanwhile, we are introduced to smart, frumpy little Leslie who tries in her nerdy way to flirt with Leonard, but just isn’t attractive enough to catch his eye.
It’s an old stereotype of ‘smart girl must dress badly, not be too attractive and struggle to catch the eye of the man she wants, regardless of how much of a dick he is to her’ and ‘super pretty girl must be ditzy, shallow and not notice the nerdy guy who does everything in his power to impress her’. To be completely honest, I’m not so much angry at this cheap shot, but disappointed. I really wanted to like Big Bang Theory but for a show stuffed full of smart characters, with an opening intro that cutely sings the big bang theory, I expected so much more of a smartly written core. I can’t stomach a show based on an insultingly outdated stereotype that I’ve so often found myself having to argue against. Exhibit A: my friend Elliott’s celebration of some accomplished, smart ladies (Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011), which was hotly debated over when a female reader declared that she ‘can’t take any of these woman seriously’. The reader went on to explain that her feelings were based on the ladies being too overtly sexy or attractive in their profiles.
I’m also a hairstylist and I’ve encountered numerous intelligent, accomplished women through the years with the feeling that if they try too hard to be sexy or pretty, folks won’t take them seriously. They will lose the credibility they’ve earned simply by wanting to be attractive. This belief is gross, ugly and completely a by product of stereotypes like the one represented in Big Bang. The sooner we stop supporting this idiotic idea that smarts and good looks somehow work against other, the sooner the geeks of the world can stop feeling guilty or ashamed of being sexy. Wouldn’t it be great to win the love interest you yearn for based on both of those blessings? If you read through the Geek Girls article, you’ll see that pretty geek girls really do exist, so why the hell shouldn’t they in tv and film?
Thanks for listening and feel free to offer your own opinions.
*The opinions expressed here are not representative of Nerds in Babeland, but only of the writer herself*