The Big Bounce is a theory in cosmology that one day the force of dark energy will weaken, the universe will collapse in on itself, and then a new universe will be born from another Big Bang. Then depending on what scientists you talk to, the history of the universe might repeat itself, over and over again, a recurring and inevitable cycle, always involving a Big Bang Theory, which is depressing, because that is a terrible show.
Much like the actual Big Bang, the show is full of so much promise and yet it is also a time where the normal laws of the universe tend to break down. For instance, what modern and successful sitcom still uses a laugh track? It worked for the Fonz and Raymond and even Jerry, but by most standards of modern humor and TV culture it’s outdated. Then again, that is fitting if you consider most of the show’s humor and its views on its supposed audience.
Hey Look… Nerds!
If you associate yourself as a modern nerd or geek, chances are you have been asked the question, “Do you watch The Big Bang Theory?” it is a question most usually followed by the statement, “You would love that show.” The truth is: no, you really would not. The Big Bang Theory is not a show about nerds for nerds. It is a minstrel show about nerds for older people who do not really understand why their son still reads comics, or why he spends so much time playing those video games. The distinction is small, but noticeable and a little insulting.
To begin, we need to start by examining where the show’s core humor comes from, and the answer to that is from the characters themselves. Sheldon is socially awkward, obnoxious, and a complete know it all. Raj has a crippling ability to speak with women. Howard lives at home with his mother in his childhood room, and Leonard who often plays the straight-man is terrible at relationships. Each represents a glaring and early 90’s style nerd stereotype. It would not be unreasonable to have Steve Urkel or Screech come walking through the door, as they seem to inhabit that same ham-fisted world.
A lot of the humor comes from making fun of the main characters for what they love. Penny, who is the somewhat vapid, underemployed, and the non-nerdy next door neighbor, is often associated as the audience’s “in.” When the boys try getting tickets to Comic Con, it’s Penny who asks for clarification for the audience, and then spends five minutes making fun of them for going to SDCC all while the laugh track rolls in the background. In another episode, when the girls of the show go to a comic store to try and find a comic they may like to read, the show treats all the other men in the store like scared rabbits running from a pack of bears, because women in a comic book store, that’s unheard of, and the laugh track rolls.
Dungeons and Dragged Out Jokes
The best example comes from when the boys play Dungeons and Dragons while their significant others are off to Vegas for the weekend. In, what is supposed to be a comical juxtaposition, the girls talk about their free-wheeling “normal” weekend in Sin City, the boys talk about playing D&D. The premise is to compare the joys of rolling a twenty-sided die with your friends to sitting by the pool in Vegas. The laugh track rolls significantly more while the boys talk D&D because we are meant to accept that what the girls are doing is fun and regular, while the boys activity is weird and crazy, because who would want to spend a perfectly good weekend playing an imaginative and exciting game with their best friends?
This is even highlighted more if you compare the way The Big Bang Theory handles the playing of Dungeons and Dragons compared to that of a show like Community. In the two Community episodes that have dealt with D&D, the game itself is not considered the source of humor, instead it is the weird and crazy antics that their characters get into while playing the game. Even the usually “too cool” Jeff Winger is sucked into playing and the audience accepts the premise of D&D as something close to ordinary. Those two episodes are even more amazing because the audience forgets that they are basically spending twenty-five minutes looking at the same people in the same couple of rooms. Instead, it is the story they tell that winds up taking over the action of the show.
Big Bang is not a show for nerds and geeks. It treats that demographic the same way they have been treated since Potsie became the butt of every joke on Happy Days. Is every nerd socially savvy, no, but neither are they all socially awkward. Not everyone who reads comics lives with their parents. Not everyone who is a fan of Star Wars has a problem talking with women.
The real truth is that the show represents outdated stereotypes that are actually insulting and detrimental to real nerds and geeks. Games like D&D and Settlers of Catan are not subjects for ridicule and laugh tracks. San Diego Comic Con is one of the largest events of the year, attended by major celebrities, studios, entertainment giants, and plenty of people who do not need to use asthma inhalers when they see boobs. Lastly, women can be just as big of geeks as men. They are not out of place in comic book shops or at conventions, nor are they something that would send most nerds into nervous fits. Nerd culture is not a singular gender-based culture, and of all the stereotypes that The Big Bang Theory perpetrates, that is perhaps one of the most dangerous.
The Big Bang Theory should be retitled to the The Big Bounce Theory because like the Big Bounce it is nothing we haven’t seen before. This show is an empty promise of the same kind of canned-laughter-stereotyping of the geek community, played out over and over again. It is simply a repackaged sitcom that revels in the alienation of geeks, while still trying to market to them in the worst type of nerdploitation out there. It is a show that hopes to capitalize on the rise of nerd culture while tirelessly sticking to the tried and true sitcom method of anyone who is different is funny and worthy of ridicule. Even the majority of the cast seems as if they have been recycled from former sitcoms, such as Roseanne.
We have seen it all before. Even discounting the inclusion of some real-life awesome nerds, like Whil Wheton, Simon Helberg, and real-life neuro-blossomist, Mayam Bialik, the show is irredeemable. Unfortunately, it seems that we will just have to wait till entropy sets in and the show can no longer sustain its own energy and ends in state of Heat Death, where everything simmers down to a baseline temperature and where nothing works anymore, including the laugh track.