The Big Bang Theory is pure poison in a society that just got a wake-up call.
Just yesterday, I saw another post revealing its problematic themes. What truly shocked me were the comments – most of them in defence of their beloved series. “Don’t get your feelings hurt. It’s just a funny show!” they claim. But it’s not.
Like many others, I also enjoyed watching The Big Bang Theory in my teenage years. I was happy that there was a show that portrayed nerd culture and referenced it. I didn’t question the harmful themes the show relies on. To be honest, I didn’t even see them. Now that my eyes are opened, I can’t unsee them. I can barely stand to watch an entire episode. The characters’ behavior around women and each other is just too painful.
I can’t wrap my head around why this show ran for so many seasons and wasn’t cancelled earlier. Sheldon’s quirkiness is so funny after all, isn’t it?
The Big Bang Theory follows the stereotypical nerds and scientists. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is a straight-up mean person and know-it-all, supposedly with Asperger’s. Then there’s Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), whose is constantly annoyed by Sheldon and falls in love with his neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a dumb blonde waitress who lives across the hallway. They’re friends with Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), who sexualises any woman he meets and behaves creepily around them. Finally, there’s Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), who can’t talk to women unless he drinks alcohol. He’s also the most feminine of the men, leading to many inappropriate jokes about homosexuality. As the show continues, the characters slowly develop. Penny smartens up a bit, gets a ‘real’ job, and marries Leonard. Rajesh manages to talk to women without being drunk. Howard Wolowitz marries Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch), who basically replaces his mother. Sheldon marries Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), who manages to ‘correct’ his rude behavior.
While the characters do evolve to supposedly better versions of themselves, the cruel jokes of the show stay the same. Yes, Sheldon gets married, but he’s still sexist and mean to his wife. Yes, Howard is not that much of a creep anymore, but he’s still sexist and self-absorbed. Whenever something nice happens to a character, the others are there to ensure they won’t be happy for long.
Often enough, the jokes go too far. While the creators said that Sheldon doesn’t have autism, Jim Parsons stated that some of his characteristics appear on the Asperger spectrum. With this in mind, sentences like “Do you think he (Sheldon) would react like a normal human being?” take on a different meaning, implying that people with autism are neither normal nor human.
Also, The Big Bang Theory depicts nerd culture inaccurately and mockingly. We don’t laugh with them, we laugh at them. Additionally, almost all the nerds are men. Can’t women be nerdy, too? Why couldn’t at least one of the girlfriends be a nerd? Even if some of the partners are geeky, they’re not into nerd culture, which fuels the usual trope of ‘wifey destroys all the fun’. All girlfriends complain about their childish behaviour. But the nerd culture is such a big part of their boyfriends’ lives that it raises the question: If you hate it so much, why be with them at all?
This leads to the main problem I have with The Big Bang Theory. The relationships are as toxic as they could be, both the romantic and the platonic ones. These people wouldn’t be friends in real life because of how they act towards each other. The leading men all suffer from low self-esteem, which makes them envious of each other. They’re not real friends, and they certainly are not supportive of each other. Even when they reach their life goal, like winning a Nobel Prize or becoming an astronaut, they try to steal each other’s glory.
None of the relationships is healthy, but the relationship between Howard and Bernadette is the weirdest and most toxic one. She assumes the role of his mother, shouts at him for no valid reason, and doesn’t respect his interests and opinions at all. On the other hand, he behaves like a man-child and doesn’t take care of house responsibilities.
Why are these people in a relationship anyway? There is no logical explanation except for the show wanting to rely on ‘marriage is horrible’ jokes and ‘loser gets the girl’ themes – which unfortunately seems to work. In doing so, however, the show promotes a lifestyle that not only keeps you stuck in an unhealthy relationship but also normalizes creepy and rude behavior. There’s nothing wrong with portraying toxic relationships; however, I think critical thinking should be involved at one point.
I guess I’m trying to say: Don’t use The Big Bang Theory for relationship advice. When dating, look for red flags; when a person is out to harm you, leave. Don’t ever settle for less. You deserve all the love in the world.
If you’d like to watch a more astute analysis of the misogynistic tropes in The Big Bang Theory, you may want to watch this video:
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