I've often had a love-hate relationship with the show The Big Bang Theory. At first I thought it was great, because it touched on issues that aren't normally brought up in a sit-com (like whether teleportation à la Star Trek could work). I will admit that it's funny, but it also has huge flaws that sometimes prevent me from being able to enjoy it.
1. Bad Behavior is OK, If Leonard Does It.
Oh, Leonard. I wanted to be able to like you, I really did. I mean, you are the obvious hero of the show, right? Destined to get into Penny's panties instead of anyone else, because you're the main character. Always right in an argument, even when you shouldn't be, because you're the main character.
Hey, I get it. I've tolerated lots of douche-ish behavior from main characters before. Harry Potter's father, James, was a bully. In My Little Pony, Twilight Sparkle sometimes seems paranoid, alarmist, and obsessive, and would be so if the plot didn't usually prove to the audience that her hunches were right (like when she accused Cadence of being evil, for example). But when Leonard can get away with things like lying to a long-time friend about Penny just to sabotage the friend's chances with her, or, idk, jeopardizing another long-time friend's entire research career just because you found him a little annoying as a traveling companion? That's a little harder to swallow. I also hate how Leonard is the designated love interest for Penny, when she has greater chemistry with Sheldon, and seems to understand him better than, and have more patience in dealing with him, than anyone else does.
Furthermore, Leonard's personality is not that good. He's whiny, and always focused on himself, even when his friends are having real problems and his are relatively minor. He also whines way, way too much about not getting laid. He also admits in one episode that his entire relationship with Penny was at one time all founded on lie after lie after lie; he admitted to pretending to like things she liked to do, and generally enjoy her company, solely as a deception to get in her cooch. I feel that a relationship should be based on honest communication and a real understanding of each other as well as a real mutuality of beliefs, values, and interests. Even if you don't like the same things as your significant other, you still owe them to be honest about it. For example, I never give my boyfriend the impression that I like baseball, and he never pretended to like anime. Why should the audience of the show be sold on one hand the idea that the Penny/Leonard ship is seaworthy, even romantic or cute, and on the other hand be told that the times they were together almost everything Leonard said to her was a lie so he could have sex with her? I mean, if all that matters to Leonard is sex, why doesn't he just rent it.
That also brings me to my next point about the show.
2. The Entire Show Is Way Too Smutty to be Geeky
It's probably because of the pun of the show, but why does every plot of the show have to revolve around sex? The show is just as smutty as say, 2 And a Half Men, but dressed up with occasional references to Star Trek, comic books, gaming, and physics.
I don't have a problem with the idea of sex, or even sex being shown or extensively discussed in entertainment, but when the sexual content of the show becomes the focus of a show that pretends to be more clever than that, I kind of get mad. I think it's because Big Bang Theory is a rather pretentious show that tries to stand out as different than the traditional sitcom by showing a different sort of people than would ordinarily be featured in one. (This has been done better, by the way, in the brilliant geeky office comedy from England, I.T. Crowd) However, Big Bang Theory fails because they fail to accurately understand the people they're trying to portray.
Every character is defined by their relationship with sex and little else. Howard is the failed, miserable, playboy, defined as not getting any (until he hooks up with Bernadette). Raj is the failed, miserable shy man who can't talk to women without alcohol or drugs. Leonard is a miserable failure because he chases after an unattainably hot girl who, as I've said before, has absolutely no mutual interests with him on which to base a good relationship. Only Sheldon and Amy are interesting then, because they are asexual and as such get to be fully-formed human beings defined by more than their reason for their lack (but they still are). In this world, the writers oversimplified what it means to be a geek; they boiled it down to meaning "unlucky with women" and also to mean someone who bitches about this problem nonstop.
Many geeky men do have trouble getting dates. And some of them like to joke about how unlikely it seems for them to get any. However, most of the truly smart people I know out there not only 1) develop the confidence to ask women out eventually, even if they didn't have it on a level with their peers in high school 2) are more respectful to women in general, which many women like, and 3) (And this is an important point) HAVE THINGS THEY CARE ABOUT OTHER THAN SEX!
I mean, do you think Einstein would have been Einstein if he had spent all his time pacing around wondering if a certain girl liked him? What do you think the people who made ground-breaking scientific discoveries cared more about 1) Their research, or 2) how many times they could get women to talk to them? They do this in other things, like A Beautiful Mind, where Nash helps some buddies in a bar get laid using math. However, it's obvious at least there that the math was the primary fixation of Nash's mind, and that getting his friends some lady companions for the night was just a one-time bonus. But in Big Bang, every character seems exhaustively obsessed with their sex life, and little else. Howard rarely talks about engineering, Bernadette about biology, etc. And, for me, the academic stuff is actually what I'd find more interesting, shockingly enough, there are people like that out there. Think about it, we're a primate, there are 7 billion + of us on this planet, sex has been around for as long as we have. It isn't new, or interesting, by itself. What is interesting is anthropology, physics, technology, science fiction, biology, etc. Geeks primarily live their lives in the world of information, but the show assumes we all think like extroverts, focusing primarily on interactions with and competition between others. We don't, for the most part, think that way, and I wish the show would recognize that we actually are people who like the geeky stuff we're doing and aren't sitting in an armchair somewhere brooding over how miserably lonely and dateless we are. I imagine that an extrovert who had to endure our frequency of human contact or sex might go insane, but we aren't extroverts and for us, what is valued is quality human contact, not quantity. We also prefer to focus on ideas and information than on other people and our relationships to them.
For this issue, I would recommend that the writers of the show turn their attention to books written about the experience of being an introvert. My favorite would be Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe.
3. Penny Is An Annoying Character
Oh yeah, if there's one thing us geek girls love, it's annoying, slutty non-geek girls trying to fake it so they can end up with a guy who isn't a dishwasher. Especially if they're mean, catty, stuck-up, egocentric, prance around in hardly any clothing, and have grating, high-pitched pep-squad voices. (I also personally have a vendetta against anyone who calls people "sweetie" who aren't their significant other. I find it creepy at best, condescending at worst.)
In one episode, Penny nonchalantly admits that she was a bully who did terrible things to another girl in high school. Bullying is not acceptable, and ties into what I said about this show being infuriating in it's case of "designated hero" syndrome. Penny is there to be a love interest for Leonard, and to show T and A to the audience as often as possible, and to be the surrogate for the non-geek audience members who "don't get it". But they don't try very hard to make her a likable character, or a good female role model. In fact, if I had to describe her in one word, it would be "bratty". In two, "bratty and obnoxious". In three, "bratty, obnoxious, slutbag".
She's not just a terrible excuse for a human being, but not even good for what the writers intended her to be, which is Leonard's designated love interest. She doesn't show any signs of sharing any of Leonard's interests, and he doesn't share any of hers. When they hook up one time it was because she was drunk. They don't really seem to have any chemistry or any reason to be together other than that the plot of the show demands it. It's very forced-feeling, which can be downright painful to watch.
Also, when I first started watching the show I thought that in terms of feminist/gender egalitarian principles, it was in the stone age. The only female character, and she's an almost-naked bimbo. Why can't these guys find girls of equal or greater intelligence, I wondered. Does Hollywood still think men are "threatened" by smart women? I'm glad that they fixed this problem with the show by introducing other good female characters such as Priya, Amy, Bernadette, Leonard's mother Beverly, and Leslie Winkle. All of these characters contribute to mending what was originally a lack of good female characters in the show. However, despite all of the characters I've mentioned being more of interest to me than Penny is, Penny still gets the most screen time, greatest number of lines, and is the focus of the show's main romantic tension. This kind of grates on my nerves after a while.
4. The Unrealistic Treatment of Mental Illness (especially with Sheldon)
Quick, what DSM-listed disorder does Sheldon Cooper have? The answer: Which ones could we rule out? He seems to have a little of everything, from OCD to ADHD to autism/Asperger's Syndrome. Just for fun, they threw in some occasional spurts of delusion, paranoia, and anxiety. And yet, unlike a real special-needs person, Sheldon's issues aren't given much consideration by others and he's bullied for being mentally ill, rather than getting any sort of medical or therapeutic help. For a show set in modern times, with characters who believe in the scientific approach to most problems, it seems ridiculous that Sheldon doesn't have a therapist, and equally ridiculous that Leonard doesn't have one for his self-esteem and horrifying mommy issues, Raj for his social anxiety, or Howard for his problems with his mother and women.
In one episode, Raj takes an experimental social anxiety pill to talk to women, but can't deal with the side-effects. Do the writers realize that there are perfectly safe anti-anxiety meds available out there? It seems baffling that he never researched treatment options for this problem, as they do exist and would have been available to him. It seems like a little much for a plot to demand that I imagine a true geek whose initial response to some kind of social problem isn't to either ignore it, as I've said we have other interests, or to try to fix it in the most proven, scientific way available to us.
But the show doesn't exist without each character possessing certain quirks, as it were. And then the main problem of the show becomes that these quirks are, for one, exaggerated beyond realism, and also fixable psychological issues that aren't treated like medical conditions like they would be by the characters if they were real. (And, they would probably also know better than to use incorrect terms like "pathological shyness" for social anxiety!)
I just feel that if a show does not have a premise that's believable, it's not a good show. I have seen the "There Are No Therapists" trope in other works pulled off successfully, but I don't think it can be pulled off in this show.
For example, I think the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion was able to make it seem plausible that the mentally scarred teenagers didn't get psychological help for their myriad issues. First of all, their psychological states were deftly being manipulated by scientists for the purpose of making them pilot and fight well. Second, I find that teenagers are often reluctant to open up to adults about their psychological weaknesses, because they like to give an outward impression of being strong, and they can also be mistrustful of parents and other authority figures. Considering that many parents and authority figures in Evangelion were abusive, lying, untrustworthy, or uncaring, it's obvious why none of them thought to seek out the kind of help an ordinary person might if feeling depressed or unmotivated.
5. The Show Still Makes Geek Culture Seem Abnormal
To me, this is most apparent in the bits that feature Amy Farrah Fowler. Unlike Penny or Bernadette, bubbly blondes (again with Hollywood and hair-color-based stereotypes, yay), she is what I would call authentically geeky. However, the show presents the audience with a wildly exaggerated version of the female geek. She is an alien, inscrutable, incomprehensible. Almost every word she gets out gets drowned out with the cued laughter. She is something to be feared and ridiculed at first, and eventually warmed up to where she can be "fixed" with a make-over or by spending time with other women socializing and learning to better fit the mold of cultural gender conventions. Of course I find this treatment of female geekery unacceptable and demeaning. Why can't Amy be accepted for who she is, and why is it that they had to make her so cuckoo in the first place?
That isn't the only problem. Every joke in the show is aimed at people like me, and every joke in the show can be re-imagined as being directed at us hatefully by a bully on the playground or a snooty preppy kid in high school. This show seems to paint itself as a show about geek acceptance, but it makes fun of everything that makes us special without taking much time to defend our right to be who we are and enjoy what we enjoy. I feel like this show is always telling me how weird and different I am, how wrong and unusual I am, and how normal people are Penny and if I can't be Penny (or date her) I'm a loser. I'm nobody. And when people have been telling me those things since kindergarten, I don't feel the need to participate voluntarily in what is, for me, a public shaming and bullying re-enactment.
Further Reading on this Subject:
- Shouting Into The Void | The Problem With The Big Bang Theory...
The Problem With The Big Bang Theory... I’ve been meaning to post something about The Big Bang Theory for a while now but it’s taken me ‘till now to really understand what it is about the show that...
- My personal crusade against anti-nerd humor - Destructoid
I recently had the chance to shoot the sitcom spec pilot posted above with some friends of mine, a project which dredged up a lot of though...
Questions & Answers
Question: Why do you assume that the guys on Big Bang Theory have mental problems? They like to immerse themselves in physics, gaming and comic books, and what you call 'mental illnesses' are quirks and a part of the character. I myself relate very strongly to Sheldon, an outsider to a confusing world that made sense with SCIENCE.
Answer: There shouldn't be any shame or stigma in them getting real therapy or psychiatric help for some of their emotional problems. For example, Rajesh has social anxiety. Howard has mom issues. Leonard also has mom issues, and Sheldon exhibits clear signs of autism and OCD.
If you care about science and using it to help make the world less confusing, why not the science of psychiatry or therapy? There are many scientifically proven treatments for all of their emotional and mental health problems, and the fact that these treatments exist and are fine and should be destigmatized is never addressed. As such, the show perpetuates the narrative that mental health interventions are only for extremes, not tools nearly everyone can use to help themselves cope with life. The show is being really irresponsible about this issue in a way that might be harmful to people influenced by it who find themselves relating to the characters. People should know that therapy isn't scary, isn't for the weak, and is really kind of for everyone, not just people who are seriously in the middle of a crisis or who are likely to harm themselves or others.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 10, 2020:
Very good article, bravo! I liked the show when it started and now I turn the tv off if it comes on. I'd rather watch nothing than those pickle-heads.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on May 24, 2019:
That's the thing that gets me. It's a dumb sitcom, a format created for dumb people. Trying to market that format to smart people without changing anything about it, except for superficial pop culture references, was bound to fail. So what you have instead is something too dumb to be appreciable to real "nerds", even though it markets itself as something for us. I had a lot of hope for the series when it started because well, there had never been a mainstream TV show where the characters were fans of things I was also a fan of. Oh well... American TV is what it is.
CB on May 23, 2019:
The TV BBT show had definite potentail especially in the early years, then naturally the writing and novelty wore off. This became especially acute when the BBT became a nerdy 'Friends' type show. The broken elevator should have been fixed after one season. The show just became so predictable just like the old 'I Love Lucy' show. I suppose that the need to go mainstream to attract a larger auidence and re-run potential had a lot to do with not taking more chances with the story lines.
Nicole K on December 28, 2018:
I love Big Bang Theory! My husband just got me a bunch of the DVD's for Christmas. Now that I'm watching them all in a row, it does stand out to me a lot more that the show is so focused on sex. I find this to be true of most sitcoms on TV, though (unfortunately). I don't dislike any of the characters. Sheldon is the most humorous to me, but he also says rude things at times. I do agree that he seems to be on the autistic/Asperger's spectrum in some way. I don't really take the show too seriously, but I did really enjoy reading your analysis. Thanks for sharing your perspective!
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 25, 2018:
I don't care, people can express whatever opinion they want in my comments, as long as they're respectful of others. It's been so long since I've seen this show. I find it interesting that I moved on but it only got to be more popular and now it's ending so I want to do a follow-up for it. I want to do another article where I watch it all and get caught up with all the developments I missed. I think my main issue isn't that Penny is so vulgar and annoying. She is, but the main problem is her incompatibility with other characters. It's something I think I'll call 'character incongruity'. Where you want to write diverse personality types in your characters in order to capture a diverse range of personalities in your target audience. Well, some shows go wrong by having this feel too unnatural and unrealistic. If I have to wonder why people who are so different are friends when they have nothing in common, that makes the show weak. It's OK for a show like "Sex and the City" where you see that all the women have at least a few things in common and that's why they're friends. Or contrast BBT with another nerd-humor sitcom "I.T. Crowd", which has 'normie' Jen as a coworker forced to work with the nerdy I.T. team, despite not really understanding their world at all. The thing is that nerds and 'normies' in real life are so separate and mutually alien/incomprehensible to each other, that it makes so little sense to me that they have Penny there and willing to hang out with the kind of guy that normally is seen as repulsive or at the very least not similar enough to connect with a girl like her. It makes sense that most of the characters are friends because they've worked together and live near each other. But Penny is like this hypersexed 'girl next store' fantasy character who seems like an interloper and doesn't understand them at all, which makes me constantly wonder what she's even doing there? Anyway I guess later episodes get better? I want to see the episodes I missed now that the show is finally ending.
pro-Sheldon anti-Penny on August 24, 2018:
I also want to apologize for making a false assumption. You see? I was the one who posts as "at just me."
The reason that I posted under a second alias was to tell off a fan of The Big Bang Theory for being against this webpage.
To make up for my false assumption, I request that you delete the comment of "just me." After all, this is an anti-Big Bang Theory hub and not a pro-Big Bang Theory one.Plus, I thank you for hating that show and Penny as I do.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 19, 2018:
I usually approve of all the comments. I don't know why you had a comment that may have been deleted. It may have had something to do with the site itself. Sorry!
pro-Sheldon anti-Penny on August 14, 2018:
Rachael, why didn't you allow my second comment on here?
at just me on August 06, 2018:
you're a big fat liar for posting that bullshit. if you love the big bang theory and hate the comments on here, shut the hell up and get the fuck off this webpage.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on May 03, 2018:
I mean, I like Amy in Futurama, who is arguably equally "slutty" but I don't think Amy is as bullying, immature, unethical, etc., so I don't hate her.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on May 03, 2018:
I would say I regret using the term "slut" because that's not in and of itself a reason to hate her as a character. I hate her clothes, her annoying personality, and the way that she is awkwardly shoehorned into a friendship circle she doesn't belong with or even have any reason to like or understand, because plot. I hate her voice. I hate how she doesn't seem to understand the MCs and constantly makes fun of them, but yet she is never shy about asking them for favors, or admitting that she only originally hung out with them for food. Why is it treated like she's there to save them and assumed that they need a "normal person" to hekp them? That's the main problem I have. Penny doesn't really learn from them or change. They're there to learn from her and she is elevated above them. That's the problem I have. Not the slut stuff. It's coincidental. I hate her, AND she's slutty. But I don't hate her BECAUSE she's a slut. I should have written that part better. I was just annoyed when I wrote it. It's mostly because she's a bully, because the show puts her on a pedestal, and because she's there to "fix" people who imo do not need fixing.
JustLurkingHard on May 03, 2018:
Penny wasn't there just to be Leonards designated love interest. Oh, no. The show PURPOSELY has a not as intelligent blonde ditzy bubbly Penny - NOT to be the surrogate for the non-geek audience members but literally for the premise of the show. Chuck Lorre set it up as 4 nerdy/smart dudes who are intelligent and smart and know a lot of things in the world....everything except "being cool" or knowing how to have fun. They are not "street smart" and here is this polar opposite of "their" type- PENNY! She isn't a scientist, never finished community college, wants to be an actress, worked as a waitress LIKES TO DRINK and party and yes have casual relationships. THEY are wound up. She lets her hair down.... the whole series is about her integrating herself as part of the "group" and showing them how to LIVE a little and in return they show her nerd culture and she starts to apreciate it. all the episodes are basically the hijinks that ensues with both worlds colliding. In the beginning they used to stare at her as if she was this foreign object that couldn't be attained, but as the series unfolds, they all become more comfortable around each other and she has relationships with them all, then as time goes on, introducing more female characters for Penny and for the other dudes in the gang as it becomes apparent Penny and Leonard are in it for the long haul.
I am with you and the Leonard / Penny pairing, its annoying and it almost seems like she cannot stand him, is annoyed with him and even in one episode she said "his obsession over her is the one thing keeping them together" or something along those lines.Him obsessing over her isn't appealing either. But her bringing a new dude around wouldn't fit in with premise of the show so out of all of them I guess Leonard makes sense because her and Sheldon were meant as friends and everyone knows that. I am most intrigued by Penny and Sheldon, as you pointed out, their relationship has alot of heart and they have the most chemistry, but I could never see it romantic. They have a brother/sister type of bond. Romantic would never make sense. She has shown "him the way" more so than any other character which I feel has been the heart of the show.
Sheldon is very specific, yes he has traits of someone with autism but they showrunners make it a point to never diagnose characters or "label" them because thats not important its just to show characteristics about someone and it shouldn't matter what their "label" is its showing that they are loved and adored by their friends REGARDLESS. ( even if they tease each other or borderline make fun of each other for their weaknesses sometimes) They are showing that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH SHELDON. those are his to live with, there isn't anything wrong with him. they are showing that people can relate to him or other characters and to the outside world I guess we would diagnose it, but there is nothing "wrong" with us/ them- we are perfect the way we are type ish. I, personally, have bipolar disorder, ocd and adhd symptoms but i don't give a rats ass about a diagnosis or label, i just want my symptoms to be manageable and am doing what I need to do to do that. I am not offended how they are treating mental illness or feel they need to see therapists if they don't want to or address their "concerns". I do like how they "normalize" certain behaviors and just let the characters "be" without making it into this "HEY LOOK AT SHELDON ITS OFFICIAL HE IS AUTISTIC WITH A SIDE OF OCD NOW LETS GET IT RIGHT AND SEE HIM TRYING TO GO TO A DOCTOR" having to label it and "get help" for it. that said if one of the characters was out saying they are suffering in a way- and their quality of life isn't great because of it then yes by all means it would be cool to show- in a comical way we can laugh light heartedly about- a character seeking treatment.
I kinda have a problem with you slut shaming Penny. who cares if she sleeps around while the other characters are dorks. I see you care about characters having a decent morals when it comes to being a good friend,not lying or sabotaging other peoples work, and being douches -as I do- but Penny is more than the slutty dummy. She has evolved. Barely on a professional level but I feel she has as far as "all around person". Yes, there are definitely things that are annoying and i get mad at her bullying past. but there are times she shines, especially with her empathy toward Sheldon and their friendship because never in a million years would Sheldon hang or want to be around a person like Penny. he wouldn't dare dream of being around a person of her calibur and the show is set up that way- here she is!! built in to uproot the boys life. here are these nerdy smarty pants comic loving boys who now have regular dealings with a popular, outgoing, doesn't give a F,attractive blonde who rocks their world. thats the show. well part of it and then it grew, naturally with new characters and storylines too boot. and we the sweet connection with two different type of breed of humans. Have you ever had this relationship with someone that is so opposites attract but, it just works? ( friend, relationship, co worker?) those interactions are entertaining and thats why this show has lasted.
just me on April 26, 2018:
great show sad comments
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on April 23, 2018:
Addressing the "If you hate so much about this show you should stop watching it " comment:
1. I DID stop. This article was written years ago. It is about WHY I stopped watching it. Essentially a 'Dear John' to the show.
2. At the time I wrote this, it was hard to get away from as my then-boyfriend lived with his parents, and they were always watching it, so I had to put up with the damned show all the time when I went to hang out at his place, whether I liked it or not.
3. As an entertainment critic, I can't ignore anything with a cultural impact as great as BBT.
4. As a self-described nerd/geek, I always am by default interested in any fiction that attempts or claims to represent our community.
5. I did enjoy this show, to a point, but I started to notice negative patterns in it that only really emerged for me after watching a lot of it. The main thing that stuck out is, the overall tone of the show is mean and shallow.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on April 23, 2018:
Haha! I mean, social skills are useful to be sure but they're not the only thing. TV and BBT in particular has this attitude that they are the only thing worth pursuing, and that lacking social skills makes you a complete failure. Penny is the most annoying character ever, she adds nothing and has no reason to be on the show, and is perhaps the poorest-written female character I've ever seen.
pro-Sheldon anti-Penny on April 23, 2018:
I'd flip off those who hate Sheldon and love Penny. As far as I'm concerned, I wish that Sheldon beat the crap out of Penny for her feminaziism. Hell, I love his lack of social skills as I think that people skills are bullshit.
Dieverdog on March 23, 2018:
I totally agree with Blinky! If you hate so much about this show you should stop watching it - you certainly seem to know plenty about it for it being a show you seem to hate so much. It's a sit com, for heaven's sake - it's not going to have characters going into therapy for serious treatment of mental conditions - unless it is for a laugh. And actually there are LOADS of people who muddle through life without going to a therapist for any number of reasons. I happen to enjoy the show and relate to it and the characters. If you don't, then stop watching it.
Blinky on March 03, 2018:
I think you all need to have a class of wine and relax or quit watching the show if you’re going to have this much anxiety over it. It’s a sitcom and characters have to evolve. It’s not poking fun of mental illness. It’s not a drama. I am a nuclear Medicine scientist that collected Star Wars figures, played in the band, and was homecoming queen. I relate to the show as just pure fun. If Sheldon is exposed to new ideas and feelings, as he should with having friends now and a girlfriend. He is going to evolve and change. Otherwise, the show will be the same episode after episode and end with the guys just chasing girls they never catch and reading comics. Yes, after 11 years they all have girlfriends! Gimme a break!
Kat on December 29, 2017:
Really? James Potter was a bully? Most of the things that we know about him were told through the perspective of a man who disliked him. Imagine if the HP series had been told through Draco's perspective. Do you think you'd be fond of Harry?
Ty on December 27, 2017:
The show is declining because of amy, She forces sheldon into doing things he doesn't want to do, She wants sex and gets mad when he doesn't see his relationship going that route, The writers and whomever casted her is ruining the show, It was more enjoyable in the first 2 seasons.
Ragna on December 16, 2017:
"5. The Show Still Makes Geek Culture Seem Abnormal"
Well, your replies in the comment section show just that.
No wonder so many people find you "Geeks" bloody weird.
no name on November 17, 2017:
Glad that I'm not the only one who hates Penny. Good golly, I can't stand her radical feminism. Therefore, I like Sheldon more than her. Besides, I favor book-smart characters over street-smart ones.
Manu on October 24, 2017:
There was time when Jim parson won 4 Emmy awards for his role as Dr Sheldon Cooper but showrunners caught mad cow disease and decided to turn this mad scientist into a oven cleaning , laundry doing maid of Bernadette and a eternal lap dog of egoistic selfish Amy farrah fowler.
Manu on October 21, 2017:
You forgot Amy farrah flower , she is mean and shelfish in relationship with sheldon , she acquired a social circle because of sheldon and turned everyone againgt him by season 9 when they breakup , She is egoistic and always trying to control sheldon .
This character has completely devoured funny sheldon and have even affected his intellectual level.
Sophie W. on October 08, 2017:
I agree with this! Very good points.
The only parts I disagree with are the possibility of Sheldon and Penny ever being in more than a platonic relationship and I actually dislike Bernadette as a character as she is slightly selfish, superficial and irrationally angry.
But seriously, everything else is right on the money.
Apple-Pie on September 28, 2017:
I absolutely can't stand this show and here's why, aside from the motley crew of so-called actors, each and every line that comes out of their mouths is attached to a canned laugh track, small laugh, middle-size laugh, big laugh, that's all the show is, full of not-funny, canned laugher lines, I absolutely HATE this show.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on September 19, 2017:
My policy is to not delete comments just because I disagree with them. I try to instead respond, telling them why I disagree, or to simply ignore them.
I find Sheldon really relateable because I think I might have high-functioning autism and I certainly have many of the same problems he has with understanding "normies" lol. But sometimes he's in the wrong as well. Nobody in that show is all that relateable because it's a poorly written show, with flat characters and no character development. I'm not envious of Penny, girls like her are a dime a dozen tbh. In real life I just see them as kind of sad, because, lacking their own creativity and vision, they define their lives around whatever they choose to praise and consume. That's a sad existence in my opinion. People like Leonard and Sheldon, though imperfect, at least build things and contribute to humanity's understanding of the world.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on August 23, 2017:
I don't have a problem with girls being "slutty" in the real world but in a show, characters exist for various writing purposes. I'm criticizing Penny as a character because she was shallow, belittling, bullying, and yeah, she always appears in skimpy clothing because they're trying to sell to the male audience. But even then it's insulting to men. And she's like a million girls I've seen in real life, who think their looks excuse being a shitty person. I wouldn't say she's street smart. She didn't grow up in any place that was difficult to survive in like the projects, that would have made her street smart. She's just average in every way except looks. And she's fake. She has a personality that totally rubs me the wrong way. What's worse is that I really feel like the show validates her opinions and invalidates the guys' way too often, as if they're trying to say yes, nerds are pathetic, they are man-children, they do not deserve the attention of a beautiful Goddess like Penny. It's fucking insufferable. As for special needs, I don't mean people with disabilities, because that implies mental and physical handicaps, but I was primarily talking about mental illness. I use the words I mean.
Heather on August 22, 2017:
I really, really REALLY hate the fact that to you, slutty is a) a bad thing and b) dichotomous with intelligent. You can be both. Penny IS both. Sure, she isn't the greatest character (the show isn't the greatest show) and she isn't intelligent in the sense the guys are, but street smart is still smart, slutty can be smart and not wearing clothes does not equal slutty. So for a supposed feminist, you should know those things. Also, "special needs"??? What is this, the 80's? People with disabilities is the preferred term...
Kelly on August 19, 2017:
Wow. It's just a sitcom. And I think your description of Pennys character is way off, and perhaps stems from envy. Analysing something that is not real, does not make you sound intelligent, but instead sounds well......like Sheldon. Who's character is opinionated, annoying and borish!
Daniel on May 07, 2017:
I stopped watching after the episode Sheldon had sex. It just didn't seem right. It completely put me off the show. I use to love Sheldon before that.
Albannach81 on April 13, 2017:
Nice read. I agree with all of it, some of which I never realised until I read your article (:
I've always said I liked it up until series 3 and didn't mind series 4 and after that it became terrible. Now I think it starts to go bad in series 2
Jon David the Author on April 08, 2017:
I used to watch it but now it's become all about relationships (not just sex). As the Angry Nerd said in his video, "they're laughing AT you".
I do not believe in a million years that a woman like Penny would ever actually settle down with a guy like Leonard nor would Bernadette end up with a guy like Howard. Both men are so pathetic and have NO confidence what so ever. I only KINDA watched it after Howard and Bernadette's wedding but I flat out STOPPED after Howard serenaded her when she was quarantined. I feel like the men on this show are just there so that the women can mock and make fun of them.
Then there's Amy whose "relationship" with Sheldon is an abomination and more like Christian Grey and Anastasia Steel without the bondage. He's controlling and just doesn't give a damn about her!
So yeah I've been done with the show for a while.
RachaelLefler on November 12, 2016:
Idk, it seemed like it was saying girls were supposed to be like Penny, and that she had to become more like Penny as part of a character redemption arc. But it's all because I think the whole show is not targeted at nerds, it's targeted primarily I think at people who aren't nerds but who find them fascinating.
Stevo on November 11, 2016:
Loved this post- you perfectly articulated why The Big Bang Theory can often taste stale, even while providing a few B-rate chuckles.
One point I'll play devil's ad- while a very persuasive argument about Amy's alien character, I think I disagree. I don't believe Amy's character was anticipated as a regular (@ show's early gender inequality), but merely a plot device for one episode: Raj & Howard post a dating profile in Sheldon's name, & 'hilariously' find his female counterpart. It's only later her character was brought onboard full time, & the writers (IMO) opted to develop her beyond a 'Sheldon With a Vagina.' While a prodigy in neurobiology (comparable to Sheldon in his own line of work), the 'plain-nerdy' Amy gradually realizes her zest for loyal sisterhood, sexual expression, & rowdy fun (comparable to Penny). In a v weird way, I find her a feminist force for the show / one of the few saving graces!
Nevertheless, fantastic article! :)
Darryl on August 30, 2016:
This show has been on x-number of years now, and I can't believe there has never been a episode where someone beats the hell out of Sheldon. It is because of his antics that we have stopped watching, and only watch when nothing else is on. How can a writer keep such annoying feelings like he does.
Thomas on May 20, 2016:
Very well written article. Spot on. Thank you.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on March 21, 2016:
Thanks! I wrote this a long time ago and haven't thought much about this topic since, but I am a bit annoyed at how popular the show is, because like you said they only make whatever creative decisions will increase viewership and sell merchandise.
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on March 21, 2016:
And I think Amy and Sheldon actually have the most in common too. They like a lot of the same things. It's a shame that it took that direction, the show has potential to champion people who are different for whatever reason, but I guess all they care about is money and ratings. You wrote a great hub though.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on March 21, 2016:
Yeah I know, I also think that was pretty bogus, and kind of a slap in the face to all the asexual fans. :/
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on March 19, 2016:
It's pretty obvious Sheldon's character is asexual. Why did the writer's have to mess with that? He and Amy could have had a strong friendship, or they could have honestly discussed Sheldon's orientation. While I am a straight woman, I know asexual people who were really disappointed when the show took the easy way out and let Sheldon and Amy have sex, when he obviously didn't feel a need for it in his life. He was a kind of "Hero" to the community, the first to "come out" in a TV show. But I guess the network was obsessed with ratings, and you can't get them if everybody isn't having sex with someone, even someone who doesn't want it.
Cat on March 17, 2016:
You like to listen to yours of talk don't you...?
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 08, 2016:
" FYI, BBT writers, failing to accept harmless and diverse interests isn't mature." Yeah, they try to get a lot of mileage out of geek-bashing for a show that presents itself as appealing to geeks.
Michelle on February 04, 2016:
Thank for this, sincerely. You've expertly expressed my main problems with the show as a fellow female geek. The portrayal of women in that show is appalling. There's one woman who closely represents female geeks (Amy) and she's judgemental, inappropriate and obsessed with sex. Even the women "geeks" in that show bash geek culture and are presented as being the superior, mature ones. FYI, BBT writers, failing to accept harmless and diverse interests isn't mature.
And why is it that when you see a girl in a comic book store on that show, it's not because they just like comic books? They have to be there for artistic reasons (artists or screenwriters for children) or because duder dragged them there. Get with the times. They vaguely mention that Stuart chases girls away, which makes the whole portrayal of comic book culture even more insulting. Makes it look like comic book shops aren't safe for women. The ones in my area are fine.
Shaloo Walia from India on January 22, 2016:
To be honest, I love Big Bang Theory. One can't really expect comedy shows to make sense.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on June 01, 2015:
Well, idk, it sounded fake to me. Someone said this on Yahoo! Answers on the subject and I think it's probably right, kind of a mix of the two:
"They record the audience laughter during taping.
But then in the editing process they use that recorded laughter to build a laugh track...
It's called sweetening."
You can tell that at least some of the laughter is pre-recorded because it sounds the same each time. It may be that it was live at one point, but they've changed in recent episodes.
About your other point, I don't think the characters have derailed all that much, and some have developed. I also like that the show has added more of a variety of characters.
greeneyedblondie on June 01, 2015:
Actually the show is done in front of a live audience...
If you watch the first season and two of the show all of the characters were just weird and normal geeks. They changed writers and directors too I believe and changed it to go from regular scientific geeks that were weird to borderline autistic, inapropiate weirdos that can be classified as creeps with some of things they do. Too bad.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on May 08, 2015:
At least later on they expand their repertoire of stereotypes, but the show relies too heavily on them. (Indian, redneck Christian, Jewish, unlovable uptight atheist in Leonard's mom, etc.) Also, I can't stand laugh tracks. It's insulting to me and I hate myself for reflexively laughing at something I don't think is funny just to be going along with the laugh track. :/
Cardia from Barbados. on May 08, 2015:
While reading this, I found myself agreeing on many points that you made, especially that of Penny's character. Sometimes she's just not plain likeable. And also the point you included about how much the show focuses on sex has for something that is supposedly about geek culture and sciences.
I do still watch the show dedicatedly, but it's becoming a little tired now.
Robert Sacchi on January 10, 2015:
Thank you. You bring up many valid points. If a TV series is going to revolve around a type of people it should seem the writers know something about that type of people not just a comic book version of them.
Joseph Ray on July 09, 2014:
I thought this was an excellent article on the show.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on November 23, 2013:
What a nice comment. You know, I'd love to read your articles because I'm sure that you have a lot of great things to say, oh, wait, you're not a Hubpages user, but another juvenile commenter hiding with the anonymity of the internet.
Oh well. Anyway, I think everyone other than "unknown" there makes some really good points about BBT. I guess all sitcoms rely on some kind of formula and stereotypes, and that's why I usually don't watch them.
But the point about BBT I guess is that it appears to be something different, like you expect it to be more evolved than a garden-variety sitcom, but it is just a garden-variety sitcom, albeit one aimed at a more educated demographic.
unknown on November 19, 2013:
oh yeah..you are so smart!!! suh a good review!!.....NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on October 13, 2013:
Thanks for the comments. Yes, I agree that you shouldn't take sitcoms so seriously, but then again, I look for more serious and intelligent entertainment and I am able to find things I like in other shows and not so much in BBT.
Joshua Patrick from Texas on October 10, 2013:
Fun Fact: Kaley Cuoco was on 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, before John Ritter passed away. I wasn't sure if I'd ever see her on TV again, so thanks for that BBT!
Keith Abt from The Garden State on October 10, 2013:
Kaley "Penny" Cuoco is cute. She's the main reason I tune into "BBT" every once in a while. I can take or leave the rest of the characters.
Steven Escareno on October 10, 2013:
I agree with most of what "goforthejuggler" has said, except for the part about penny's cleavage. Don't get me wrong, I like looking at a pretty girl as much as the next guy, or girl (not that there's anything wrong with it), but I would never watch a show just to look at a girl's cleavage. Besides if i wanted to watch something just for how sexy a girl looks, then i'd rather just go off and watch porn or something. Not that i have, but just saying. lol :P
In all seriousness though, I never take a lot of tv sitcoms that seriously because it's mostly played up for laughs. and unless your watching a comedy show that's meant to be witty like "arrested development" for example, the reality is most tv sitcoms often fall back on a formulaic approach to keep their audiences hooked with something familiar; while subtly introducing new things along the way to spice things up. almost all sitcoms go by the formulaic rule if you watch them closely.
Take something like "Full House" for example. That show had three single guys raising 3 little girls in san francisco. They all have stereotypical personalities. One of the girls whines about some issue, and in the end it's always resolved with some touchy feely rushed moment to create AW moments.
Or what about "Everyone Loves Raymond." That show revolves around the concept that it seems like almost everyone hates raymond half the time, which makes the title of the show ironic.
Or what about home improvement. Tim acts stupid on his show, "Tool Time." At home, he acts even more stupid, and screws things up. He gets advice from his neighbor, but tim screws up the advice, yet somehow he's forgiven anyway.
The reality is "Big Bang theory" is not that much different from the other shows i just mentioned. It's a successful sitcom because it relies on formulaic traits to make it familiar with audiences to enjoy, while still implementing subtle hints of changes to add drama. Although from reading your hub, it seems like you enjoy shows that aren't formulaic, and often think outside the box.
There's nothing wrong with that, but sadly in america, tv comedies have to be formulaic most of the time because audiences don't respond well to change. It's like fry said in "Futurama." People don't watch tv to see change. They watch it because it's safe and feels familiar, which is why you don't see too many tv shows try something new.
Not saying that all shows are like this, as im sure there are a few exceptions, but when it comes to most successful tv sitcoms, this is often the case. Hell, even legendary shows like "cheers", "seinfeld", "Friends" and "I love Lucy" fell into the same formulaic trap, yet those shows are deemed some of the most successful tv sitcoms of all time.
Joshua Patrick from Texas on October 09, 2013:
To be honest, I watch the show primarily for the "geeky" pop culture references, Will Wheaton, and Penny's delicious cleavage. Sheldon's antics are generally hilarious, the addition ofAmy to the cast was much needed and perfect, and Raj and Howard's exchanges are usually spot on, despite their terrible character traits. Oh yeah, Howard's mother cracks me up, too. The key is not to take it too seriously, because it's a formulaic, stylized version of reality.
@Joe - you've got to stop watching network TV (and sitcoms at that) if you want to find a TV show worth watching. There are plenty of television masterpieces out there worth viewing... if you need a list, let me know.
Leah Kennedy-Jangraw from Massachusetts on October 09, 2013:
Wow- this is a great article detailing some of the points that I have thought myself while watching Big Bang Theory and others that hadn't occurred to me but that you are 100% correct on.
I hate the Penny-Leonard relationship, they make no sense together. Not because one is too good for the other but because they have absolutely nothing in common. And yes I like the actress Kaley Cuoco but I agree, the character Penny is pretty terrible.
Your point about them all being obsessed with sex is dead on and absolutely there is so much more to geeks than being sad the pretty, popular people don't want to hang out with (and/or sleep with) us.
I could go on, but I will say great article, voted up and sharing.
Joe O on October 07, 2013:
Hah, nice write up, I basically agree with everything you said. I wish I could like Big Bang Theory for a lot of the fun stuff it does include, but this is just too irritating to bear. These are the kinds of things I notice subconsciously when I watch most movies or TV shows, but normally I don't know how to explain that using words. For this reason I feel like I'm wasting my time trying out any movie or TV show. I stick to music and the internet.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on July 05, 2013:
Another article from someone who feels as I do that this show is not just harsh to geeky guys but also to geeky girls.