By Baylor Thornton | Journalism 1
All sorts of gimmicks have been used for sitcoms. Overweight people, witches, pop stars, talking dogs—have all been the subject of sitcoms. But at the end of the day it’s the same schtick almost every time. However, the most popular of these shows on right now has a new target: geeks.
Geeks have been used for comic relief for many years, including in John Hughes films such as Weird Science and Sixteen Candles, but The Big Bang Theory is the first time in which they are the main characters of a sitcom. Is this any different than other geeky characters?
Not really. There is nothing new to these characters that hasn’t been done before. They are all portrayed as incredibly socially awkward people who like comic books and Star Trek, just like years past. So there is no reason why any nerds should be offended by the show’s content.
But the strange thing is that most real-life nerds either love this show or hate everything about it. The middle ground between the two is very small. While one can buy Big Bang merchandise at comic book conventions, some people refer to the show as “nerd blackface”. True, everyone has a different sense of humor, but this show has caused debate among the very group it parodies.
Now it would be one thing if The Big Bang Theory were different than other shows on right now. It’s okay to have a geeky main character in a show, that’s one of the reasons why many nerds love Doctor Who, but this show is just the same thing as many other shows made before this. It’s the creative product of the same people who made Two and a Half Men, and many of the same tropes from sitcoms are present here: love triangles, studio audiences, fart jokes, three-act structures, etc.
This is what makes the show different from something like Weird Science. In Weird Science, while the characters are stereotypically nerdy, there is a creative story about the geeks trying to make a Frankenstein’s Monster-esque girlfriend for themselves. In The Big Bang Theory, there is a recurring plot line about a love triangle between Leonard (a main character), Penny (another main character), and Kurt (an unintelligent stock bully character).
The former plot line is far more appealing to geeks than the latter because geeks like imagination. Comic books, role playing games, science fiction stories and anything else “geeky” is all focused on imagination. While some geeks may happen to enjoy sitcoms with three-act structures and love triangles, this show is not what nerd culture is about.
And so the main reason why many nerds don’t like The Big Bang Theory is that this show is not imaginative. This is a generic sitcom. This is in no way a show actually focused on what being a nerd is about, it is just a show where nerds are the main characters so jokes can be made at the expense of them. Nothing more, nothing less.
True, nerds can relate to these characters, but just because the show is about them does not mean it’s intended for them. For some reason The Big Bang Theory merchandise can be bought at comic conventions, but the show doesn’t appeal to that demographic. Instead, it owes its current and future success to its mass appeal to “normal” people. In the end The Big Bang Theory is just a television show, and it doesn’t matter if nerds like it. It’s not for them.