I am very… very proud to be a nerd in the 21st century. Our culture, is culture, we took over in a big way, we’re not the counterculture or the underground any more. Comics break the box office, games outsell every form of modern media, we’re in music, literature, we’re on every screen, and even the geekiest of hobbies have entered the public sphere.
Back in 2007, Chuck Lorre who was still riding high on Two and a Half Men success, created a show that… yeah, let’s say it took advantage of the rise of geek culture in its early flushes, computer games were starting to get mainstream, and we’re still pre-MCU. Here comes this gaggle of guys who are painfully socially awkward, love science and comic books, and don’t understand girls, and OH NO, a girl just moved in next door and she doesn’t understand any of it, and one of those guys loves her so very, very much.
There are just… so many reasons why The Big Bang Theory is a slap in the face to geeks, and they have been described best by other people, Wisecrack are actually pretty good at pulling it apart for it’s worst aspects, and it’s not just about the laugh track. The characters are caricatures, the reference humour is reference without the humour, and while the science on the boards may be accurate, it doesn’t take too long to realise that neither actors nor writers know what they’re talking about. And Sheldon is “crazy”, at it’s most base definition, he demonstrates some of the clearest signs of inability to comprehend and function within a wide variety of basic human functions.
Personally, I got sick of it around when they started attempting to understand Dungeons & Dragons; it was like a mask had been ripped off and suddenly the hideous thing beneath was revealed. And how many times did I hear people say “You sound like that Sheldon from Big Bang you do”? That’s a kick in the face I don’t need thank you madam.
I’ll throw some links down below, that’s not what this article is about.
Geeks were on TV, and they were popular enough to endure 12 years of being on TV. They were grown men wearing comic-book logos, playing video games, making science jokes, some of which were funny, they’d watch cartoons when bored, they hang swords on the walls and behaved awkwardly in normal situations while thriving at science competitions and strolling into conventions like kings. They were the centre of the social circles at the comic book shops, they’d take cross country road trips to meet celebrities from sci-fi shows, and they’d spend their days in the lab doing science and changing the face of the world.
Ok, it was a lot of stereotypes, many of which got pretty damn hurtful, but it’s stereotypes that people understand. “Normal” people don’t want to hear a lot of science jokes, the good ones I mean, same with video game and comic book jokes, and gods forbid an anime joke slips through the editors desk… ever. But they know pop-science, and they understand the words they learned in their teens like Friction or Tangential. It’s a foot in the metaphorical door, and if it means a few more people make the brave step into the rest of the room, and much like with actual physics, they’ll learn that they’ve been taught wrong the whole time, but it helps them to understand the rich complexity that lies beyond.
And on the subject of learning physics, the Big Bang Theory has not only caused a massive upswing in interest in science among younger kids, the show has also funded its own scholarship fund for STEM students. I also found out today that the science consultants would also have their work checked by Mayim Bialik* who’s highly qualified to do so, and unlike the rest of the cast, really does know what she’s talking about.
Nor is she the only true-blooded nerd on the show! Wil Wheaton is something of a polarising figure, but there’s no debating his geeky chops, years of role-playing and board gaming and a ~cough~ “starring” role on Star Trek definitely earn him the proverbial badge, and he brings a few old Star Trek friends along for the ride. See also, Katee Sackhoff, Brian Posehn, Kevin Smith, Summer Glau, Stan Lee – The cameo king, also the kings of pop-science Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Steven Hawking… go through the cameo list, there are some big names and many of them actually wanted to be on the show!
Most of these people are already household names, but there are plenty of them whose presence on the show brings more and more light to the geeky creators still working tirelessly in the industry to bring real nerds and nerdiness to screen, and who knows? Maybe a few TBBT fans might end up falling into that culture in time.
It’s an insult to our intelligence, it’s an insult to geeky culture, but it appeals to a particular palette that we’d reach no other way. If we are ever to strive for the great, glorious geeky, monoculture born of media domination and memes… lots of memes… we have to meet the common people on their own territory, we have to extend the proverbial olive branch and say “it’s cool, we get it” while drip feeding the truth.
Now here’s some stuff about why the Big Bang Theory is terrible… it’s just terrible. Some contain rudey badwords.
*Something that many people did not pick up, Mayim was referenced a year or two before her actual appearance as “TVs Blossom” when debating new friends they ought to bring into the group. Guess she was listening.
You know you’re part of a culture when you absorb all of it, whether you want to or not.
I imagine that sports fans have a similar thing, where they know all about the activity and history of “That other sports team from way over there” or know more about “Another sport that’s not exactly what they’re into” than they feel they should, because they don’t look it up, they don’t follow it or research it, they just happen to absorb the information from other people, or through the channels that they go through to find out about those sports and teams that they are interested in.
Was that right? Did I get sports right? (more…)