The Big Bang Theory and the Terrible Sitcom Paradigm

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It represents some pretty standard sitcom fare, of course; the back and forth pranking is a staple of these shows, and I’ve no doubt there are variations on a similar theme in Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and so on and so forth. Certainly I know that Community did it, and it’s not exactly outside the realms of possibility for Seinfeld to have done it either. So, yes, it’s somewhat derivative, but that’s not exactly a problem specific to The Big Bang Theory.  Few of the above shows, however, rely on such utterly lazy jokes throughout their plots. In this particular episode of The Big Bang Theory, we were treated to the ‘hilarious’ punchlines of “Indians like snakes”, “Jews are liars”, and “women have periods”. It’s simply bland humour aimed at the lowest common denominator, and reliant pretty much wholly on stereotypes and clichés. At best, it’s vacuous and vapid nonsense; at worst, it’s bordering on the offensive.

Further, though, the show demonstrates the worst excesses of self-entitled “nerd culture”, to the extent that I’d read it as a genuinely intelligent satire if I didn’t doubt the abilities of those involved to pull that off. Alongside the lazy jokes, it propagates every toxic idea which is so entrenched in “nerd culture” – the idea that they’re still the little guy, that they deserve to come out on top at the end, and that they’re better than others because they’re not like those guys. Because they like Lord of the Rings, or science, or because they’re “nice guys”.

I really, really dislike The Big Bang Theory. And now, I’m writing about why I dislike it. That’s perhaps futile, given it’s a cultural giant – and yet, at the same time, because it is such a cultural giant, I think it warrants this sort of discussion and suchlike.

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