Following the announcement that The Big Bang Theory is getting its own spinoff series, Angela Cuming goes off like a bloody rocket to Mars.
There are three things I never bring up in a social setting: politics, religion, or The Big Bang Theory.
The first two are tricky, but I can handle them OK – ”No, go on rich Christian white man, please tell me why there is no such thing as a gender pay gap, I am listening” – but any mention of the third topic and it’s all over for me.
It usually goes like this:
Person: ”Oh my god did you watch The Big Bang Theory last night I mean that show is just the best, it’s sooooo funny.”
This is when I start nervously chewing on my fingernails while silently hoping a drinks waiter walks past and I can grab a glass of wine, throw it over my head and excuse myself to go freshen up.
Me: ”Ha ha, you are being sarcastic right?”
Person: ”What? You don’t think it’s funny?”
This is when my heart starts pounding in my chest and my brow gets all furrowed but not in a sexy Robert Pattinson in Twilight way and I know what’s going to happen next but I can’t stop it.
Me: ”Are you kidding me that show is the most RACIST and SEXIST show of all time and perpetuates worn out stereotypes and is lazy and unoriginal and you find it FUNNY what they hell is wrong with you it is the worst show I’ve ever seen on television and I watched the remake of Beverly Hills 90210.”
Person: ”What about Mrs Brown’s Boys then?”
That’s when my head falls off.
By the time I got my head screwed back on after the last time an exchange like this happened, it had been announced that a brand new television series is shaping up to knock The Big Bang Theory off its lofty primetime perch. Unfortunately, it is going to be a Big Bang Theory spinoff, following a young Sheldon (the show is called Young Sheldon btw) as he attends high school in Texas. Yes, there is still a lot more comedy gold to be mined from stereotypes of women, men who study the sciences, and Indian students.
I guess a spinoff was always going to happen. The Big Bang Theory is one of television’s highest rating comedies and has has just been renewed for an 11th and 12th season. It’s been somewhat of a critical success, too, with Jim Parsons winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Sheldon. The show is currently sitting pretty at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But all the ratings and shiny trophies in the world can’t hide the show’s failings.
The Big Bang Theory reminds me of the fictional comedy When the Whistle Blows that Ricky Gervais created in Extras, the one that makes him famous but he secretly loathes. It relies entirely on one-dimensional characters and stereotypes to get cheap laughs. Take Penny for example, the token dumb, hot blonde that all the blokes lust after as soon as they lay eyes on her. The male characters routinely chastise her for her active sex life and ”revealing” clothes she wears.
If you wanted a good indication of her character’s standing in the world, Penny still doesn’t have her own surname after ten seasons.
By season five, the show had introduced two new female characters, Amy and Bernadette – both scientists – and managed to screw that up too. Amy is the token shy, bookish, badly dressed nerd girl who spends her whole time either being secretly jealous of the hot blonde or talking about the hot blonde with the blokes. She’s a reminder to young women that you simply cannot be smart and cool at the same time. One must make a choice! Be popular or win the science fair but never both!
As for Bernadette? Well, she ends up marrying Howard, a creepy, sleazeball who’s not shy of lighthearted stunts like using a satellite to spy on women sunbathing topless and then posing as a cable TV repairman to sneak into their house to hit on them. I don’t know what you look for in a partner, but for me a little bit of casual stalker culture set to a canned laughter track really floats my boat.
But when it comes to Trump-level sexism and casual racism, the other male characters really take the cake. I can’t decide who or what I loathe more – the portrayal of Indian man Raj or the biggie: Sheldon of the spinoff fame.
Let’s take them one at a time. Raj ticks all the stereotype boxes. As MTV India noted in 2013, he is ”the stereotypical brown guy with an exotic accent, crippled by his inability to speak to women and trying to escape the arranged marriages foisted on him by his bossy parents”. They even made his character an alcoholic so he could have the courage to speak to women. That’s when we get gems like this:
Raj: ”As your friend, you might want to know that we didn’t have sex in the conventional sense.”
Penny: ”Oh God, did you pull some weird Indian crap on me?”
Then there’s Sheldon, whose character is so beloved we’ll soon be subjected to an entire show devoted to him. He’s The Big Bang Theory’s resident top-shelf geek, a child genius (he went to college aged 11 to study physics) who loves comic books and is socially awkward. There had been speculation the character has Asperger Syndrome but that was recently debunked by Parsons himself. Here are some of Sheldon’s greatest hits:
”Do you want to hear another reason why men are better than women?’
”You’re a man, the champagne of genders.’
”All you hear women say is ‘I’ll just have a salad, ‘Where’s my lip gloss’…’
“She was kind of an honorary man. She had a penis made of science.”
I sometimes wonder if I am the only person left on planet earth who hates The Big Bang Theory. Sometimes I daydream about climbing into a spaceship (probably one built by a man because according to Sheldon women just shop and eat salads) and shooting off to another solar system to find some good television and folks who don’t find sexist, racist comedies funny.
But by the time I finally get there, The Big Bang Theory will probably have spawned spinoff after spinoff and I will be invited to some party where some alien with three heads will pour me a drink and say:
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”Oh my god did you catch last night’s episode of Sheldon’s Big Bang Theory Where He Has a Midlife Crisis and Becomes a Casually Racist Republican Senator Who Votes To Strip Women of Maternity Care?”
And I won’t be able to do anything because, in space, no one can hear you scream.
The Big Bang Theory airs on TVNZ 2 at 8.45pm Wednesdays
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