Why: five characters who could so easily have been the most cliché stereotypes but instead are distinct and fabulous people
A treat today. I came across this video on YouTube that is a half hour interview with cast and creators of The Big Bang Theory. Anyone who knows me, knows I have huge love for this show. In fact, I’ve started watching it again from the beginning with my daughter, and I’m so impressed at how funny every single episode is. The writers are amazing. What helps, however, is that Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Penny are so fully fleshed out and realized as characters. Think of the premise – two nerds get a hot blonde neighbour. There are so many ways this show could have gone wrong.
But I think it went right for a few reasons:
1) It doesn’t matter if you like nerd culture or not. The relatability of the guys is not based on a compatible pop culture affinity or IQ or even gender. Yes, these guys are great at what they do, but pretty clueless in the rest of their world. And don’t we all have that kind of balance? There are some aspects of our lives that we excel in and others that are a struggle? And like life, sometimes it’s actually their working lives that pose the problems while their love lives (except poor Raj) are fine. That’s the thing. We never have all areas of our lives working perfectly. Okay, I don’t. If you do, go find some other blog to read because you’re making the rest of us look bad.
2) The quirks of each character are so specific that they feel like people I know. Raj’s wonderfully pointed insights offset by an inability to talk to women that literally leaves him mute. Maybe I don’t have friends who go silent, but I do have ones that spout verbal diarrhea in the presence of the opposite sex. It’s that verbal tic. Howard’s undeserved overconfidence that makes you want to smack him, coupled with an absolute vulnerability. This guy wears his heart on his sleeve. Leonard, well, he’s more like the average guy. Not off the charts neurotic, just with a lot of little insecurities that keep him struggling. And then there’s Sheldon. For all of Sheldon’s rigid adherence to his way, I think it’s that very adherence that does make him so likeable. He’s totally committed to his viewpoint. And on the plus side, there’s no BS or hidden agendas in being his friend. No one ever has to wonder about where they stand with him. I also love that he doesn’t care about things that make the rest of us so crazy, like money. As long as he has what he needs, he’s happy to share if a friend is in trouble.
3) Penny. She needs her own paragraph. The beauty of this show is that the guys are not just nerds, they’re people and Penny is not just a hot blonde. She’s a person. It took them a few episodes initially to nail that down. I love that she’s perfectly smart, she’s just not them. I love that she’s competitive and messed up and may be snarky but above all, she’s optimistic and always sweet. Penny might be sarcastic but she never is a bitch. Okay, sometimes she is but she feels bad and apologizes. She’s not fundamentally a bitch. Fundamentally (to quote Kaley Cuoco who plays her) “she’s adorable.” And while her relationship with Leonard might be very sweet, I think it’s her relationship with Sheldon that really gives heart to this show.
4) The show has us laugh with them, never at them. In the same way that being friends with each other has forced the characters to change and grow (my favourite moment being when Sheldon actually hugs Penny for the first time), I think Big Bang challenges our preconceptions as well. For me, the best sitcoms have always done that, whether it was Mary Tyler Moore making us fall in love with a truly modern woman, or Norman Lear and all his wonderful shows that pushed us to rethink notions of race and class, to Roseanne and her blue collar reality to these guys, making us look past the word “nerd” used so often in such a judgemental way, to see the people, not the simply label. It’s just such a smart show. It sums up my own philosophy of “hate me for who I am not what I am.” You can hate these characters if you want, but it’s going to be because of who they are as people, not what they represent as a stereotype or label.
And if all of that hasn’t convinced you to watch The Big Bang Theory, just do it because it’s funny. Really really funny in a way that doesn’t pander to its audience. It assumes we’re smart. And we get to be in on the joke.
The Big Bang Theory created by: Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady
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Learned my 16 yr old thought the guys from One Direction were named Wade & Kyle. Even I know better than that. Good job, honey. Good job.
- Tuesday Jan 16 - 12:55am
These are fantastic!
- Friday Jan 12 - 5:35pm
Prince owns Gershwin’s Summertime in jazz piano number. Gorgeous!
- Thursday Jan 11 - 2:35am
Yes to everything about this article!
- Monday Jan 8 - 8:35pm