For Nerd Culture, It’s Just a Big Bang Bust

    I now know what bad food and a horrifying lack of sleep can do to a person’s judgment, because I was so wrong about “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s not the catchphrases (Bazinga!) that get me, or the show’s descent into “The Sheldon Show.” No, it’s the fact that Chuck Lorre does not know how to write a show about self-professed nerds without utterly bastardizing the culture.

    For non-viewers, “The Big Bang Theory” is a character-centric sitcom that follows the nerdy happenings of three physicists (Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar), one engineer (Simon Helberg) and their hot neighbor (Kaley Cuoco). Though the leads are presumably doing crucial research in CalTech, the show spends a minimal amount of time in the lab and a whole lot of time in the comic book store. Because that’s what nerds do. What is so utterly pedestrian about the show, and what critics have long hated, is that “The Big Bang Theory” is basically the public perception of nerds. Each of the four main characters are more socially inept than the next: While Leonard thankfully functional, Howard is a creepy momma’s boy, Raj is an accented foreigner who can’t talk to women unless drunk, and Sheldon is essentially an asexual.

    The main issue with the show is that in terms of geek culture, the show overextends itself. Go to any Con and look around — the anime fans are not in any way like the Browncoats, the Trekkies are doing their own thing. I’ve been to Comic-Con twice, and I can tell you that I have still never read manga (pronounced with a long “a”). Take Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment as an example. What the set designers think the room screams (look at these huge nerds!), screams a ThinkGeek.com advertisement to everybody else. “Hmm,” you can practically hear them thinking. “What do nerds like?” Clearly, the consensus was molecular structures, Green Lantern memorabilia and Rubik’s Cubes. “Ha ha,” laughs Middle America. “I have seen these items before and identify with how they frame nerd culture.”

    To compare, let’s look at a winning example of a nerd show, written by geek goddess Felicia Day, “The Guild.” The show plays off of Day’s real-life obsession: MMORPG games like the World of Warcraft. The characters, though they follow archetypes, are fully fleshed out and more importantly, realistic. Clara is a middle-aged mother who often ignores her children for raids, and Tink is an Asian “mean girl” who loves video games but scoffs at the debilitating awkwardness of her guild. Additionally, “The Guild” focuses episodes on realistic problems, like trying to get free internet connection as a frugal gamer.

    Of course, I should mention that “The Guild” is an online-only show, while “The Big Bang Theory” is five seasons deep on a Big Five channel. Maybe in the future, we will have a television show that accurately captures a segment of geek, is widely viewed and not produced by Chuck Lorre, but I’m not holding my breath.

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