"The Big Bang Theory": Televised mockery or homage to science?

(First, I realize that the show is already in its fourth season.  But I didn't have a television for a long time and, consequently, have only recently discovered this sitcom.  So please bear with me even if this is "so 2007.")


Last Thursday, the season premiere of The Big Bang Theory aired on CBS.  As I have been catching up on the first three seasons, I have found myself wondering whether the show is positive or negative for the promotion of science.  

On one hand, all of the science in the show is accurate.  Thanks to a resident physicist consult, the equations on the numerous whiteboard props are real and the dialog references actual current topics in various scientific fields.  This inherent scientific veracity would seem to at least familiarize the general viewing population with what may otherwise remain obscure science.

Conversely, the show does not paint a very attractive picture of scientific brilliance nor of intellectual excellence in general.  Although the awkwardly adorable Leonard is the series' protagonist, his intellectual success is still subordinate to his social failures.  The other three male scientists--Sheldon, Raj, and Howard--all embody various stereotypical aspects of the archetypal geeky guy with the social capacity of each character in an inversely proportional relation to his intellectual prowess.  Sheldon, the most brilliant of the bunch, is inarguably the least capable of functioning within a social group.

And that's just the men.  Women in science fare no better--and potentially worse--on the show.  Aside from an oversexed physicist and a controlling grad student, female scientists on the show are portrayed in bare make-up, massive glasses, and a forgettable wardrobe.  This is in sharp contrast to Penny, Penny's friends, and Sheldon's "hot sister."  Of course, none of the sexy female characters are scientists or academically inclined in any manner.

So what do you think?  Is this show a positive or negative force in the popularization of science? Personally, I still find the show entertaining.  Maybe I'm being too harsh; after all, geek chic is all the rage these days.


P.S. Is it weird that I have the biggest crush ever on Sheldon?

Tags: bang, big, cbs, culture, media, pop, science, sitcom, television, the, More…theory

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I always thought they were accurate with their math and science as well--until last week's episode. Sheldon's estimation of Penny's likely number of lifetime dates was way, way off based on the numbers he stated, especially since he said he was assuming she was at the top of a Bell curve at this stage in her life.

Elaborate, please! I'm an English major and I totally missed the math fail. :(
If someone can quote the numbers he stated, I can do it again; I know it was wrong but I don't remember the details now.
Hmm, I think that it's still saved on my DVR. If so, I'll find the figures tomorrow and post them. (Because I don't get to do enough math in my normal academic curriculum, I'm always hungry for any extracurricular exercise.) I never reached Bell curves in any math class (or, if I did, I've forgotten the lesson) so I'll leave the math to you!
On this episode, this Amy Character is going to be a great add on. I see eventual spin off potential of them raising children.
Lol, I was cracking up when I realized that it was Blossom.
I don't watch much TV, but tend to TiVo things if friends suggest them. Aside from the occasional episode of 2 and a Half Men I happen to catch and chuckle at, I haven't found sitcoms particularly funny in years.

Then a while ago I went with my sister for an all day round 1 session of an insanely large tattoo. Her artist immediately realized we were all sarcastic intellectual geeky heathens and starting talking about The Big Bang Theory. When we all mentioned we hadn't seen it he yelled, "HOLY SHIT," and momentarily stopped inflicting great pain upon my sister to go hook his comp up to a huge TV he had in his office. We then sat there for 8 hours watching and laughing our asses off.

I've since turned everyone I know on to that show. Also, I'm sitting here wearing a Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock shirt. I'm ready to be judged.

Nice
Also, I'm sitting here wearing a Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock shirt. I'm ready to be judged.

Oooo I think that I need this one. I could get into some serious trouble with my VISA bill on that site...
My wife and I recently started watching it; we're about halfway through season one. I had it in my Netflix queue for awhile, but oddly enough my wife showed interest and made me bump it up the queue after her sister (a conservative Christian) raved about how funny it was.

We really like it, and will probably burn through the discs pretty quick. And I'll concede to your pleas and admit a slight mancrush on Sheldon.

More to the focus of your post, I think it provides an overall positive spin on science. I think it plays up most of the clichés without degrading them too much. I think it also does provide a little bit of realistic portrayal as well into how many people on the far side of the brilliance bell-curve tend to be.
And I'll concede to your pleas and admit a slight mancrush on Sheldon.


YES! Someone else shares my deviance. :D

It strikes me as odd that a conservative Christian would really like the show as mocking Sheldon's east Texan evangelical mother is a common byline. Or maybe I just see too much into it?
I think it may be that while she is a conservative Christian, she doesn't flinch when pointing and laughing at the even more extreme bible-thumping ultra-conservative Christian (or in other-words: any other flavor of Christianity that is not her own).
Ah, that makes sense.

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