"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 haven't watched it. I miss a lot of TV being in school. By the sounds of it, though, they need some hot, fun nerds. I remember my oldest daughter coming home from school (she was six at the time), alarmed that she may be a "nerd." I asked her what she thought of me, and since she is not a teenager yet, it was a positive response. :o) I told her to then go ask her dad if I was a nerd. He was outside, and I watched the exchange from the window. I could see him nodding in affirmation. She came skipping in, announcing that daddy definitely thought I was a total nerd. I didn't so much want her to feel better about her supposed nerd-dom as realize that she could own whatever label people tried to put on her and not let it affect her negatively. I never want my girls to be ashamed of being smart.

The guys are overly nerdy, not very attractive, and socially awkward.  I think it is a stereotype across the board but the show is awesome.  If they were good looking and social dynamos it would be dull.

Anyway, though not a scientist, Priya is very hot, smart, and cool.

Sheldon's awkwardness isn't necessarily because he is a scientist or a nerd. He displays all possible symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome though. Especially his lacking understanding of social conventions and human interaction. The actor said it wasn't intentional, but he couldn't play it up more if he tried.

Well in my high school (where I'm the only atheist even though that doesn't mean anything I just like to gloat), it seems fine to a lot of people to watch, but myself, being probably the only scientist as well, feel disgusted by the attitude and facade put on by the "actors" whether their science is correct or not. As he points out, this is scientist stereotyping and frankly, the puns aren't even that funny to me. But every dumb person I've seen watch it (not calling the people who watch it dumb, just the dumb viewers) take it as almost a science circus show. They seems to think that's how all scientists are.... I'm 17. I'm a scientist. I play in the band. I play sports. I am smart but I chose choppy quick sentences for ALL verbal communication because it's easier, not the Big Bang Theory bull crap. (and I use formality when forum and blog posting ;) )
The latest Star Talk (hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson) is about The Big Bang Theory and he has one of the show's creators and the consulting astrophysicist as guests.

Judging by the interviews, I'm coming down on the pro-science side. The creator says that he occasionally gets told that he is 'teaching people stuff against their wills'.

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