(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?