Justifying My Personal Vendetta Against The Big Bang Theory

I was sitting with my friend at lunch the other day and for some reason, I was complaining about “The Big Bang Theory,” saying how much I hate it. I expected her to agree that the show was awful. Instead, she surprised me by saying she enjoyed the show. When I asked other people, they liked it too.  

I was shocked. I tried to argue why I disagreed in the moment, and couldn’t articulate. However, after all of mid-term break to think about it, I’ve put together some reasons why “The Big Bang Theory” is horrible. My list is as follows. 

1. It’s misogynistic.

“The Big Bang Theory” is composed of five main characters, with four males and one female. The show debuted in 2007, yet only contains one major female character (who is treated poorly, but I will get to that). This fact in itself is a problem, as we should continually strive towards representation on television. When I was arguing in person, my friends compared “The Big Bang Theory” to “Friends.” Yet, “Friends” debuted in 1994 and contained three female characters as a part of the six-person cast. This shows that “The Big Bang Theory” is unusual in its lack of representation. A similar show aired thirteen years previously and was able to contain more female characters. 

Not only is the show male-dominated, but men consistently make sexist jokes. For example, in season nine, episode two, Sheldon makes a joke in which he says “tonight’s theme: flags of countries that were torn apart and the women I have a feeling were responsible.” This is just one of many misogynistic jokes made through the show’s run. However, the writers are able to get away with these jokes because of the characters they present- nerdy guys who don’t know any better. 

Pop Culture Detective (aka writer Jonathan McIntosh) explores this idea in his video “The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory.” He evaluates the “geeky guy” archetype in comedy and how the characters that fit this trope consistently engage in harassment and creepy behaviors towards women. He points out examples of this particularly in “Sixteen Candles” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” In both of these movies, nerdy dork types commit inappropriate behavior toward women. Yet, because these characters are viewed as adorable and pathetic, they are excused. 

This trope definitely is present in every main character of “The Big Bang Theory.” McIntosh describes Howard as the “creepy pervert with the heart of gold.” Rajesh is the “sensitive guy and inappropriate drunk.” Leonard is the “nice guy enabler.” Sheldon is the “innocent bigot.” All these characters are meant to be nerds who are good people despite their actions. When these characters do things that are inappropriate, it is pathetic and pitiful rather than something to acknowledge. 

Additionally, the few female characters are treated awfully. Not only do they solely exist to be love interests to the male characters, they typically don’t get their own storyline outside of being a romantic lead. Furthermore, they often are reduced to stereotypical tropes. Penny, Leonard’s significant other, is treated like she has no skill or intelligence simply because she is not a scientist like the rest of the characters. She is reduced into this “resident hot girl” trope. The other female characters are not taken seriously even though they are scientists too. Bernadette, Howard’s significant other, is expected to do most of the domestic work within the home when the two move in together. She is reduced into a housewife despite her intelligence. 

“The Big Bang Theory” attempts to get away with their misogyny by pointing it out. This is known as lampshade hanging. TV Tropes defines lampshade hanging (also called lampshading) as “the writers' trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience's willing suspension of disbelief, whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.” In “The Big Bang Theory” the writers do this by calling attention to the character’s misogyny. In showing self-awareness, the writers can get away with the bigoted joke. They acknowledge that their joke is prejudiced, but do not challenge it in any significant way. 

A show that combats lampshading in its later seasons is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” After thirteen seasons of characters being awful human beings, the show acknowledges the harassment and inappropriate behavior the main characters have portrayed. This episode, named “Times Up For the Gang” calls out many of the major characters. This episode made a lot of viewers uncomfortable and showed a clear challenging to the character’s behaviors. This show is unlike “The Big Bang Theory”’s formula as they refuse to just make a casual joke and move on. 

2. The show is formulaic and relies on static characters who go through little significant development. 

Perhaps the reason why “The Big Bang Theory”  is so popular (getting about 20 million viewers per episode in their earlier seasons) is that the characters lack any sort of change, so people are able to catch on and understand without following the series. This shows that static characters aren’t necessarily bad. Some great pieces of literature have major static characters. For example, Tale of Two Cities, a novel by Charles Dickens could be argued to contain only static characters. This book is still seen as one of the greats. 

However, “The Big Bang Theory” has static characters in a bad way. Unlike Tale of Two Cities, where the characters remain static because they are interacting with something very complex, a revolution, the characters in “The Big Bang Theory” are the main focus. For example, Sheldon remains a strange, almost ageless, childlike character for the entirety of the show’s run. Even though Jim Parsons continually got older, they refused to let Sheldon age with him. (Jim Parsons is actually the reason the show is getting cancelled, as he was against continuing to portray Sheldon). In a show in which the characters are the main focus, surely the characters should face some development. 

An example of this that ended up failing is “How I Met Your Mother”’s character, Barney Stinson. He begins as a man who is obsessed with getting women and is only interested in being a player, but as the seasons continue he becomes interested in only one woman and wants to spend his life with her. However, near the finale of the show, this development is removed. Although it ended up falling, people enjoyed seeing the change before that. “How I Met Your Mother” got a lot of criticism for the fact that it did remove his character development.

The problem with “The Big Bang Theory” is that they don’t even try to develop the characters. The characters generally remain the same throughout the seasons, even if they go through minor development. For example, Sheldon drives for the first time within the show’s run, showing a minor change. 

3. It’s simply not funny. 

Watch this. This video, of the television show without a laugh track, feels more tense than funny. That’s how the show constantly is. Yet, putting in a laugh track makes us more inclined to think what is happening actually is funny when in reality it isn’t.