Of course, I mean the sit-com - not the cosmological theory.
It’s a favourite of mine. We have almost reached the end of series 2 in New Zealand and I have watched every episode.
The production has general been reviewed well by pro-science people so I was intrigued to hear some critical assessments on a recent podcast of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (Podcast 211 – August 2009). Rebecca and fellow Skepchick Carrie Iwan were criticising the stereotyping of the main female character, Pennie, as sexist. They felt she is cast in the role of the dumb blonde as a foil to the intelligent nerds Sheldon, Leonard, Rajesh and Howard. The complaint was – why don’t women get more roles as intelligent characters.
Personally, I find Pennie to be one of the most human characters in the programme. No, she is not a nerd. She doesn’t understand theoretical physics. But that doesn’t stop her from having a caring and respectful relationship with her nerdy neighbours. She gets many of the best lines. And she is the main source of common sense.
The programme does boast a nerdy female – experimental physicist Leslie Winkle. On the other hand, some of the minor male characters, Pennie’s old boyfriends come across as thick, muscular and macho characters. Perhaps we should complain about the male stereotyping?
Stereotyping in comedy is a delicate issue. Often this provides an important source of the humour. But, in the process it can be disparaging to the real people the stereotypes represent. There must be a fine line between acceptable humorous stereotyping and the sort which can be offensive and disparaging to real people.
I don’t have any problem with the gender and intellectual stereotyping in this programme. But I do sometimes wonder about the stereotyping of obsessive compulsive disorder which comes across in Sheldon’s character.
Sheldon’s obsessive compulsive behaviour provides a lot of the laughs, particularly in the more recent episodes. Now, I know there is a rich psychological diversity in humanity, and we should be acceptable and understanding about this. We often do need to laugh about our own and other’s foibles.
But obsessive compulsive disorder can be a very debilitating psychological illness. Both for the individual suffering from it – and for their friends and family who may suffer because of it.
So sometimes I do wonder about the stereotyping in this programme. I still find it humorous – but sometimes I feel a bit guilty about that.
See also: The Big Bang Theory