November 1st, 2011

monkey pirate

An Open Letter to Chuck Lorre, Producer of "Big Bang Theory"

Dear Chuck Lorre;

I suspect you're an introspective, thoughtful guy. At least, that is the marketing message you are trying to send to viewers at the end of your shows with your little vanity cards. Many of them are based on observations (some keen, some banal) of human nature and your place in the grand experience that is life. Some are rather bitter. But all of them suggest that your life is not unexamined, and thus your life is worth living, if we are to believe Socrates.

So listen, Chuck, bubby, schnookela - what the heck is up with "Big Bang Theory"? You've got exactly two jokes that you re-use over and over again, and both of them are essentially looking down on nerds. First there's "Isn't Sheldon weird?" Sheldon does something fussy, pedantic and generally Aspberger's Syndrome-ish, and you play it for laughs. And you know, I'm not saying some of those jokes aren't funny - I get it, and Jim Parsons is a kooky actor who can definitely pull off the schtick. I laugh sometimes. But sometimes I'm sad, sad like a clown who realizes clowning is less and less relevant in the post-circus world. Because I'm the older brother of an Aspy, and let me tell you, it's not always funny. The inability to pick up on people's social cues is far more often a challenge than a larf. Life is subtly difficult for Aspies - something you rarely if ever acknowledge on your show. I mean, other than people pointing at laughing at Sheldon, or being annoyed by him. Aspies get a lot of that, I'm sure - but they also get compassion and understanding from people who understand their condition.

But I think what really bugs me is your other joke, which is probably 90% of the jokes on the show. "Huh huh, nerds can't talk to girls." Every show revolves around the inability for the nerdy characters to interact with women as attractive and valued partners. Sure, they've each in turn had relationships, but it's always with women who like them *despite* their nerdy enthusiasms, and who seeks to correct or fix them. But listen brother - I've been a nerd for a long time. When I was three my favorite show was Star Trek, my very first Christmas gift was a Batman sleeping bag, and I'm guilty of nearly every nerdy passion, joy or obsession that you could imagine. And I can talk to girls! I even married a beautiful woman who shares my nerdy interests.

The fact is, you're condescending to nerds for laughs, while calling out pop-culture references in order to appeal to a nerd audience. And quite often you just get it wrong, too - whoever your writers are, they're not doing their homework and get the details wrong. Nerds notice, I promise. So who's your audience, Chuck? Is it nerds? Because if it is you're condescending to us, treating us like eunuchs and getting the stuff we care about flat wrong. Or is your audience the same jocks and bullies who were a terror in High School, and who are now irrelevant in the modern world, where the nerds are some of the richest and most powerful people around? Are you assuaging those aging has-beens and buffing up their egos by letting them look down on the same people who they once pantsed and tossed in the girls' locker room?

For Shatner's sake, Chuck, write some new jokes. The fact is there are just as many nerd-girls as there are nerd-boys, and that while they are awkward with each other, they also figure it out eventually and pair off, just like other humans. And when they do, they respect and esteem each other's interests, rather than regarding them as flaws. A guy like Leonard, or Howard, or Raj is very attractive to a lot of capable, intelligent, beautiful women. In fact, you're not just condescending to nerds - you're condescending to women too, in portraying them as more interested in muscles than brains, and in bad-boys than nerd-boys. Sure, those women exist...but what would the Big  Bang Gang be doing with any of them? Women are capable of valuing the important traits of smarts, reliability, loyalty, enthusiasm and humor over appearances. Why not portray some of them that way, instead of all the girlfriends of the gang seeing them as projects and fixer-uppers?

Nerds can be, and usually are, valued just as they are. This means that real women, and real men, are far more worthy than the characters you've limited yourself to portraying. Why not branch out a little? It'll still be funny, but you'll be really honoring nerds and nerd culture, instead of relying on cheap back-handed insults for laughs.

Yours etc;
SGT David V. Krieger
(U.S. Army, RET)
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