My parents love The Big Bang Theory. They watch reruns every night after dinner. When I’m home, I’ll sometimes watch it with them, and for the most part, it’s a fine show.
The parts that make me slightly annoyed however, are those that focus on how “nerdy” the main cast of guys are. It is fairly clear that the intended audience for the show is not those who relate to the male main characters, but more so those who relate to the character of Penny, the outsider looking into their “nerd” world.
Still from The Big Bang Theory, “The Middle-Earth Paradigm,” (Season 1, Episode 6, 2007). Image from [http://kissthemgoodbye.net/TheBigBangTheory/thumbnails.php?album=8]
The majority of “jokes” are simply just saying common names of “nerdy” franchises. There is little actual comedy for people who are fans of said franchises or those who would consider themselves nerds. A joke that comes to my mind was during an episode where Leonard and Sheldon have their apartment broken into and some of their belongings stolen. Sheldon begins listing their gaming consoles and some corresponding games stolen to the police officer, and the laugh tracks kicks in. It seems that the joke is “Wow, they play video games a lot.” Not much of a joke, especially for those who do enjoy video games. This blog post, I believe, nicely compiles some of the issues nerdy viewers have with the show.
What I find most interesting about the show, however, is how it reflects the changing way we view geek or nerd culture. It seems that now it is cool to be a nerd. Just a few years ago being called a nerd was one of the most common ways people would bully others, but now it seems people self-identify as nerds all the time, and proudly at that, but it also seems the qualifications for being a nerd have changed.
When you used to think of a nerd you would think of a person who was smart, most likely unattractive, played video or board games all the time, didn’t go outside, lived in parent’s basement etc. Now, anything makes you a nerd. Oh, you like a popular TV show? Nerd. Oh, you played a video game once? Nerd. You like superhero movies, some of the most highly viewed and highest grossing forms of entertainment? Nerd.
To me, a nerd is someone who enjoys a form of entertainment or activity deemed by most to be unattractive. It seems that the general population now sees a nerd as someone who shows a great amount of passion for a topic, whatever that topic may be. It’s almost like popular culture has, for lack of a better word, appropriated what it means to be a nerd.