Two Dystopic Themes Running Through “The Big Bang Theory” Sitcom
First, a quick word about the title of this post. I am aware that it was not the best, most concise or most accurate description of what I am about to discuss. But it will have to do (for the time being) since the post is far more important than its title. So let us begin..
As many of you might know, “humorous” sitcoms with outrageous extrapolations of reality (other than sex, violence and grittiness) have been a staple of network TV since its inception. These shows can usually be identified by their tired laugh tracks (or forced live-audience laughs), almost exclusively indoor settings, supposedly “witty” dialogue and highly contrived situations. Shows on this genre were extremely popular from the beginning of broadcast TV to the early 2000s when they began to lose their prominent place in the public imagination to “reality” TV shows.
I can give you many reasons why sitcoms have always been worthless crap and why the successors aka “reality” shows are no better- but that is best discussed in another post. This particular post is about the accidental (and I suspect, unintentional) depictions of dystopic reality in one of the still successful holdouts of the “sitcom” age- The Big Bang Theory aka TBBT.
Sitcoms, by their very design, are not supposed to depict reality, or anything even approaching it, as there are the escapist entertainment of plebs in developed countries. Unfortunately, the real world has a tendency to bypass even the best attempts to stop it from making itself apparent. Sitcoms usually handle this by trying to sugarcoat some really obvious aspect of reality or just skip onto to the next zany contrived situation. Yet aspects of reality that are not specifically targeted for suppression often sneak into supposedly humorous and feel good crap.
Many premises of TBBT have been criticized for a few years now, as have the supposedly negative depictions of certain groups in it- Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. You can find more of such critical articles, as well as a few supportive ones, by using Google. Now, I largely agree with much of the criticism leveled at this show. However whatever little I have seen of this show (largely through channel surfing) also suggests that it, perhaps accidentally, depicts some pretty realistic and dystopic stuff.
One of the two major dystopic theme running through the general storyline of TBBT concerns how the characters (specifically ‘nerds’) treat each other. It seems that each of the supposedly high-IQ nerd characters are always just an opportunity away from betraying or murdering the others, even if the gains are very small or temporary. While this premise is used by the show to develop ever more convoluted and eyeball-grabbing storylines, it is far closer to the lives of the real-life counterparts of the characters than anybody would dare admit.
One of the main reason behind my contempt for most academics, scientists and pretty anyone who measures their self-worth by jumping artificial hoops is that such endeavors tend to concentrate the most pathetic, short-sighted, egoistic, backstabbing, backbiting and yet largely powerless pieces of shit I ever had the misfortune to encounter. Even worse, most STEMers are stupid and gullible enough to be enthusiastic tools for any sociopath who can flatter or tempt them with insultingly small rewards. STEMers love to denigrate, betray and abuse fellow STEMers- especially if they believe that such actions might win them some imaginary brownie points (and acceptance) by sociopaths.
Readers might have noticed that most episodes of that show center around somebody in the group trying to screw over, sabotage or berate, its other members. Such mindsets, attitudes and behaviors are far closer to reality than most people (including STEMers) would like to believe. Curiously, it also show the rather bizarre phenomena of STEMers hanging out and pretending to be friendly with the very people they want to denigrate, betray and abuse.
The second dystopic theme running through the show concerns the arrested development (personal and professional) of its main characters. If you have seen enough snippets of that show over the years, it is obvious that none of the main characters possess the ability to actually make some large or innovative contribution to their field of knowledge. This is so inspite of their supposed high-IQs, “ivy-league”/”top-15” educational pedigree or even access to enough resources.
Sadly, or not, their inability to achieve any of their personal intellectual milestones mirrors the real and accelerating decline in scientific productivity in developed countries- especially the USA. The real world drop in real innovation and progress started in the late 1970s- at almost the same time educational and research institutions started using proxies of ability such as metrics and pedigree to determine funding and promotion. The false scarcity of resources and reliance on proxy measurements of ability which characterize science and similar endeavors today favored their domination by pathetic, petty, aspy and uncreative but impressive sounding witty losers/tools.
Characters in that show also display signs of personal arrested development, which while often played for laughs does sadly (or not) mirror the very real trend of STEMers being increasingly obsessed with their “jobs”, “credentials”, “careers” and other imaginary bullshit. It is as if they (or even the non-STEMer characters on that show) are increasingly living in a make-believe world because they are terrified of what lies beyond the decaying prison of the status quo they so desperately want to hold on to. Perhaps, part of that show’s persistence and popularity are due to its dystopic undertones.
What do you think? Comments?