What will happen now that The Big Bang Theory is ending?
A shocking announcement came in August when actor Jim Parsons and the producers of The Big Bang Theory announced that the then-upcoming season, the twelfth of the series, would be the last.
Personally, this announcement thrilled me. Ever since this show aired, I have had a lot of issues with it. I badly wanted to like The Big Bang Theory. It just fell flat of everything it could have been.
Whenever someone would ask me why I didn’t like The Big Bang Theory, a million reasons would go through my head. Not wanting to get on my soapbox, I would simply shrug my shoulders and say “Eh, it’s just not that funny to me.” But I have good reasons for not finding the show funny.
The first is that The Big Bang Theory promised to be a show for nerds. However, they quickly revealed that the nerds are the jokes of the show. For example, they wouldn’t make a joke about Lord of the Rings – the fact that these characters enjoy Lord of the Rings is the joke. And it’s not a good one. I felt pretty betrayed by this attitude because it could have been an opportunity to show the great aspects of fandom culture. Instead, we got characters who were creepy and gatekeeping.
Another joke I found uncomfortable was the treatment of Sheldon. Most people realize he is almost definitely on the autism spectrum. For that, he is ridiculed and put down by people who claim to be his friends. (Are they even his friends? A genuine moment of caring between any of them is so rare.) Keep in mind, the way Sheldon is if we pick up on the writer’s heavy-handed implications that he is autistic is not something he can help. I’m not saying you can’t write autistic characters and make them funny, but The Big Bang Theory never managed to get that right. It was offensive.
They also tried to make the character of Howard funny, when really, he’s just a creep. Honestly, most would consider his behavior toward women harassment. If you’ve ever watched his scenes without the laugh track (particularly in the early seasons before Bernadette) they come across as just…weird. If he were a real person, he’d have a restraining order by now for sure. Preying on women the way he does shouldn’t be a joke, but it’s played off that way because we’re meant to feel sorry for the “poor nerd guy” instead of the women he genuinely disturbs.
Speaking of the Women
The sexism in this show drove me absolutely nuts. And there was so much potential! We had two women come along later, Bernadette and Amy, who were just as smart as their male counterparts. They are both scientists and successful in their fields. Bernadette even makes more money than Howard. Amy started off as Sheldon’s equal and ended up becoming a slobbering fangirl over him. They are treated pretty awfully by their romantic interests, and yet we’re meant to feel sorry for those very men. It’s totally bonkers and I hated it so much.
I could write a book on the sexist tropes surrounding Penny. The biggest thing here is the outdatedness of the writing of Penny. Penny and Leonard’s relationship might have been believable on a sitcom in the 1980s, but I absolutely do not buy it by today’s standards. He is condescending as hell. And the more I watched it, the more I realized that Leonard mostly sees Penny’s outward appearance. They have basically nothing in common. But he’s attracted to her, and she sees him as a guy she should give a chance to just because he’s not a jock. Ladies, you don’t owe a nerd a date just because he’s a nerd. Being rejected as a teen does not entitle them to a hot girl as an adult.
In Summary: It’s Not For Audiences Today
There are plenty of aspects of The Big Bang Theory that might have been okay by 80s and 90s standards. The treatment of Penny, Howard’s mother, making light of disabilities, making fun of people for alternative interests (being nerds), the “nagging” girlfriends, lack of POC and LGBTQA+ characters, and so much more make the Big Bang Theory out of place in today’s television. But it makes sense when you look at the fan base. Most people who watch it religiously are Baby Boomers. Young people are over this show, and they made it very apparent on Twitter the day they announced the end.
What I Hope For
With The Big Bang Theory leaving the air, I hope a more progressive show can take its place. A show that embraces diversity more and doesn’t rely on the writing styles that you can see on sitcoms like Cheers and King of Queens. Not that those shows are bad, but they are a product of their time and we need to move on from that.
I hope that it opens up the way for a show about nerds. A real show about nerds that embraces fandom lifestyle without making it the butt of the joke. A show that is funny without putting people down. Something that balances characters’ strengths and weaknesses without clearly valuing one more than the other. A show where we don’t lose a character to a contrived romantic plot line. And I know it can be done because we see it in today’s more popular shows like Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place. These shows perform well, and hopefully, a show with that sort of humor can take the place of The Big Bang Theory.
So, I’m saying good riddance to Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Penny. Maybe in another twenty years, we’ll see the reruns on Nick at Night or something.