After Jim Parsons declined a deal that would have paid him $50 million to stay on for two more seasons, Big Bang Theory — reasoning that it could not go on without its lead — will be shutting down in the spring after 12 seasons as the most popular sitcom on television since Friends. Both fans of the show and several cast members have expressed sorrow over the announcement.
I am not sad to see it go.
Big Bang Theory is a sitcom that celebrates geekdom from a creator, Chuck Lorre, who has no idea what it means to be a geek. It traffics in the same types of crass stereotypes that Lorre applied to boobs in Three and a Half Men and overweight people in Mike & Molly. It’s the same blueprint with a different target. While it is a show that ostensibly celebrates otherness, it actually denigrates geekery by ridiculing and belittling it. Instead of delivering the punchlines, on Big Bang Theory the geeks are the punchlines. They are characters designed to be palatable to the rest of America, to make them feel better about themselves, because it allows 18 million people a week to look down upon and laugh at geeks instead of laughing with them, prompted to do so by a laugh track that erupts every time a pop-culture reference is made.
Name-checking Firefly is not a punchline.
Not all nerds are socially awkward physicists with a savant-like knowledge of pop-culture. We are not all Urkels and lisping dorks. Not all nerds fetishize the blonde actress across the hall with the low-cut blouse. We are not a monolith. We are not all white (with a token non-white friend). We are all not what Chuck Lorre wants you to think we are, because by reducing us to three stereotypes popularized by the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds, it makes everyone else feel better about themselves because they didn’t get an advanced degree or because they can’t get a date, either.
Most of all, we are not lovable underdogs that the CBS multi-cam audience can dismiss as adorable and harmless. We can be lovely and adorable, but we can also be hugely problematic. We come in all shapes and sizes and colors and can be beautiful, kind, and lovely, but we can also be garbage people, who wield our geekdom as a weapon, as a means to alienate others, who use it to exploit and marginalize.
We are just as sh*tty and wonderful as everyone else, but Big Bang Theory never understood this because it is a dumb show about smart people, Two and a Half Men dressed in a Star Trek T-shirt.
I, for one, will not miss it when it goes.
Header Image Source: CBS