Skip

"Wait... You're trans *and* gay? Come on, no one is *that* weird."
December 4, 2013 4:42 PM   Subscribe


 
This is a pretentious rage comic. Also, "normies"???

Almost beyond parody.
posted by lattiboy at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


I enjoyed the first season, sort of, and I'm coming from a fairly similar place to the writer. I stopped watching after I stopped enjoying it. Bits of it felt real and funny.

Incidentally, in the unaired pilot Sheldon (the most obviously meant to be Aspie character, if you haven't seen it) is not basically asexual, and the episode centers around him trying to make a donation to a sperm bank. That they literally neutered him grates on me.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2013


DOWN WITH THE NORMITES!
posted by Pecinpah at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2013


This is a pretentious rage comic. Also, "normies"???

It's an inversion of "aspie."
posted by BungaDunga at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was late to BBT because every time I watched it I had some similar reactions as the strip, but over the past few months I gave it another shot and really got into it.

I don't get the sense Sheldon is really supposed to be an introvert. He doesn't make friends because he is an extremely smug, self absorbed narcissist who doesn't think he really needs them. He is trying to use the chart to make friends with someone he dislikes so he can gain access to a computer for professional reasons.

I find the show somewhat true to my experiences with some of my very intelligent, nerdy friends in academia. No so much true to geek culture as a whole or introverts at all, and I don't know if it is supposed to be. Besides Sheldon, the characters are all desperate for social interaction.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:53 PM on December 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


One of the things I find most baffling about one of my best friends - a guy I co-produced theater with for 10 years, and someone with whom I've bonded over an amazing array of shared movie references - is a major, major fan of BBT. And I am not.

We watched an episode once, and I paid attention to what caught him funny, and I figured out why we diverge on this so much - he was just too happy that the show was making references to the same kinds of things he and I made references to all the time ("omigod! It's a show where they're talking about star trek toys!"), while I had the same problems I had with every sitcom - the piss-poor writing and two-dimensional characters ("all the star trek references in the world can't hide the fact that the writing sucks").

We have agreed to disagree, but it illustrated for me why some people do like the show. And - for the record, my friend also considers himself a geek; I think he just sees the show as something to geek out WITH.

I dunno.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:54 PM on December 4, 2013 [36 favorites]


A quick way to identify interesting people worth talking to at a party: Take a poll to discover who likes The Big Bang Theory. Avoid everyone who raises a hand.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 4:55 PM on December 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


Dittoing EC above---I always took BBT to be standard network sitcom, whose special schtick was "pretending saying the name of a thing you recognize is a joke."

The comic was a comic.
posted by PMdixon at 4:56 PM on December 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think this is a little misplaced. In my house, we indeed laugh out loud at Sheldon's chart. And nobody on my couch is laughing to be mean; we're laughing because YES WE TOO HAVE DONE THAT. And that makes it funny.

Also: "I bet meeting real gay introverts would blow these people's minds" WTF?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:56 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean sure BBT seems like a shitty show, from what little I've seen it, but uh... The comic trying to draw a parallel between the racism of the 50s and I guess attitudes about introverts in sitcoms? Or the same with LGBT persons?

Are you kidding?

You've got to be kidding.
posted by kavasa at 5:00 PM on December 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


Saying that someone who is talking about how they have a disability that prevents them from interacting socially "properly" by modern standards has produced a commentary on this that is not socially adept... well, seems to miss the point, a bit.

The world is definitely cruel to gays, people of color, transgendered people, those with physical disabilities. It's also cruel to the non-neurotypical. There's more than enough cruelty to go around!

BBT always reminded me of Glee. It's overbroad but some people who fit into that subculture really like it because it's familiar and gentle enough to the community that it's easy to take it as laughing with you rather than at you... and some people hate it because it's full of stereotypes and reduces people to cardboard cutouts and they have a totally opposite read on who it's laughing at. I think there's good in it and bad, even though it's not quite what I'm looking for in TV. The fact that there are so few depictions that aren't stereotypes on TV, though, is a valid point whether you find the show amusing or not.
posted by Sequence at 5:01 PM on December 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


Eh, I've watched a few episodes of Big Bang Theory and the phrase "nerd blackface" has occurred to me before. But I also have friends in academia who adore the show and say many of the jokes are a) finely tuned to their particular way of life and b) scientifically accurate. So, I mean, I don't know. I've retreated back to "I just don't like the show" as my standard opinion.
posted by chrominance at 5:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's interesting how easy it is for people to ignore problematic aspects of media they enjoy. For instance: the author of this comic talks about how they like IT Crowd. That's fine; I enjoy IT Crowd heartily myself. But over time (and with some help from folks here) I've come to recognize that it can at times be sexist in ways that range from mild but annoying to virulent and hateful. The artist of this comic didn't say it wasn't sexist, of course; but pointing it up as an example of an unproblematic sitcom doesn't really work, I don't think. (Although I will say I can't stand BBT, and find it a bit more sexist than IT Crowd, in a more disturbingly systematic way.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I'm shy, timid, and introverted (not synonyms), and I find the notion that introverts are oppressed by society, much less that they're oppressed comparably to classes of people who have been victims of genocide and chattel slavery, comically stupid. Conflating introversion with Asperger's with mental illness with "weirdness" doesn't do anyone who has any of those features any favors whatsoever, either.
posted by gingerest at 5:05 PM on December 4, 2013 [43 favorites]


"Nerd blackface"?

...

I, so, that term is in and of itself tremendously crappy and I would really encourage you not to use it.

And further, like, people should probably avoid comparing their particular difficulties to other, unrelated things in an attempt to grasp for legitimacy. If things are sucky for you, you can just describe how they're sucky for you without trying to ride the coat tails of other random stuff.
posted by kavasa at 5:06 PM on December 4, 2013 [36 favorites]


I'm not sure who this guy wants Sheldon to be, but I don't think it's the same thing the people who make the show want Sheldon to be...
posted by madajb at 5:11 PM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are industry standard decision trees in large-scale sales for sales conversation charts, which I guess are like this guy's friendship charts, but they are quite effective in getting from a very low conversion rate to a reasonable one. You're supposed to supply the common sense yourself. Certainly, most people's conception of decision trees contain only predicates and answers to take upon the predicates, but there are ways to integrate them wholly into graphical (graph theory) models of causation in a fairly satisfying way, and then you could deal with subtlety a bit better.

I've often thought that a factorization of that decision tree to include good amounts of probability would be a worthy cause to integrate into real-time systems for people who have a bad time with other people. For example, there exist surprisingly good experimental models of in-conversation closeness and negativity that have some predictive power.

I say closeness and negativity in honor of Cliff Nass and Byron Reeve's great work, The Media Equation, which says that these are two outstanding features of social interaction that we reproduce in our interactions with machines, and that therefore the interactions we have with machines and media are not unlike the interactions we have with people. However, whenever Cliff talked about this, I also distinctly recall he used to mention a significant thing that he worked on, which was to improve the user experience of using Clippy, in Microsoft Word.

To this end, I guess I can remember Nass by mentioning a thing he wrote, which will probably have some significance to this discussion. It is certainly not the case that you necessarily need to spend billions in AI to change the frame of the discussion.

Because good experimental models continuously improve over the state of the art, it may become the case that there may be a real-time judgment of conversation politeness and mood possible in these cases. That would be a much less fragile model than Sheldon's decision tree, in the same way that SHRDLU is more fragile than Google Voice. It would be very useful, as a whole.

Certainly, I can literally think out the steps right now for an Android app to judge at least the closeness and positivity of a conversation real-time with tone features. There exist good large datasets for this, the cool kids' semisupervised methods would work with it.

I've found it funny many times that I myself score as an extrovert in the Myers-Brigg chart. Quite funny because that means I've switched on each of the supposedly unchanging parts of that personality test, sometimes more than once. But it is the case that I satisfy the Jungian definition, of deriving mental energy from gregarious interaction, even though I take this character's contention seriously when it was probably not meant to be serious.
posted by curuinor at 5:15 PM on December 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's a show where people who aren't a member of some particular group adopt the exaggerated and imagined negative stereotypes of that group, in a way that makes jokes at their expense, for the entertainment primarily of privileged people outside that group, with the implicit effect of further marginalizing and stereotyping that group.

Or, more concretely:
Nerd joke: "What happened in here? It smells like someone spent the night in a tauntaun!"
Joke about nerds: "I like to watch Star Trek" "Oh, that's what women like to hear!" [thirty seconds of laugh track]
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [52 favorites]


I just want to also point out that the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Pasadena portrayed regularly on Big Bang Theory looks NOTHING like the one in Pasadena in real life.
posted by Bwithh at 5:18 PM on December 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


A friend once explained to me that Big Bang Theory is a TV show about grad students, while Community is a TV show that grad students watch.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:18 PM on December 4, 2013 [32 favorites]


The reason to hate The Big Bang Theory isn't because of nerd stereotypes or whatever, it's because Chuck Lorre is a fucking hack who makes bland, unambitious shit for bland, unambitious networks.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:19 PM on December 4, 2013 [52 favorites]


OMG, and how about the fact that no one on Happy Days had a Midwestern accent?
posted by slkinsey at 5:20 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Introvert is not the same as socially awkward or Aspie. If there were an actual introvert on the show he'd just walk through the room once in a while & say "hey guys" before grabbing his book and going back to his room. Introversion is fine but it doesn't really carry a laugh track.
posted by headnsouth at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


I have mixed reactions to BBT all the time. On the one hand, it's portrayals are problematic on SO MANY levels and in SO MANY ways. But on the other hand...they're portraying academics and geeks on mainstream television as people with lives, loves, dreams, and yes, relationships (and not always with other geeks and academics!).

Is it an ant farm with a sickening amount of product placement and gender grossness? Sure.

But dude, it's on mainstream television. I mean, it's a show we can even have these conversations about. I feel like that's something, even if it's not ideal.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


it's portrayals are problematic on SO MANY levels and in SO MANY ways.

Or, possibly, you just read into things WAY TOO MUCH.
posted by xmutex at 5:23 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting, succinct read, though I've only seen the show a couple times and could never get beyond the laugh track. And not to go all meta on this, but does anyone else get the feeling that media criticism has become the dominant vehicle for identity politics on the internet? Or at least on MetaFilter-- I kinda lost track of the rest of the internet in 2010. I don't think this is a necessarily bad phenomenon (if it exists), but I do feel some kinda way about it.
posted by The White Hat at 5:26 PM on December 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Which group has suffered just enough to be an acceptable metaphor then?
posted by munchingzombie at 5:28 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't get the rage about the Big Bang Theory. It generally bothers to do its homework for a show mostly concerned with fitting nerds into a standard extruded sitcom product, is there animosity because it's not a revolutionary overturn of previous sitcom ideas? The main driver of the show has been Jim Parsons, who has won a number of Emmy awards, for a performance that is amusing if you like that kind of thing.

I find comparison of the show to blackface or other racist portrayals in pop culture to be so absurd that it's offensive. Nerds / geeks are not an oppressed group.
posted by graymouser at 5:29 PM on December 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


does anyone else get the feeling that media criticism has become the dominant vehicle for identity politics on the internet?

Media permeates our daily lives and is very handy for a) observing and demonstrating how the underlying structures of power and privilege that are encoded into our society are specifically instantiated and b) having discussions about things that a high percentage of the people you're interacting with have experienced (i.e. seen, read, played) and thus having discussions which are going to be intelligible to a large number of people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


BBT is a great example of what happens when writers are not as smart ad the characters they write. It's grating.
posted by oddman at 5:33 PM on December 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


Or, possibly, you just read into things WAY TOO MUCH.

Fair point dude, but what you're not aware of is how often anything I say on the blue is immediately deleted for not being super duper uber uber sensitive and trigger warning enough. I apologize if sometimes I swing too far the other way. ;)

Back on topic, I guess like many things these kinds of reactions fall on a spectrum. Obviously mine seems silly and way-too-butthurt to you, and the comic author's seems silly and way-too-butthurt to me. I still think that even having a show on mainstream TV, that makes mad money and gets zillions of eyeballs, that folks can even have these conversations about is an incrementally good thing.
posted by trackofalljades at 5:34 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


REAL GAY INTROVERTS IN YOUR AREA WANT TO AVOID YOU CLICK HERE
posted by pleurodirous at 5:35 PM on December 4, 2013 [56 favorites]


Huh. I liked this because, even though I'm not an introvert (or at least not most of the time, for whatever that means) this did a nice job of explaining why BBT is such a bad show.

Well, I should qualify that. I hate BBT. For much of these same reasons. I find it literally unwatchable. I have friends who love it, and I don't understand, but vive le difference, I guess.

As I've said a thousand times before in different venues, Community is a show by nerds for nerds. Big Bang Theory is a show about nerds, by and for everyone else.

Which isn't as bad as blackface by a long shot, but comes from the same foundations for humor: group X pretending to be group Y for humor (even somewhat lovingly as I know BBT aspires to) but without the experience that allows group Y to actually feel included or represented by the portrayal. It is reductive, for the sake of humor. And maybe that's fine - nerds aren't particularly oppressed outside of middle school and it's not like we don't have great shows that are targeted towards our interests.

But if I had aspergers, well let me couch this in saying that not having aspergers I don't really know what I would like or want in that circumstance, but I imagine I'd feel better represented by Abed than by Sheldon.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:38 PM on December 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's a show where people who aren't a member of some particular group adopt the exaggerated and imagined negative stereotypes of that group, in a way that makes jokes at their expense, for the entertainment primarily of privileged people outside that group, with the implicit effect of further marginalizing and stereotyping that group.

this has been the formula for any number of successful sitcoms for decades, and likely goes back much further than the invention of television.

Bottom line (for me anyway) -- the truly good shows are more ambitious than this. If they're laughing at anybody, it's assholes, but for the most part they get us laughing at ourselves.
posted by philip-random at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It has a laugh track?

...

Is it an ironic laugh track?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:39 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just can't watch a three-camera sitcom anymore. It feels as gratingly false as silent movie melodrama acting.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:40 PM on December 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Being introverted on any continuum (for most of the time, or what have you) does not equal "cannot be in a room with more than five people." That's called being shy, or suffering from social anxiety. Exercise, good food and possibly medications are what you need for that, if it's that stressful. Introversion is also vastly different than an autism spectrum disorder too, already. Yeesh. I think people are starting to call themselves introverted in order to sound unique-ey.
posted by raysmj at 5:43 PM on December 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


I've only seen part of one episode, but in that episode they were at a DMV where the clerk was a 'sassy' black woman and every sentence that tumbled out of any of the characters' mouths was followed by ten seconds of laugh track as if being in a DMV were such an inherently funny situation as to turn any mundane phrase into a masterpiece joke. I didn't watch long enough to witness the airline food bit that would inevitably follow.
posted by Pyry at 5:46 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: "a) observing and demonstrating how the underlying structures of power and privilege that are encoded into our society are specifically instantiated and b) having discussions about things that a high percentage of the people you're interacting with have experienced (i.e. seen, read, played) and thus having discussions which are going to be intelligible to a large number of people."

I can definitely see the utility there, PG. Media is certainly handy for its permeance and accessibility. I remember when I was in fifth grade I bought a copy of The Simpsons and Philosophy and learned a great deal about Nietzsche. Maybe I distrust how well these instantiations reflect the "real world." Like, does criticism that endeavors to say something about society only successfully characterize hollywood writers and the network execs who control them? In what ways does the BBT reflect society, and in what ways is that reflection distorted by the market research that guides its creation? If such a distortion exists, how does that change our interpretation of criticism that attempts to make more general arguments and observations?
posted by The White Hat at 5:47 PM on December 4, 2013


Introversion, shyness, social anxiety, Aspergers - they are all different things.

That clip does look like it would be a good starting point for an English lesson.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Introversion is also vastly different than an autism spectrum disorder too, already. Yeesh. I think people are starting to call themselves introverted in order to sound unique-ey.

We've had this conversation a few times on here, over the years, and I've argued previously that the tendency to view introversion as a personality type rather than a personality trait is both reductive and counter-productive. However, it does seem to be where we're at, and I don't think it's about people wanting to "sound unique", so much as people experiencing genuine difficulties and looking to self-identify with a label that does not carry a huge weight of negative social and medical baggage.

I think the problem with "introversion" in this context is that it is still hitched to a bunch of social stereotypes and psychological definitions that, while not negative per se, cause a lot of reductive thinking about the kinds of social decisions, preferences and anxieties we experience. Wanting a label isn't a bad thing, but I think this is a problematic label.
posted by howfar at 5:53 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or to take another example for comparison, and even a 3-camera sit-com: How I Met Your Mother.

Now, HIMYM is far from perfect (and has a lot of sexism issues in the character of Barney, very limited representation of POC, etc.) but it makes assumptions that are very welcome, particularly for a show in such an out-dated format on the network that skews towards the oldest demographic in general. Basically, the main characters are allowed to be very, very weird in specific and consistent ways and while most of the show's humor comes from that, it doesn't come with the separation of laughing at "the other," but rather in recognizing those same types of weird peccadillos in ourselves.

(I should note here that some people in this thread have said that they get the same feeling from BBT. I don't, at all, but I'm glad somebody does.)

In one episode, there's a small story with Marshall (the lawyer) discovering that his firm's graphics department will make whatever charts he wants for him, and going off the deep end making the geekiest charts and graphs he can. The gang ends up having an intervention to get him to stop it with the graphs already, but the joke is that, well, of course having a willing graphics department and making tons of ridiculous charts and graphs would be fun!

(The show also hasn't been great about including gay characters, but it definitely doesn't take shots at them either. Lily is heavily implied to be bisexual - but in a loving and monogamous relationship with Marshall - and there was that one episode where Ted was trying to work up the courage to hit on the girl at the bar who turns out to be a friend of his ex, and when he finally starts to walk over there his ex makes the move on her, and we flash forward to the two women's future family together in a tear-jerkingly beautiful moment.)

But then, HIMYM is extremely ambition by 3-camera standards. If BBT can say the same then I haven't seen the evidence, but would like to know where to look.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:58 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Introversion, shyness, social anxiety, Aspergers - they are all different things.

Which of these are personal failings that we're allowed to make fun of? I think I need a flowchart or something to help me distinguish between weirdos I can mock at my discretion and people with legitimate disorders.
posted by Pyry at 5:59 PM on December 4, 2013


Okay, I'll try again: while watching episodes of BBT, it seemed as though most of the characters were a) played by people who were not nerds, b) playing caricatures of nerds c) in ways that seem to ridicule the concept of nerds and nerd culture. Add to that the assumption in some circles that d) if you are a nerd, you should like the show because it's "your people" on the screen.

I'm absolutely not trying to say Big Bang Theory is the same as centuries of institutionalized racism. If there's another term for what I describe above that's not loaded with additional meaning, I'm happy to use it, I just didn't know of any that fit better. Apologies.
posted by chrominance at 6:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


(Note: the above is sarcasm. Who cares if people misidentify with disorders? Nobody gets to pick their personality, and it seems utterly bizarre to say that it's ok to mock people for being mildly [trait], but not if they're so [trait] that it rises to the level of a 'legitimate' disorder)
posted by Pyry at 6:03 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


As other have alluded to, the conflation of introversion, autism-spectrum symptoms, and social anxiety disorder (which is not introversion! But definitively common among so-called introverts) is as misguided here as it is on the sitcom. You can be an introvert who doesn't mind being among people or enjoy being among people but have bouts of extreme social anxiety.
posted by mikeh at 6:06 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's nerd blackface and it's ugly (not as ugly as regular blackface.)
posted by angerbot at 6:09 PM on December 4, 2013


OH MY GOD STOP CALLING IT BLACKFACE IT IS NOT NEARLY THE SAME THING
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2013 [62 favorites]


Introversion/extroversion was explained to me thus (by a former HR person who administered the Myers-Briggs test): the difference lies only in how you process information.

Introverts think things through to reach a conclusion.
Extroverts talk things through to reach a conclusion.

That's it. The rest of the terms that get lumped under "introversion" are entirely separate. One can be an extrovert--something who processes information by talking--and still be painfully shy. And vice versa, obviously.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:11 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The way it was explained to me:

Introverts reenergize best in solitude.
Extroverts reenergize best with company.

This was someone administering a Myers-Brigg test. I'm an "I" according to that test.
posted by MoxieProxy at 6:14 PM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


while Community is a TV show that grad students watch.
Oh man, I love Community. Abed's character can sometimes seem a bit too "strong" re: Asperger stereotypes, but moments like this (tearjerker warning) reinforce that he's meant to be a sympathetic character with a unique perspective that's neither "creepy weird" nor "cute weird" at heart; just outside most of the audience's everyday experience.
posted by byanyothername at 6:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eh, I've watched a few episodes of Big Bang Theory and the phrase "nerd blackface" has occurred to me before. But I also have friends in academia who adore the show and say many of the jokes are a) finely tuned to their particular way of life and b) scientifically accurate.

That's funny, because my clearest memories of the 3-odd episodes of the show are ones where I thought to myself, there's no way that would happen. Laser spectroscopy in a brightly lit room, for heaven's sake!

I don't know. I'm a scientist and have 'nerdy interests' (and maybe also because I'm a bit awkward?), people seem to delight in recommending it to me. The show doesn't offend me, but I find it mildly irritating.

I went to an early college program in lieu of most of high school. I came of age surrounded by friends who were highly intelligent, had offbeat interests, were frequently neuroatypical (I associated mainly with the kids who, within the context of an early college program, could have been reasonably classified as the 'sociable nerds' subgroup. And this was really the first time in my life that I'd ever really 'belonged' to a large-ish group of friends, where I hadn't been a weird outlier kid.) One afternoon, three of my friends and I tried to work out a comprehensive 'life-suckiness equation' based on as many factors as we could identify and isolate (I am particularly proud of the fact that we included 'parental interest/involvement in life' and made it parabolic.) Another time, a larger group of us spent 2 hours mapping various pop-culture Five Man Bands onto the Spice Girls.

In theory, I should love The Big Bang Theory. On paper, it is exactly the kind of show that I should embrace. But every time I've tried to watch it, there's nothing there. None of the characters rise to being more than the sum of their quirks. The 'jokes' are all either mere reference (is there any other show on television, save Family Guy, that is a greater offender for reference-as-joke than TBBT?) or cartoonishly broad 'relationship humor' that was already old and tired 30 years ago. There's nothing: no humanity, nothing truly funny, no insight.
posted by kagredon at 6:21 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I recall reading an interview or something from the guy who plays Sheldon. According to him, the writers and producers for the show are very emphatic that Sheldon is not supposed to have Asperger's, but he plays the character as having Asperger's because they are very obviously writing him as having it. He also commented to the effect that everybody in the show is in really good shape and has only gotten buffer as the show goes on, which he finds incredibly unrealistic and ridiculous.
posted by kafziel at 6:27 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


the conflation of introversion, autism-spectrum symptoms, and social anxiety disorder (which is not introversion! But definitively common among so-called introverts) is as misguided here as it is on the sitcom.

I really don't know that the sitcom actually does this though. I have not thought about these issues very much though because I was marathoning through it just for laughs without too much time for introspection so if someone has a different perspective I would be interested.

You have Leonard who is socially awkward, but it is not implied he is introverted or suffers serious social anxiety. You have Raj who is extroverted and can be very smooth but does suffer a serious form of social anxiety that prevents this from coming out. You have Howard who is socially awkward but extroverted and does not suffer serious social anxiety.

On reflection, there is a case for Sheldon's narcissistic self-absorption being a form of introversion (but calling introversion a form of self absorption feels like a negative and inaccurate judgement to me) but his real social problem is an extreme form of OCD that makes being friends with him a tremendous chore. As long as they can follow the rules, he values them.

Anyway, I think there is a lot of distinctions in the reasons the characters have social issues and that is a big part of what makes them unique and memorable people instead of just nerdy stereotypes. The characterization in The I.T. Crowd isn't close to as deep as this. Community is a much better comparison. I watched all of Community before Big Bang Theory and love it, but I like BBT better. Matter of taste though.

The other side of the coin with the show is that, if you take it as an attempt to represent nerds as a group, it does as much massaging of the ego as it does mocking. They are all essentially geniuses, which believe me is not true of most nerds. People who are not nerds or highly educated are portrayed as dumb as a box of rocks and intellectually incurious. They are mocked for liking football instead of Star Trek. Penny is the glue that holds the humor of the show together for me because she crosses the divide and despite being "less intelligent" she consistently shows the most wit.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:31 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Community's portrayal of Abed was great in earlier seasons but by season 3 had become such a blatant "Dan Harmon pity party" that he's unfortunately become one of my least favorite sitcom characters. Here's hoping season five sucks less somehow.

The IT Crowd does a good job of laughing at nerds from a nerd's perspective, but holy shit can it be sexist and transphobic. The episode with the transgendered woman especially was just goddamn appalling, and did the "laughing at a group by somebody outside of that group" that this author accuses BBT of.

In conclusion the best show about nerds is still Archer.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:33 PM on December 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Archer is awesome, yes.

I've had people emphatically tell me that I "really need to see" Big Bang Theory, but I'm not interested. Imo, television is about escapism. I want to watch people who are totally different from me, not the same.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2013


There is no such thing as "nerd culture." There are nerdy cultures. What people call nerd culture is a group of people with an overlapping set of consumed media. If one chooses to center one's self identity in the media one consumes, have fun with that, I guess, but no, you cannot compare any media representation of such to blackface, except in the form of "not at all like blackface."

I am such a nerd I'm not even going to rattle off my bonafides.

posted by PMdixon at 6:46 PM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


OH MY GOD STOP CALLING IT BLACKFACE IT IS NOT NEARLY THE SAME THING

When someone dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group, what else would you call it?

Analogy is not about equivalence. It is about similarity. "This thing is kind of like that thing; that thing is shitty, this thing is kind of shitty too." Kind of, not equally.

What is so hard to understand about that?

There is no such thing as "nerd culture." There are nerdy cultures. What people call nerd culture is a group of people with an overlapping set of consumed media. If one chooses to center one's self identity in the media one consumes, have fun with that, I guess, but no, you cannot compare any media representation of such to blackface, except in the form of "not at all like blackface."

Did you RTFA? It's not at all about "nerd culture."
posted by Sys Rq at 6:49 PM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


chrominance: " If there's another term for what I describe above that's not loaded with additional meaning"

"sitcom"

kagredon: "In theory, I should love The Big Bang Theory. On paper, it is exactly the kind of show that I should embrace."

Do you like other formulaic sitcoms?

I mean, I like Big Bang Theory. But the reason I like it is that it's a solid, workmanlike, unchallenging, traditional, formulaic sitcom, which is a sort of show that I like to watch to wind down when I'm tired. I appreciate great TV dramas and challenging TV comedies, but on a weeknight I want to watch Big Bang Theory and Nashville, where all the beats are exactly where I expect them to be and it's all a little silly and I don't have to think very hard.

I think a lot of people who complain about Big Bang Theory are actually complaining that someone told them it was "good" and they thought it meant challenging, interesting, innovative, relevant television ... not a well-produced, workmanlike sitcom that does exactly what it's supposed to do. And I'm not saying that to knock it, because producing a solid, workmanlike sitcom is HARD. It's not really meant to be innovative and challenging; it's meant to follow firmly in the footsteps of sitcoms that have come before, for 40 years, and provide some light, half-mindless entertainment that makes people feel good. You could tune in for the first time this week and basically pick up where the story is if you've seen Happy Days or That 70s Show or Sabrina the Teenaged Witch or any sitcom featuring teenagers or young adults in the last 40 years. That's the point!

People's TV expectations have gotten so high with all the great stuff that's on TV lately; a lot of folks who only came back to TV when the quality got awesome go into things like Big Bang Theory and Revenge and Gossip Girl and they're like, "THIS IS BRAINLESS!" Well of course it's brainless! It's TELEVISION. But it's well-produced, high-quality brainlessness! It's like going to a Star Trek (reboot) movie and complaining it's not Gravity. They're both space movies, but they scratch entirely different entertainment itches. Stop trying to scratch your Community itch with Big Bang Theory! WRONG ITCH.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


but moments like this yt (tearjerker warning)

Totally off topic, but I've never seen that extended version of the clip before. Someone hand me a tissue.
posted by asnider at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


When someone dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group, what else would you call it?

Often times, the latest shitty SNL skit. Or John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Drag, occasionally. &c. &c. This is why people talk about the "power" aspect of prejudice.

Did you RTFA? It's not at all about "nerd culture."

I did RTFA. I found it disjointed (how did the "trans and gay" bit relate to the rest of it, eg?) and difficult to relate to, I think ironically because it took some if-not-universal-then-not-uncommon feelings (alienation, that others really want to believe you're like them in fundamental ways that you're not) and... claimed ownership of them? I dunno. It didn't speak to me.

"Nerd culture" is a quote from upthread.
posted by PMdixon at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Analogy is not about equivalence. It is about similarity. "This thing is kind of like that thing; that thing is shitty, this thing is kind of shitty too." Kind of, not equally.

The part where the similarity collapses is in regards to the thing the thing is being done to.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:59 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why people talk about the "power" aspect of prejudice.

If you're suggesting there's no prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical, and that there's no power imbalance there, then I sincerely hope your ignorance isn't too blissful.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:03 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're suggesting there's no prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical, and that there's no power imbalance, then I sincerely hope your ignorance isn't too blissful.

One: I'll thank you not to make assumptions about my wiring upstairs.

Two: If folks want to claim Sheldon is intended as an Asperger's caricature, that's their business, but I never got that read, and the show's creator claims he's not. I've known plenty of people that off-putting and with similar behaviors who were utterly neurotypical.

Three: There's a lot of shifting going on in this conversation about whether BBT is a grotesque caricature of "nerds" in general, "introverts", or folks with Asperger's. I was responding to the top-most, and apologize if I came across otherwise. Yes, I agree, a show specifically about caricatures of folks with Asperger's, or bipolar, or major depressive disorder, etc, could be usefully compared to blackface. This is why, as far as I know, there's no particular pushback against the term "yellowface." I do not agree that BBT is that show.
posted by PMdixon at 7:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


When someone dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group, what else would you call it?

NERDS ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED CLASS
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


I cannot believe I'm defending Big Bang Theory on the Internet. Can someone be wrong about a show I think is good, please?
posted by PMdixon at 7:17 PM on December 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Game of Thrones is uhhh...bad?
posted by Drinky Die at 7:22 PM on December 4, 2013


When someone dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group, what else would you call it?

NERDS ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED CLASS


People with mental disabilities and/or autism, on the other hand, are. And as much as Chuck Lorre pretends that it's not the case, the show goes out of its way to play Sheldon's autism as a punchline.
posted by kafziel at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


C'mon folks. Can we at least all agree that Ostentatiously Jewish Guy is a classic Nice Guy and the show's portrayal of such as funny instead of creepy is really less than okay?
posted by PMdixon at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sure, I'll add that reason to the pile.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:30 PM on December 4, 2013


My super-nerdy (self-identifying) math friends turned me onto bbt and still have the occasional party if there's a marathon or something. They love it: that smarts are praised and ignorance frowned on generally. But I'll let them know there are some really serious frowny-faced people with better taste who are offended on their behalf. It should cheer them from the oppression and marginalization that they don't seem to have a clue that they are experiencing.

I like the show fine. Like someone said above, it's a sitcom. And a pretty well done one.
posted by umberto at 7:31 PM on December 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I read him as both funny and creepy. Much more towards the creepy side in the earlier seasons.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:31 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've known plenty of people that off-putting and with similar behaviors who were utterly neurotypical.

Wait -- You have access to your acquaintances' medical records?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:33 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is a show on television that really covers an introverted character because introversion doesn't play well with the camera. TV shows, especially sitcoms, are about aggregates of people interacting, which is where the humor comes from. Introverts are at our best in small groups of close friends or alone, neither of which play well to a camera. Even self-proclaimed TV Introverts seek out other people to get feedback from because that's how you move the drama along on TV; showing absence and a need for alone time simply doesn't work with the format.

Similarly, most social dysfunctions, etc.. don't play well for the camera if they're naturalistic because they are often inherently frustrating, and part of the push/pull of television is giving solvable problems within a frame so people are entertained. All too often someone with a social or mental dysfunction becomes the villain simply because it's easier than playing with the true ambiguity of people who are good people but don't fit the usual narratives.

For me, I always liked Sheldon's friendship chart because I had used similar things in trying to explain some social interactions with certain clients - not explicitly, but for me to lay out the steps mentally so that I could subsequently coach them through a series of steps for accomplishing a complicated goal. Also, I really like those kinds of charts; I don't know why, they just appeal to me.

Personally, I tried to watch BBT theory because some of the jokes really appealed to me, but I'm over trying to watch a show in which there literally not only isn't a me (geeky, girly woman) but that actively hinges other (not funny) jokes on the fact that there could never be a me. It's like the commercials/sitcoms which present a geeky or alternative/goth guy as "no girl would want this," and I'm like, "Someone who would understand my doll collections and piles of trade paperbacks? He wears makeup? SIGN ME UP."

I actually disliked the IT Crowd for the same reason. Not only no me, but active jokes made about how I couldn't exist. I'm still vaguely annoyed by the fact Bones in an early season made this EXACT SAME JOKE (girls aren't geeky / girls dislike geeks / (male) geeks can't date women) when there was a girl geek standing in front of him (who is subsequently shown to have been in romantic-style relationships with two of the three male geeks).

I think the lazy gender-stereotyping is fairly typical of the laziness of BBT in other areas - everything aligns along a single narrative where alternatives simply aren't available as an option, and that lack-of-option is integral to the joke working most of the time.

I don't think that invalidates the other times when the jokes aren't at someone's expense, or which can contain more nuance than might be initially expected because while the show's narrative is "this is the wrong way to do things," someone's personal experience might be "this worked for me; OMG MY PEOPLE". Part of not being an option in the dominant narratives is twisting existing narratives to fit oneself into them, even if no one will ever acknowledge both Sherlock and Merlin are actually women. Merlin was even wearing a dress the whole time, so you can't pretend you don't realize it. 8D
posted by Deoridhe at 7:35 PM on December 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


The treatment of women and minorities on the show always skeeved me out more than the treatment of nerds.

My coworkers are all smart, analytical women but never really considered a career in STEM and stay away from anything but the basics of nerd culture. They are definitely not pop culture nerds. About a month or two into the job they were talking about the big bang theory and I realized that they were the target audience.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:39 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wince whenever I see someone defining themselves as an 'introvert' because it's almost always followed by hating on people who project social confidence.

As a person who needs to "recharge" by being alone with my own thoughts, and who has also worked damn hard to overcome natural shyness, be interested in other people, and consciously made myself vulnerable by being "outgoing", being stereotyped as insensitive, shallow, and privileged is insulting.

It makes me want to put on my best Big Voice and cheerily bellow:
"Come here introvert! Stop cringing! I said - stop cringing at me!"

I would almost never do that, of course.
posted by Catch at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Errrrr, 2 people I have first hand personal knowledge of had a gender of male on the birth certificate, changed gender and are both involved with birth certificate women.

Scott -> Sheryl
Pat -> Patricia
posted by rough ashlar at 7:46 PM on December 4, 2013


When someone dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group, what else would you call it?

This analogy assumes that "nerd culture" is coherent or recognizable enough to be a group that can be targeted by a dominant majority. I don't know that I agree with that, and I think that's part of what PMdixon was objecting to in the comment about there being no "nerd culture". The Big Bang Theory in particular temporally coincides with an explosion of interest in genre film/tv/comics/etc., but I hesitate to say that interest in those things ever represented a monolithic or oppressible group, which makes blackface a terrible analogy. Star Wars is still one of the highest-grossing films of all time, even just counting its first run.

I think a lot of people who complain about Big Bang Theory are actually complaining that someone told them it was "good" and they thought it meant challenging, interesting, innovative, relevant television ... not a well-produced, workmanlike sitcom that does exactly what it's supposed to do.

Respectfully, I don't think this is fair, especially since I (attempted to) delineate in my comment why I think the show is lacking. It's not true that the only possible reason for disliking The Big Bang Theory is being a snob, no more than the only possible reason for disliking Community is being a philistine.

But you make a very good point about formula. I don't think it's an issue of disliking versus liking formula--honestly, my favorite show on TV right now, the one I look forward to catching up on during Sunday afternoons when I'm too tired to do anything intelligent or social, is Arrow, which appears to have been made by people who said "What if we took everything awesomely over-the-top about both superhero comics and prime-time soaps about backstabbing rich pretty people and just shoved all of that into one show," and it is the TV equivalent of a giant breakfast plate at your favorite diner: its very existence is kind of silly and it's not the first thing I'd point to if I was hauled in front of the Q Court and made to answer for humanity's relevance, but it succeeds at what it sets out to do, and it's uniquely satisfying in a way that cannot be filled by something 'better'.

(Also, it's probably best consumed slightly drunk.)

I don't expect or want every show to be Mad Men. I don't expect or want every sitcom to be Arrested Development. But for me, The Big Bang Theory falls into some kind of uncanny valley, like if you fed every commercially successful television sitcom into some sort of computer, and it spat out all of the right elements, combined in ideal ratio: this and this and this set of character tics, this and this and this set of comic misunderstandings, calculated perfectly to hit each act break.

Humor requires recognition; some element of the show has to vibrate in tune with something in your mind or your heart. It's why sitcom traditions got codified in the first place: work and marriage and family--most of us carry around a bunch of resonant frequencies in those ranges, and so a show that targets that part of the spectrum will hit. Some target a narrower range with greater intensity, some go broader and shallower, and this metaphor is already starting to get away from me. But, IMO, The Big Bang Theory lacks that essential element of recognition (honestly, this is why I have never been more than lukewarm on the argument that Sheldon's portrayal is problematic--because while I understand the objection that he's a weird slapdash collection of ASD traits played very shallowly, no one else on the show acts anything remotely like any human being I've ever met, so I feel like that's more symptomatic of the show's total approach than anything else.) YMMV, of course.
posted by kagredon at 8:27 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


This analogy assumes that "nerd culture" is coherent or recognizable enough to be a group that can be targeted by a dominant majority.

I think talking about "nerd culture" is a red herring. "Nerds" as a class certainly existed for quite a long time. Or what was "Revenge of the Nerds" mocking?
posted by Justinian at 8:33 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Nerds" as a class certainly existed for quite a long time. Or what was "Revenge of the Nerds" mocking?

College movies? Are you really saying Revenge of the Nerds or the college comedies it was spoofing resembled real life in any but the most superficial ways?
posted by kagredon at 8:47 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread is really depressing me, in the way that a lot of the typical people i see around on here regularly are replying to it. I don't really know how to reply to this without getting "too meta" and being asked to go make a metatalk or something, but i really don't want to bother with some 300 comment shitmine thread that will result over there, and there's some really tiresome shit here that should be nipped in the bud anyways.

First of all, "nerd blackface" in relation to this show is something regularly said by the crappiest people on reddit. Like, the ones who go to the next post down and spam shit like "equal rights equal lefts lol!" and "black people are only 10% of a population in this city, but commit like 55% of the crime, it's not racism if it's statistics! stereotypes are based on fact!" sort of garbage.

It's tone deaf, tasteless, missing the point, outright offensive, pick one or any number of others.

The entire premise of that train of thought is flawed.

It goes something like "Hey, that isn't fair. I was bullied as a kid for being a "nerd", and so were gay kids! therefor since they're regularly recognized as an oppressed class so am i! this is outrageous and offensive and should be taken seriously just like those things!"

It depends on how familiar you are with that train of thought on the internet, and how much time you've spent on various other sites or sections of reddit like circlebroke or shitredditsays, but this is a VERY commonly held belief dogma-ey sort of thing.

A lot of people see it as white nerdy dudes desperate to get all the support and "so brave for doing this" and "good for you!" and general pats on the back, defense, and just attention they see being "unfairly" given to marginalized people who are shit on. Seriously, if you haven't seen this bizarre combo of a persecution complex and some weird wet dream fantasy of being actually oppressed so they can get attention that a lot of nerdy white dudes have, go looking, it's out there.

So yea, that's what i think of when i see the phrase "nerd blackface" or a lot of the hate directed at this show.

I'll also close this out by noting that i'm a super nerdy guy, diagnosed with aspergers in late elementary school who is erm... weird. I'm still super offended by this whole nerdy dude persecution complex thing and all this "nerd blackface" shit.

I was mostly with what this comic was saying until it made that comparison. I absolutely agree with what was said above. Shut up with trying to make some kind of needless analogy that puts something on the level of, associates it with, or generally tries to sneak through the door/ride on the coat tails of something else generally recognized as awful and bad. I get the urge, but like.. god dammit guys.

The follow up really falls off the rails and "takes it to the hoop" with those crappy comparisons/associations/analogies.

I mean i agree with some of the words they're saying there, but using it as a comparison to "nerds and non neurotypical people being misrepresented" is offensive as hell and they need to fuck off with that.
posted by emptythought at 8:50 PM on December 4, 2013 [29 favorites]


I think BBT went into a valley and came out the other side. Once Howard got married and Sheldon became friends with Amy the focus shifted, things balanced out. Penny became far less of a caricature once she had Bernadette and Amy at her side (and yes, sometimes Raj). The show became much more about the pitfalls of relationships than about jokes at/about nerds.

And speaking of relationships, anyone notice that the parents of the group are often horrifying. Raj's are controlling, Leonard's saw him as a lab monkey, Sheldon's dad was an abusive drunk and his mother a religious fanatic, Howard's father abandoned him and his mother is a grotesque hulk, Bernie's dad is no prize. We have yet to meet Amy's parents (just one glimpse of her mother) but I suspect dysfunction will abound. Penny's dad, played by Keith Carradine, seems to be the only decent one of the lot.

I would never accuse this show of being on the level of TV dramas or Community but it does seem there is more thought going in to it than most of the audience is picking up on.
posted by Ber at 9:03 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


If someone said "This Lego piece looks like the Empire State Building", they are not trying to tell you about how tall it is. Maybe you think the Empire State Building should just be off the table for shape comparisons, OK, fine, but no one is using it as a height comparison.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:07 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


These comments already addressed this kind of "analogizing" better than I can.

Just because you think something is, in one aspect, similar to something else doesn't make it a good choice for comparison.
posted by kagredon at 9:13 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember when BBT was first on thinking, "hey, a show about funny, smart, geeky people! Like me and my friends!" and watched it enthusiastically. And somewhere along the line (I think maybe around when Amy showed up) I realized that it wasn't a show about funny nerds, it was a show about laughing at funny nerds. Now, it may have been that way the whole time and I just didn't notice, but there was definitely a point where all the jokes were a little too everything... too on-the-nose, too obvious, too geek-shaming, too sexist, too lazy.
And I stopped watching. Which kind of makes me sad and angry because I came to care about those characters, and I feel like my attention and goodwill was squandered for hack-y jokes and an overzealous laugh track.
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:14 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the "nerd blackface" analogy does disservice to otherwise good points, and TFA does seem to acknowledge this ("if we wanna get REALLY ugly here").

I've seen snippets of Big Bang Theory a few times, some have seemed benign and from other clips I can see how some can take offense. I'm very much the nerd type, a professor in a nerd field. Some of my students think the show is hilarious and enjoy it.

Overall I ended up agreeing more with the comic (though some of the side-swipes and its insular online Asperger's culture terminology were off-putting) than many of the comments here. No, of course, nerds are not a uniform oppressed cultural class, and do not strictly overlap with introverts, people on the autism spectrum, etc. But the show apparently does conflate these groups. The main problem seems to be is the context: that the characters' social lives are ultimately what matters and that there's something pathetic about their interests. Either they realize this and are desperate not to be who they are, or they don't realize it and are pathetic for their cluelessness.

Again there's this strange backlash to the newly trendy introvert label, and the strange inflexibility in imagining different inner lives. Just today I was with, all together, the other 4 professors in my nerdy field at my university, for the first time together all semester (one is a dean, and very busy). I like them all individually, but after 5 minutes or so I was thinking, why can't I be alone in my office?

Maybe I'm mis-reading Catch for example, who writes, "As a person who needs to "recharge" by being alone with my own thoughts, and who has also worked damn hard to overcome natural shyness, be interested in other people, and consciously made myself vulnerable by being "outgoing", being stereotyped as insensitive, shallow, and privileged is insulting." But I've always found it incomprehensible when people have insisted I should get more involved or that I'm shy (and not introverted). If you work hard to become more involved with others, good on you, but I don't get much out of that. What would I get out of changing myself to be more outgoing?

Also strange in comments above (at the risk of derailing into other interminable internet arguments) is the need for Stereotypical Nice Guy to have Creepiness played up. These people are already not real, projected stereotypes, psychological tics extracted from the whole person environments that made sense of them, but there's a felt need for them to complete the stereotype somehow.
posted by Schmucko at 9:21 PM on December 4, 2013


I remember arriving at college thinking I was a "nerd" because I ran a BBS and knew how to program and wasn't into sports etc. As soon as I arrived I realized that I was not. I had decent social skills; I did not fixate on technology-as-lifestyle; I did not air-type insults to people on an invisible keyboard; I did not spend days at the computer cluster playing Magick or do LARP or sword fight with the SCA. I had a sense of personal hygiene and was not a virgin. I was a fairly middle-of-the-bell-curve person with some stereotypical "nerdish" tendencies. From that point forward I refrained from referring to myself by any of the then-pejorative terms which have since become marketing buzzwords. I felt it would be disrespectful and fraudulent to do so. In recent years I've had the opportunity as part of my work to travel to various and sundry technology and nerdcore conventions and I don't feel any differently than I did then. Actual nerds are *definitely* a definable demographic.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:26 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm 100% fine with not using the term "nerd blackface." I may personally think that it's a good analogy of (only) the mechanics whereby someone "dresses and acts like a grotesque stereotype of a group they do not belong to in order to mock that group," but I get it that some people think it's trying to equate it with the black experience, and making a claim to equivalent ill-treatment.

I don't mean that at all, and in deference to your sensibilities about it, I'll refrain from using it. And I don't claim that I am oppressed. I'm not oppressed.

But here's the thing: If you're going to make a TV show premised on the mean-spirited mocking of people like me and my friends, I'm just not going to like you or your show. I don't have to be in an oppressed class to react badly to someone spitting at me.
posted by tyllwin at 9:28 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember arriving at college thinking I was a "nerd" because I ran a BBS and knew how to program and wasn't into sports etc. As soon as I arrived I realized that I was not. I had decent social skills; I did not fixate on technology-as-lifestyle; I did not air-type insults to people on an invisible keyboard; I did not spend days at the computer cluster playing Magick or do LARP or sword fight with the SCA. I had a sense of personal hygiene and was not a virgin. I was a fairly middle-of-the-bell-curve person with some stereotypical "nerdish" tendencies.

These are all individual traits. I have known people, individuals, who fit one of them but not others.

Quite frankly, your perception that there is some class of "nerds" that are definable by this cluster of discrete traits, that these somehow define a class of people, is baffling and offensive. Not as to the extent of the weird insistence running through the thread that blackface is a totally alright analogy, but up there.

I don't know. This whole thread is tiring and disheartening and alienating in a way that this stupid sitcom has never been. I think I'm out for now.
posted by kagredon at 9:34 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


ApathyGirl, I felt the same about the show at the beginning. I felt like I was laughing with it, not at it. And it changed. I still watched because there were still some great moments. I probably watched longer than I should have, it really started to grate on me. But it was a together time show, so I watched longer than I would have if I were watching alone.

My problem isn't the formulaic relationship aspect so much; it's how badly the female characters are treated. Amy is by in far the worst. She started off as Sheldon's equal, someone just as full of herself as well as asexual as Sheldon. It was refreshing to have a "love" interest that was an equal. Overtime she was written to be insecure, needy, and only really with Sheldon because of a lack of self esteem. Meanwhile Sheldon rolls all over her needs and interests, and treats her like an inconvenience. It was funny when they were both arrogant, both equals. Now it's a sad, abusive relationship and we're expected to buy it as Chuck Lorres demented view of nerd love.

Early in the show's run, there were smart women characters that were the opposite of needy. What happened? Did they fire the one feminist writer a few seasons back?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:39 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are you claiming that there is no such thing as a nerd? Or what? Because for any group or class or what-have-you you care to name I could likely come up with exceptions and objections to your definitions.

Note that I'm not defending a blackface comparison; that wasn't me. I'm just lost as to what is so objectionable to saying that there is a group of people that have been referred to as "nerds". It seems obvious and non-controversial and yet it appears to be neither.
posted by Justinian at 9:40 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


BBT is a problematic show and I'm real close to dumping it entirely based on some really gross sexism in the last 1.5 seasons. Not that it was free of issues before that but at some point last year someone decided to have Sheldon start up with some really awful attitudes/beliefs about women. Socially inept is one thing but I'm not interested in watching misogyny for laughs.

As far as the characters being nerds to laugh at and not with, I never found that troublesome because for the most part I felt like they were portrayed as extremes within their own community. Sheldon is a jackass to colleagues who recognize it as inappropriate and who do not share those issues. The Sarah Gilbert guest appearances had her portraying Leslie as a smart and competent and sexually confident woman. The show is shitty in how it mocks Kripkie's speech impediment but in his appearances he was a fairly normal person who views the usual gang as nuts.

Not that they're always consistent in this. BBT is cut from he usual sitcom cloth and has characters do what they need them to do in that moment to advance the plot and who cares if it's inconsistent with their character.
posted by phearlez at 9:54 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I cannot get past the laugh track. Laugh tracks make me stabby, and are a detestable abomination. Consequently, I dislike the show for a single, possibly lousy reason that nonetheless communicates with absolute clarity that it is a shitty show that does not respect its audience.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:56 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


To throw yet another nerd reference into this mix, while I don't have aspergers and do not identify as an introvert, I do suffer from depression. Like a hell of a lot of other people. Depression is horribly misrepresented in pop culture at large, mostl likely because the creators of pop culture don't suffer from it and if they do (and probably quite a few of them do, in reality) the execs don't want to exhibit that.

So I know of exactly one real portrayal of depression as I understand it: the character of Roast Beef in Achewood. But here's what's funny. I don't usually identify with Roast Beef in the comic; I identify with Ray. But the fact that Beef's depression is so well-informed and so specific (anxiety over micro-events, comfort in his confidence about narrow areas of expertise, acquiescence to being forced through normal social occasions) that the fact that he is treated as a normal character for whom this is just a thing is huge for me.

More and more we understand our lives through media, which means that more and more we seek ourselves within it. The narrator of the comic the OP posted was seeking entrance to the world of the English language, and found it mocking him. That's not the fault of BBT, but it's not something to ignore, either.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:58 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was one thing I was confused about: was the TEFL of the comic where the narrator was learning to speak English or learning to teach English as a foreign language? I've thought for a while that other countries don't have quite the same nerd stereotype as the U.S.
posted by Schmucko at 10:02 PM on December 4, 2013


Are you claiming that there is no such thing as a nerd? Or what? Because for any group or class or what-have-you you care to name I could likely come up with exceptions and objections to your definitions.

I am claiming that relative to "black" or "autism spectrum", "nerd" is so vaguely and variably defined as to be utterly useless, and so claiming that "nerds" can be victimized in the ways that other such groups are is ridiculous and specious.
posted by kagredon at 10:19 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If someone told me they were transgendered and gay I would be confused, because to me that could mean several things. I would seriously need clarification.

Just for clarity I'll use the case of a male who feels female.

That person could be telling me they feel they are homosexual in regards to their current physical sex, I.e, they like men. But that they also feel they should be a sexually female body, who would then like men.

That person could also be telling me that they feel that should be a woman, and then as that hypothetical female body, they are homosexual. I.e. they are attracted to women, as a women.

And, worst of all, because of the touchiness in talking respectfully about these issues, I have no idea how comfortable I'd be bringing up that clarification. It's possible I'd walk away confused.
posted by bswinburn at 10:41 PM on December 4, 2013


I don't have to be in an oppressed class to react badly to someone spitting at me.

I don't think anyone is saying that. They're simply saying that there's limits in to how you can reasonably address that. You don't get to compare it to things that are like, actually systemic and fucked up. The comments kagredon linked above like this one kinda cover what i'm talking about.

Basically, someone can make fun of you for things that you like and call you names and it doesn't make it some kind of actual oppression or bigotry in any real sense of those words.

You can go "hey that's fucked up and egregious and you shouldn't be doing that" in basically any other way you want. but don't go, as those comments said, "man i had no hot water this morning it was like auschwitz"

Why is the jump there always so hard for people to get? Why is that such a hard difference to see?
posted by emptythought at 10:54 PM on December 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't like BBT, but mainly it's because as a nerd, I've heard all of those jokes before. OMG, the possibility of getting DNA of Leonard Nimoy? I never would have guessed that!...right. I don't really like any of the characters and am pretty bored when I am forced to watch it, even though I guess I should be their audience?

Evil Wil Wheaton is pretty good when he's on it, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:07 PM on December 4, 2013


Just for clarity I'll use the case of a male who feels female.

That person is female. She is not "a male who feels female". She is female. If she tells you she is gay, she means she is attracted to women. There is not ambiguity in this example case*. Feel free to consider this your clarification.

* This is not to say that there aren't people who identify as nonbinary places relative to homosexual/heterosexual or male/female spectra, but the case you identify, and indeed, probably most people who say they are "trans and gay" are binary-identifying on both axes.
posted by kagredon at 11:21 PM on December 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


kagredon, I believe for the purposes of that example bswinburn was parsing out an example of a biological male who feels female, which would, yes, by our good definitions, be considered female. But it's a useful distinction for what bswinburn is discussing.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:25 PM on December 4, 2013


I don't really see the "useful distinction". Someone tells you they're female, they're female. Someone tells you they're female and a lesbian, they are female and a lesbian. What's difficult here?
posted by kagredon at 11:27 PM on December 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


bswinburn: “If someone told me they were transgendered and gay I would be confused, because to me that could mean several things. I would seriously need clarification. Just for clarity I'll use the case of a male who feels female. That person could be telling me they feel they are homosexual in regards to their current physical sex, I.e, they like men. But that they also feel they should be a sexually female body, who would then like men. That person could also be telling me that they feel that should be a woman, and then as that hypothetical female body, they are homosexual. I.e. they are attracted to women, as a women. And, worst of all, because of the touchiness in talking respectfully about these issues, I have no idea how comfortable I'd be bringing up that clarification. It's possible I'd walk away confused.”

It's not really about "touchiness." It's more about being sensitive to the fact that human people aren't always totally comfortable with talking about their gender openly in public, much less confronted and told that their identification is wrong. It's the same for people of every stripe, whether you're transgender or not; I think it is generally quite rude and inconsiderate to question people's gender identification, as that's a thing that a lot of bullying is rooted in. I'm a person born with a penis who identifies as male – what's often called cis-male in these discussions – and if someone came up to me and suggested I wasn't actually what I claimed to be, that I had no business calling myself a man, I would have problems with that and be severely uncomfortable. That's not really an issue for me, of course, since people usually accept that it's rude to question the gender identification of cis-men and cis-women. But for transgender people, who encounter those kinds of questions which often verge on bullying quite often, it's worth being more careful and more considerate.

Just as an example, although I am no expert in such things, my transgender friends have indicated to me that it makes folks wince uncomfortably when we say things like they are "a male who feels female" or they "feel they should be a sexually female body." Being transgender doesn't seem to be about what one feels one's body should be like, and it's hurtful to tell people that they are not actually the identity they present. To give an example from my own life: I know a gay man who doesn't have a penis. He's happy without a penis, and he's not planning to change that. It's not about a particular way he wants his body to be, although some people want their body to be a particular way, and that's fine for them. He's transgender not because he wants surgery, but because his gender identity is different from what society expects of him.

But, again, I don't want you to feel I'm lecturing you here. This isn't about calling you out or trying to tell you that you need to be more careful. Transgender people (in my experience) are not "touchy" and don't need you to walk on eggshells around them. It's just that it's worth thinking about what people like to be called and how they like to be treated; that's how we as human beings ought to get by in society.

And I'll note that seeing it as an identity, rather than a desire for surgery, resolves the issue you were having about what "transgender and gay" means. It's about identity. My friend, the gay transgender man, identifies as a man and is attracted to other men.

Navelgazer: “But it's a useful distinction for what bswinburn is discussing.”

I am not quite sure what that is. In the comic, we're presented with a person who hears "transgender and gay" and responds "nobody is THAT weird." I don't think bswinburn would say that to anyone – right? So I don't know why it's an issue.
posted by koeselitz at 11:28 PM on December 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, to clarify--I am not trying to come down hard on bswinburn for asking an honest question. I am saying that this is not the complicated minefield that their comment makes it sound like.
posted by kagredon at 11:30 PM on December 4, 2013


Because the discussion was talking about gay transgendered people and why straight cis folks might be confused, so questions of biological vs. psychological gender and transition and so on are an aspect of the confusion for outsiders. I'm now advocating for someone I don't know, but that's how I understood the comment.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:33 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay. And the question is a relatively straightforward one with a relatively straightforward answer. Trans people are not holy mysteries, they're generally pretty upfront about what they mean and why it's important.
posted by kagredon at 11:35 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


NERDS ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED CLASS

Sometimes I try to figure out who gets to be a legit oppressed class. Not in the legal sense, it's clear there - get some measure of political capital, spend it on legislation, but the rhetorics and social construction of the thing. Can't figure it out. Like, for simplification and exemplification, I will throw down some overly dichotomous axes:
  1. Black v. White: Racism
  2. Women v. Men: Sexism
  3. Short v. Tall: Heightism - all sorts of studies on people being biased towards the tall, tall people having more income
  4. Gay v. Straight: Homophobia
  5. Transgender v. Cisgender: Cissexism
  6. Dumb v. Smart: no word? If we accept IQ as correlated with intelligence, IQ correlates with a lot of objective indicators of life outcomes...
  7. Developmentally Disabled v. Smart: Ableism
  8. Children v. Adults: This country has done away with slavery, feudalism, and husband-owns-wife marriage, so I guess I'll say we treat children like we treat pets or criminals. They don't even have the vote.
  9. Muslims v. Christians: Islamophobia
  10. Atheists v. Christians: Around me atheists are not badly off excepting the political exclusion, but I understand definitely get shit on in like the South, not to mention internationally.
  11. Illegal Drug User v. Sticks to Coffee, Liquor, Tobacco: They will steal your hard-earned drugs & maybe put you away, also social stigma.
  12. Fat v. Thin: Fat Acceptance Movement
  13. Ugly v. Attractive: Lookism - again all sorts of studies on this
  14. Geek v. Non: Bullying
  15. Asperger's v. Neurotypical: Ableism

So Blacks, women, LGBT, disabled people, non-neurotypical people, minority believers, & fat people are oppressed classes. Short people, people who are just plain dumb without being disabled, children, nonbelievers, illegal drug users, ugly people, and geeks are not oppressed classes, and I have a hard time figuring out a sensible scheme here. (I have a cynical hypothesis, but I will save for a more relevant thread.) Maybe I am falling into an error of scientism, looking for things that can be discussed with some measure of objectivity like "Black people have lower incomes, are getting scraped up by NYPD for weed in the pockets, ...," "Atheists have basically nil political representation..." "Short people are viewed as less capable of leading..." or "Gay people are excluded from civil marriage in most states..." and I should not be going at it this way.

I'm pretty clear on the point that oppression need not be active or even conscious, so I can't say, exclude short people on the basis that while they are disadvantaged a lot of that's probably due to unconscious bias. Maybe forming some kind of movement, affinity group, or identity is necessary, so that explains why ugly people or children aren't considered oppressed, but on the other hand Atheists have organizations and agitations, so it's not sufficient. Lack of choice seems to matter a lot, so strong assertions that one couldn't chose to be not gay or not fat, but either of those are more achievable than deciding not to be short.

If I were called upon to judge a claim of oppression, how would SJ have me make the decision?posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:39 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like the scene in Spaced where Brian is awkwardly trying to enjoy Come On Eileen in a club is about as good a portrayal of introversion on TV as I've seen. It's also the clearest forerunner to Community I've seen, right down to the gradual descent into genre parodies over time.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:53 AM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


It would be swell if trans people could ever be mentioned in passing without it being a "useful distinction" to refer to us as "biologically [whatever we aren't]". I know I'm coming off like an asshole here, but seriously, there's some pretext to remind me that I'm really sort of kind of in some way a man like every time. It gets old! And also it sucks! Nobody can possibly need to be reminded of this as often as it's actually brought up.

Like, seriously, do we really need to soothe someone's blown mind when they're struggling in the middle of a barely related thread to determine how to bin someone else into sexuality boxes? Is the labeling apparatus really this important, that nothing can continue until everyone is satisfied whether a hypothetical trans person is straight or gay? (I'm real, and I'm neither! Oh god, what do we do now? Convene the committee!)

(Also, "no way there are gay trans people" is totally said all the time, usually out of the belief that being trans is just, like, being extra gay or something. If you want to make a vastly disproportionate analogy to such hilariously ignorant disbelief, the closest branch to grab onto is probably the sexist "no way there are women engineers/gamers/etc." and not anything to do with nerdy or introverted men.)

Sorry.

For representations of non-neurotypical people in network shows, I think Parenthood does a pretty good job with Max. It's also hinted that Ray Romano's character struggles with reading social cues and may be autistic himself.

Almost every time trans people are mentioned on sitcoms it's a joke about one of the male characters being attracted to a trans woman. Sometimes they don't even go that far, and simply pointing out that a person is trans is enough to cue the laugh track. HIMYM was mentioned upthread, and this is how it works in that show, for example. This kind of stuff (which is even on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report) has actively prevented me from doing things (such as leaving the house) because sometimes when my brain turns on me all I can think about is the five million people laughing at those jokes laughing at me.

The Big Bang Theory has never caused me to feel that way about having a weekly board game night.


But since this is going to continue to happen anyway, I hate "biologically male," especially given that there are so many parts that comprise my biology. (I find that jerks tend to go down the list until they find one that suits their needs and ignore all the others.) I run on estrogen, like most women, and that governs pretty much all of the important stuff. I have a penis, but so do a lot of other women. Literally nobody on the planet, including me, knows what chromosomes I have, but they were mostly done causing things to happen anyway! Even if it does apply, it's a shitty term. I'm only speaking for myself but I'd much prefer "assigned male at birth" (if trans woman doesn't work for whatever asinine reason) because at least that doesn't imply that I am in some way not wholly who I say I am.

posted by Corinth at 1:06 AM on December 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


save alive nothing that breatheth: “Sometimes I try to figure out who gets to be a legit oppressed class. Not in the legal sense, it's clear there - get some measure of political capital, spend it on legislation...”

Your profile says you're in the US, so you should know that this is emphatically not the way to become a "legit oppressed class." There is a term the Supreme Court uses for these classes. They're called "protected classes."

In 1868, in the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed. It did a lot of complicated things, and it's the most litigated (that is, the most considered in court cases) part of the Constitution to this day. One of the things in it was this:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This is generally known as the Equal Protection Clause, because it requires that states (and, it was later decided, the federal government) grant equal protection under the law to all citizens.

What does it mean to offer equal protection under the law to all citizens? This is more complicated than it first appears. For example: what if I apply for a job as a doctor in the US Army, and am turned down for that job because I am neither in the Army nor an actual doctor? That seems silly, but I could make the claim that I deserve equal protection and equal opportunity, and therefore ought to be considered as an Army doctor. So it's clear – "equal protection of the laws" can't mean everything is equal for everyone. People who aren't doctors don't get an equal shot at doctors' jobs.

The way the Supreme Court has generally formulated this is by referring to protected classes. Even though they deserve equal protection under the law, non-doctors are not designated a protected class. Why? Because a legitimate and pertinent distinction can be drawn between doctors and non-doctors, and because there is no history of discrimination or oppression against non-doctors which we can point to.

So, over time, the Supreme Court has built up a set of protected classes that it has specifically applied the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to. For example – one of the first was women. It was argued that women deserve equal protection under the law as men, and ultimately that argument won out. Another obvious one was black people; and the equal protection clause aided in advances culminating in the unanimous opinion in Brown v Board of Education, striking down segregation. Most recently, in United States v Windsor striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that homosexuals are a protected class and that they deserve equal protection under the law alongside heterosexuals.

“If I were called upon to judge a claim of oppression, how would SJ have me make the decision?”

I am not sure. I'm not Ignatius Loyola. But I happen to attend the political science department of a Jesuit university, so I can hazard a guess: if you asked the Society of Jesus how to judge a claim of oppression, I imagine that maybe, just maybe, they'd recommend that you skip the snide spitballing and take a look at the history of the term and its legal use.
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 AM on December 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


I wince whenever I see someone defining themselves as an 'introvert' because it's almost always followed by hating on people who project social confidence.

Introversion isn't some kind of new and trendy things just because people finally became aware of Jungian Personality Theory and the Big Five Personality Tests, though; the introversion / extroversion scale has a significant history in Personality Psychology and Jungian Psychology both.

I'm an introvert. If I spend more than two days without time alone, I start getting really tired and irritable and need at least a day to recover. Until I fully recognized this (I took the Meyers-Briggs Test when I was a teenager, so I knew my panel, I just didn't realize the full implications), I used to have a meltdown during every family vacation because I'd hit the point where I just wanted everyone GONE because I needed to THINK and I'm a Feeler as well, so my mode of expression is in glorious rushes of feelings which are really inconvenient and incoherent. Once I was able to accept the parameters of my introversion, which include this need for daily solo time where no one would interrupt me or ask for my attention, I was able to find ways to incorporate that and stopped having meltdowns.

I'm also someone who tends to come off as very socially confident and outgoing, but damn do I need that alone time every day. I've known extroverts who describe the sheer terror of being stuck alone in an apartment with no one around and instantly need to call someone up, and that is simply alien to me as a concept. I can spend days speaking to no one, marinating in thoughts and ideas, following my own schedule, and come out of it rested and refreshed. The same schedule would leave your average extrovert drained and upset.

But like I said above, introversion simply doesn't translate well to television, and besides statistically speaking introverts are in a minority and we wouldn't want everyone looking at us anyway.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:15 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there is a big problem with comparing prejudice against people who don't socialize in the standard way (whatever the cause, from inability to disinclination) with other kinds of discrimination. One major reason is that it ignores how so much of the prejudice against differently-socializing people is tied into other discrimination. Focusing on the difficulties in communication and socialization gives plausible deniability to ignore the sexism and racism which underpin these stereotypes, and to perpetuate sexism, racism, and homophobia unchallenged.

A lot of the "humor" associated with nerds is actually a subset of sexism - that is the male nerds are improperly performing masculinity, and so they are punished by males who are hyper-performing masculinity, i.e. jocks. The "nerd revenge" genre from the eighties didn't actually challenge this "masculiner than thou" paradigm, it just changed what was considered "really" masculine; both of the main characters in Revenge of the Nerds "win" in the end, and they also end up having sex through the course of the movie, a common way of performing masculinity.

One of them is even portrayed as sexually superior to to the jock character through a rape-via-deceit of one of the female characters. I've never felt her subsequent "wow nerds know about cunnilingus" really made up for him deliberately deceiving her about who he is in order to trick her into having sex with him, not to mention using a non-consensually obtained topless photo of her to raise money (another form of sexist exploitation of women in the service of performing masculinity more effectively than the "jock" men). Focusing on the male nerds' difficulties in communication and socialization gives a narrative in which some men can claim to be "poorly socialized" when actually they are acting in planned ways to target, isolate, and harass or rape women - and where they deserve to have these women (without regard for the women's consent) because they are just misunderstood / neglected / abused.

The one actual effeminate character in "Revenge of the Nerds" is virtually sexless, which also ties into how the thesis of the movie is competing performances of masculinity; his placement with the nerds is about how "real men" are tolerant and liberal (as long as the white, heterosexual ones are still the main characters / in charge / have the huge growth moment / get the girls). Finally, the climax of the movie hinges on a large group of immaculately dressed black men silently forming a wall between two groups of largely white characters - which both reinforces a battle between different performances of masculinity. It also adds in black versus white masculinity; part of the racist narrative about black men is that they are hyper-masculine savages (see: history of lynching); adding the suits undercuts the "savage" while their relative size and demeanor, and their acting in service to the male main character, reinforces "they are dangerous unless acting in defense of white men". None of this challenges racism in any way.

There is also racism tied into some of the stereotypes of "nerds," between Asian men being ubernerds who are also often portrayed as unmasculine, and black nerds being extra "funny" because black men are expected to be hyper-masculine (usually when there is a black male nerd, there will also be a black male jock to reinforce what black men are supposed to be like - see "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "30 Rock" for examples, though "30 Rock" did some significant deconstruction of black male stereotypes in addition). Portrayals of nerds also tend to reinforce racism because the "important" nerds in any media portrayal are always the white ones, with the nerds of color as backdrops and objects to point to and say, "look, nerds are so inclusive, that makes them better men."
posted by Deoridhe at 2:15 AM on December 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


I hated this show when my in-laws made me watch it. But they really like Sheldon, who is played by a pretty charismatic actor, so I don't know if folks in this thread understand the problem: the problem with BBT is how sexist everyone is on it, and how that's often a pretty accurate stereotype about nerds.

But I actually came to talk about blackface. Two things:

1. Black people wore blackface. The African-American performers who did so became quite popular and made a modest living at it, and they had craft and creativity just like any other performer. They don't seem to have been treated as race traitors, either: they were celebrities.
2. Black people attended and seemed to enjoy blackface minstrel shows. It's possible they were simply enjoying a joke, like: "Is that what white people think we're like? Ha ha!" But it's more probable that people like seeing themselves depicted, and are willing to put up with a lot of horribly offensive stereotypes to get that experience.

I don't know if these facts are relevant to BBT: like I said, I don't mind the depictions of nerds, I just can't stand the sexism. But if you're going to talk about blackface, at least try to understand what you're talking about.

Blackface is offensive today because of the way it hung around and got taken up since the Civil Rights era: authentic minstrel shows aren't the problem, they were one of the ways that white and black culture intermixed. The problem is white people nostalgically recreating the institutions of the racist past. There's still room for a film like Bamboozled to use the trope today, and perhaps also for you to use it as an analogy for other things even if you're not black. But if you're going to do that, have enough respect for history and for your fellow citizens to use the analogy correctly and respect the painful role this practice has taken on in the lives of contemporary African-Americans.

I think Michelle Alexander makes an interesting case for gangsta culture and rap performances as a contemporary minstrel show analogue in The New Jim Crow, for instance. But if she's right, there are several creative and powerful features of blackface worth reflecting on and maybe celebrating:

1. Transforming stigma into esteem by embracing the stigmatized identity, i.e. making a criminal record a badge of pride rather than shame.
2. The fact that this embrace of the stigma is used to justify the stereotypes that generate the stigma, i.e. all the racist stereotypes about people who wear hoodies or baggy pants.
3. The difficulty of rejecting the stigmatized identity without accepting that the shame generated by racist institutions and stereotypes is justified, i.e. should black men stop wearing hoodies, or should more and more "respectable" black men wear them until the symbol stops being a stigma at all?

This last issue is really important, because at some point deciding whether to "wear out" the stigma or eliminate the stigmatized practice becomes a real cultural division, and today you can see a lot of more successful and conservative African-Americans criticizing gangsta culture without feeling any solidarity with the men who adopt it as a reaction to our racist criminal justice system.

Again, I don't know that this is relevant to BBT, but if we want to talk about blackface god dammit we're going to do it right.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:36 AM on December 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nerdface? Fauxnerd?

I watch BBT. As Eyebrows McGee says, it's perfect for weeknight watching. There are a lot of things that bug me about the show: Leonard's whining and sarcasm towards Sheldon (like in the pilot clip above, where he says "How can you know pi to 800 digits and not recognize sarcasm?" Which seems unkind and harsh to me, but may be more realistic than the dialogue I would prefer).

The aspect of the show that bugs me most is Howard's mother. A character who is nameless and never seen, and exists only to facilitate fat jokes and scream offscreen. It's already been done to death (Al's mom in Home Improvement) and it's annoying as hell.
posted by bunderful at 4:44 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


All it took for me to realize how mean-spirited much of the "humor" in Big Bang Theory is was for an obnoxious coworker to start calling me "Sheldon" any time I said anything remotely technical-sounding in a meeting.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:58 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think nerdface fits for BBT. The term is not about the level of oppression of the group being mocked; of course they don't compare. It's about the action being done- dressing up as an imagined stereotype of a group you're not a member of in order to make fun of them.
These kinds of portmanteaus are coined all the time. If a similar, albeit unequal, concept already has a well known term we borrow it to describe the similarity more succinctly. When we use the term 'workoholic' we don't get people yelling "OH MY GOD WORK AND ALCOHOL ARE NOT THE SAME THING STOP CALLING IT THAT".
posted by rocket88 at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Good grief. Saying "all nerds / geeks should like The Big Bang Theory" is as ridiculous as saying "all musicians and chiropractors should like Two and a Half Men" or "all obese people should like Mike and Molly." It's just run of the mill humor that (like most sitcoms) uses a set of stereotypes as a joke engine.
posted by aught at 6:02 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


and exists only to facilitate fat jokes and scream offscreen

Fat and Jewish-mother jokes, actually. Which I presume is considered okay by many people because the show creator is himself Jewish, but would otherwise be problematic.
posted by aught at 6:19 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


These comments already addressed this kind of "analogizing" better than I can:

1. I'm trying, but I should be asleep, so maybe I can't quite articulate it either. Mainly it's because he is comparing something that is a minor annoyance in one sliver of his life - one that he can easily escape - with historic, systemic patterns of abuse and marginalization based on something people cannot help about themselves that should not diminish their humanity.

2. Like the guy saying "God, there was no hot water for my shower this morning. It was like Auschwitz."


Suggested reading.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:55 AM on December 5, 2013


BBT is no longer good comedy, they've boiled it down to trope-y characters and sexist stereotypes.

BUT! I still watch it because underneath, it is a story of socially awkward people with some severe mental problems (social anxiety, OCD, narcissism and extreme low self esteem) and pairs them with some balanced healthy people who love them and try to rehabilitate them.

I feel weird about taking people's bonafide mental health problems and making it comedy, but then each time a character has a little breakthrough it's really sweet.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, you can be an extrovert and a nerd at the same time! It's true.
posted by Mister_A at 7:01 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think there's something intrinsically condescending to real personality differences in identifying the characters in BBT as only representing "socially awkward people with some severe mental problems". In general there are few depictions of real people in STEM fields in media (especially over-representation of males), and why make them so negative? Part of what the main link objects to is the pathologizing of these personality differences. Now maybe the way the show is framed, the characters ARE pathological, but it's the ideas implicit in that framing that bug me.

Had an idea for an anti-BBT from a nerd point of view, a kind of reality show of Math Class where characters who are or will be successful in other walks of life are continuously put in front of a chalk board to solve math problems and when they flail around the laugh track kicks in and the characters are identified for example, as That Guy Who is Hilariously Bad At Integration By Parts and all other aspects of their personality pigeonholed into a stereotype of What People Who Are Bad at Integration By Parts are like.
posted by Schmucko at 7:21 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Tireless Work Ethic Didn't Make Me Funny: A Memoir by Chuck Lorre
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:21 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are offended by TBBT enough to call it "Nerd Blackface", don't worry, you aren't a nerd.

Nerds are intelligent.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:50 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wanting a label isn't a bad thing, but I think this is a problematic label.

I thought this article took an interesting look at that issue.
posted by caaaaaam at 8:01 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Furthermore, as a neuroatypical, socially awkward, introvert type myself, I'm rather tired of this insistence by Introverts that they are these Indigo Children, precious, delicate beings who tread as angels amid the loud, clumsy, insensitive, snarling beasts of extroversion.

That's not introversion, thats narcissism and possibly a form of anxiety disorder.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


passive aggressive linking to psychiatric history

Can we stop hopscotching all over the distinction between self-identified "nerds" and actual disability in this thread?
posted by kagredon at 8:38 AM on December 5, 2013


Hey, quick apologies to anybody I offended and/or frustrated with my "useful distinction" comment earlier. Didn't mean to show any disrespect or anything. So, sorry, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Which given how syndication works, is probably BBT.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:07 AM on December 5, 2013


If you are offended by TBBT enough to call it "Nerd Blackface", don't worry, you aren't a nerd.

Nerds are intelligent.


I think we can do better than "Everybody who disagrees with me is stupid", here.
posted by kafziel at 9:30 AM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you are offended by TBBT enough to call it "Nerd Blackface", don't worry, you aren't a nerd.

Nerds are intelligent.


bazinga
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


As an introverted gay, "introverted is the new gay" is the most strangely awful thing I have read today.
posted by one of these days at 9:33 AM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


The rising concept of "introverts are a protected class that needs to be shielded away from loud extrovert boors at parties" is one of the most annoying internet memes of recent years. I've scored as an extrovert (borderline) on M-B Tests, and I'm introspective and anxious as fuck. There's been some rampant conflating of introversion/extroversion with antisocial/sociable. Introverts are not nerds and extroverts are not jocks, there is not some sort of social power dynamic going on, they're two huge generalized categories.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just want to also point out that the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Pasadena portrayed regularly on Big Bang Theory looks NOTHING like the one in Pasadena in real life.

Also, their apartment looks out over Pawnee City Hall, which is bothersome. And even though they're right about the speed bumps on Euclid, the real problem with Euclid is the two-way stops at major intersections like Del Mar and the fact that it doesn't go through Paseo. It's pretty useless as a north-south artery, and how anyone can enjoy poorly researched garbage like that is beyond me.
posted by malocchio at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, their apartment looks out over Pawnee City Hall, which is bothersome. And even though they're right about the speed bumps on Euclid, the real problem with Euclid is the two-way stops at major intersections like Del Mar and the fact that it doesn't go through Paseo. It's pretty useless as a north-south artery, and how anyone can enjoy poorly researched garbage like that is beyond me.

THANK YOU!
It always bothered me how I know for a fact there is NO POSSIBLE WAY for them to have that living room window view. There are no foothills that close to City Hall to even get a view close to that, and they'd have to be pretty high up and be able to see over the Paseo from where the show claims they live.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:00 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we stop hopscotching all over the distinction between self-identified "nerds" and actual disability in this thread?

I'd love to oblige, kagredon, but that's difficult to do because of TBBT itself. They take a character like Sheldon, and hold him up for laughter. But Sheldon is many things: he's a smart scientist, he's physically scrawny, he has "media nerd" interests, and he seems to be on the autistic spectrum. I don't know which of these traits they're mocking at any given time. So, when they show Sheldon acting stalkerish towards Stan Lee, are they more mocking his "nerdy" interest in comics, or are they more mocking that he's non-neurotypical and unable to pick up normal social cues? I'm happy to be annoyed at either, but it's hard to separate the two when the show conflates them as one and the same kind of thing.

You can go "hey that's fucked up and egregious and you shouldn't be doing that" in basically any other way you want. but don't go, as those comments said, "man i had no hot water this morning it was like auschwitz"

I think that's a fair proposition, emptythought. But I think both "blackface" and "Auschwitz" relate more to people's general use of language than to the specific issue at hand about TBBT. Some people, and I confess myself among them, like really broad, and colorful analogies. And it's totally reasonable to say to us "Try not to analogize anything else to (rape, the holocaust, slavery) because you have no idea how that sounds to others. Don't use trigger words in your analogies, reserve them for literal use only!" It's a manner of speech, and where it gets to be inappropriate, say so. But's its really not fair to seize on that manner of speech and impute a more literal meaning: to scream NERDS ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED CLASS to people who believe no such thing.
posted by tyllwin at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there's something intrinsically condescending to real personality differences in identifying the characters in BBT as only representing "socially awkward people with some severe mental problems". In general there are few depictions of real people in STEM fields in media (especially over-representation of males), and why make them so negative? Part of what the main link objects to is the pathologizing of these personality differences. Now maybe the way the show is framed, the characters ARE pathological, but it's the ideas implicit in that framing that bug me.

Not clear on your point. You object to "nerd --> must be pathological" stereotyping? Not all the characters are stereotyped as mentally ill:

There is 1 normal STEM character: Bernadette
2 normal-ish STEM characters: Leonard (now, not in the beginning) and that jewish kid
One normal character: Penny
One STEM with sort-of mental / social problems: Sheldon's girlfriend
STEM with mental issues: Sheldon and Raj

I work in STEM and I see these overly-analytical "just sayin the truth!" blunt personality types a lot. So while so much of the show is contrived, it's not entirely out of line.

What the show does do well is show a wide range of academic interests for women and a wide range of body shapes for women. Two out of the three ladies have a PhD. Bernadette is short and curvy and Sheldon's girlfriend is a normal weight. Lots of walk-on ladies with interesting degrees. Even the "walk-on" girlfriends are all over in terms of height, weight and shape. I dunno, it's tv, like a poster said above it's escapism turn-your-mind-off tv, but it's not far off the kinds of characters I encountered at school and at work.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


But's its really not fair to seize on that manner of speech and impute a more literal meaning: to scream NERDS ARE NOT AN OPPRESSED CLASS to people who believe no such thing.

I feel like I'm experiencing a similar frustration, though, at the numerous people in this thread who seem to see no distinction between the rather anodyne, usually self-applied label 'nerd' vis. social understanding of introversion vis. neuroatypicality. I feel like the distinctions there are not difficult to understand, and people in this thread are frequently taking as a given premise that TBBT is attacking, say, ASD people in order to construct more durable strawmen against folks like myself who think that it's mainly focused on 'nerd'.
posted by kagredon at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nerds aren't a class; they're a culture.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


BBT is a dumb show about smart people. Something like Arrested Development is a smart show about dumb (or deluded) people.
posted by clockzero at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's what I don't get: Why are people complaining that BBT has us laugh at the characters rather than with the characters? Isn't this the point of a sitcom? Is there any sitcom where we laugh with rather than at the characters (and their usually exaggerated personality traits, quirks and foibles)?
posted by slkinsey at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2013


Why are people complaining that BBT has us laugh at the characters rather than with the characters? Isn't this the point of a sitcom? Is there any sitcom where we laugh with rather than at the characters (and their usually exaggerated personality traits, quirks and foibles)?

It's not an at/with thing. It's that what you're laughing at is 100% stereotype. Plenty of sitcoms manage to easily avoid doing that.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:44 AM on December 5, 2013


to construct more durable strawmen against folks like myself who think that it's mainly focused on 'nerd'.

I'm not sure it's focused on either. I personally think it's simply drawing a caricature opposition of "normal" vs "these weird people who may be weird for any number of reasons, but they sure aren't like us" and then reworking gags that have been circulating since "I Love Lucy" or "The Beverly Hillbillies" to laugh at the weirdos. I don't think it's focused enough to tease out exactly what's being laughed at beyond "normal people" vs "weirdos." I don't even mind the caricatures, per se: IT crowd doesn't raise my hackles in the same way, nor does Felicia Day's The Guild. But those have some trace of affection, and I think TBBT is more (and I cringe at the word) "othering" than that. My personal response to that is "fuck you, too," and I don't try and dissect it more, but I admit I know people every bit as nerdy as me who think it's funny, so YMMV.
posted by tyllwin at 10:48 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I imagine that maybe, just maybe, they'd recommend that you skip the snide spitballing and take a look at the history of the term and its legal use.

Shit, sorry, I actually had judicial as well as legislative in there, got lost in editing.
Like I said though, I more or less get the legal aspects and know how to go deeper if I wanted, it's the social which holds my interest. Fat and trans* are mostly without legal protected class status, still qualify socially in the SJ community. A lot of policing seems to go on in either direction: out group, atheists and geeks aren't oppressed, in group, demisexual wolfkin headmates are kept pretty confined to Tumblr.

A few cases are borderline, I guess. Asexuals. Sex workers are definitely victims, but I see disagreement as to whether their self advocacy is valid or misguided/internalized kyriarchy.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:18 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why are people complaining that BBT has us laugh at the characters rather than with the characters? Isn't this the point of a sitcom? Is there any sitcom where we laugh with rather than at the characters (and their usually exaggerated personality traits, quirks and foibles)?

I think the distinction that's implied with laugh at vs. laugh with is more about whether the humor is mean-spirited and/or based on lazy stereotypes vs. grounded in affection, or as the word sitcom suggests, in the situation itself. I think laugh at vs laugh with is a really subjective thing to identify, both in terms of it being a matter of taste as to which you prefer and in terms of identifying what really counts as laughing at characters vs laughing with them, so you're going to get plenty of differing opinions on where BBT falls on the spectrum. I tend to think it's laughing at its characters, because there's just not enough depth there for anything else. Compare it to Modern Family or Community, whose characters are fairly well fleshed out in their strengths and flaws. People generally think those shows are inviting you to laugh with the characters and/or how they react to the improbable and hilarious situations they find themselves in, as opposed to laughing at them for who they are.
posted by yasaman at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2013


I think we can do better than "Everybody who disagrees with me is stupid", here.
posted by kafziel at 12:30 PM on December 5 [2 favorites +] [!]


Not everyone who disagrees with me, just people who misappropriate a racially-charged word because they think their memories of getting picked on for fixing computers and reading comic books equates to the horrors faced by black people in pre-Civil Rights America.

That is, in fact, stupid.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:13 PM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not everyone who disagrees with me, just people who misappropriate a racially-charged word because they think their memories of getting picked on for fixing computers and reading comic books equates to the horrors faced by black people in pre-Civil Rights America.

Well, then since no one here, in fact, thinks that, or said anything like that, then no one here on MeFi is being called a name. Now nice.
posted by tyllwin at 12:24 PM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Since apparently every kind of analogy is totally fair game regardless of the broader social context it occurs in, you know what this thread reminds me of? It reminds me of how the MRA movement will use male victims of rape or domestic violence to prop up their own sad persecution complexes. They don't give a single red fuck about actually taking action to stop these things, and they will often actively reinforce the harmful patriarchal myths about masculinity that help perpetuate such violence, but the moment they find a way to make it about them--ah, then suddenly the topic is fascinating. The same way, in this thread, people are more invested in insisting there is some kind of "nerd culture" that is systematically discriminated against, rather than calling out harmful stereotypes of neuroatypical people.

Mefi likes to shit on Reddit, and I'm mostly silent on that front, because there are way too many Redditors will happily call my friends and classmates "fucking aspie" or "gay neckbeard", and then turn around and whine about how women won't date them because they're 'nerds' (even though they will then say women like me, who love comic books and sci-fi and video games, are engaged in some weird long-game pitcher plant plot to fool them and take their precious bodily fluids.) Mefi, in this thread, has mostly been engaging in a slightly more genteel version of the same ableism, and I'm fucking ashamed of this community right now.
posted by kagredon at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's some bullshit.

The same way, in this thread, people are more invested in insisting there is some kind of "nerd culture" that is systematically discriminated against, rather than calling out harmful stereotypes of neuroatypical people.

Please go through the thread and count the out comments doing A) and not B), and compare that number to all the ones doing B) but not A).

I'll wait.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2013


Well, then since no one here, in fact, thinks that, or said anything like that, then no one here on MeFi is being called a name. Now nice.
posted by tyllwin


So... the people, here on Metafilter, Reddit, the cartoonist responsible for the FPP, and elsewhere, who are using the term "Nerd Blackface" to describe a show about a group of successful white males as a way to describe the "harm" that it does to them are doing so without any actual knowledge of the history or context of the word they're using, despite priding themselves on their studious nature and/or intelligence?

Well, that certainly is a Nerd Nigger In The Woodpile.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:59 PM on December 5, 2013


[A few comments removed, cut it out.]
posted by cortex at 1:03 PM on December 5, 2013


I love it when offended people get offended at the way other people get offended. A very entertaining thread.
posted by umberto at 1:03 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll wait.

I'm still waiting for you to back up your unsupported assertion that The Big Bang Theory is about "prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical,"
posted by kagredon at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Maybe I'm mis-reading Catch for example...But I've always found it incomprehensible when people have insisted I should get more involved or that I'm shy (and not introverted). If you work hard to become more involved with others, good on you, but I don't get much out of that. What would I get out of changing myself to be more outgoing?"


I think you are misreading me.
What I am saying is that social awkwardness is not tied to being an introvert, or an extrovert, it is a distinct skill. Some learn it easily, others struggle, but despising someone for possessing that skill, however they came by it, is as senseless as making character judgements about people who can cook.

I can't sing, I'll probably never be able to learn, but I don't go about saying "I am an introvert, and people who can sing will never understand my delicate nature, and they all want to force me into submission" .
posted by Catch at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


So... the people, here on Metafilter, Reddit, the cartoonist responsible for the FPP, and elsewhere, who are using the term "Nerd Blackface" to describe a show about a group of successful white males as a way to describe the "harm" that it does to them are doing so without any actual knowledge of the history or context of the word they're using, despite priding themselves on their studious nature and/or intelligence?

I don't make any such claim. I was addressing a statement that said (emphasis mine) "...they think their memories of getting picked on for fixing computers and reading comic books equates to the horrors..."

It's the word "equates" that I object to. No one made an equation. People made an analogy. They are not remotely the same. If I say I swept a mountain of dust from beneath the bed, I am not equating the chore to climbing mountains. If I call my chair "chocolate brown" I am not going to eat the upholstery. People use analogies and metaphors all the time without meaning an "equation." Insistence here that an equation is being made, rather than a description of a similarity in a limited set of common characteristics is, in the face of people who have specifically disclaimed an equivalence, willfully misreading.

But since I've already said that I appreciate the emotional valence of the term "blackface" and won't use it myself, I think I'm wiser to walk away.
posted by tyllwin at 1:37 PM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Insistence here that an equation is being made, rather than a description of a similarity in a limited set of common characteristics is, in the face of people who have specifically disclaimed an equivalence, willfully misreading.

This is a substantial misinterpretation of the objection that Uther Bentrazor is raising. It's not a question of "emotional valence", it's that the use of "blackface" as a term and in the way that it's being extracted into "nerd blackface" is inextricably bound up with a complex and deep history of systematic oppression. To use your example, you'd say a "mountain of dust" to describe chore difficulty. You would not say something like "slave labor", and that's because even if your intent is to use it as an analogies, the weight and implication are not anywhere near comparable.
posted by kagredon at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catch, perhaps we have simply different axes to grind here? I think there's a default assumption that everyone ought to WANT to be extremely social. Maybe for me the analogy (this thread seems fraught with them!) is more insisting that everyone SHOULD sing (in a choir, too). I'm socially adept with little social anxiety but most of the time I'd rather be by myself contemplating math and stuff. My ideal life would be like Grigory Perelman's. Not that I've seen more than snippets of TBBT, but from what I've gathered it seems to imply that people having such different priorities is a sign of their brokenness.
posted by Schmucko at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2013


It's the word "equates" that I object to. No one made an equation. People made an analogy. They are not remotely the same.

People don't throw up "Godwin" flags just because talking about Hitler is cliche, dude, but yo shout out to talking down to me while still completely missing my point.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Schmucko, you do not need to convince me of your point of view, you misunderstood me and I tried to clarify my post for you. That's all.
posted by Catch at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2013


I'm still waiting for you to back up your unsupported assertion that The Big Bang Theory is about "prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical,"

I never said that. A lot of people haven't said a lot of things you've accused them of; that's exactly what I was getting at above.

In that bit you're quoting, I'm saying prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical exists, full stop, as a response to people who seemed to be suggesting otherwise, and NOT AT ALL that it's what "The Big Bang Theory is about." If you'd quoted it in the context of the full sentence you plucked it from, that would have been abundantly clear.

Now I'm going to take cortex's advice. I suggest you do too.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:33 PM on December 5, 2013


In that bit you're quoting, I'm saying prejudice against people who aren't neurotypical exists, full stop, as a response to people who seemed to be suggesting otherwise

The comment you were replying to was drawing a clear distinction between discrimination against neuroatypical people and what some people are responding to about what they find objectionable in The Big Bang Theory. It is really fucking rich for you to say that I am not taking comments in their full context.

You have been glib at best with engaging counterarguments to your posts. If, as you'd requested, I were to take the effort to do an in-depth lexical analysis of this thread that we've both already read, I do not have any reason to believe that you would give me any more thought or depth or charity than you did here. I have enough demands on my time without spending it going on a wild goalpost chase for you.
posted by kagredon at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, I think you have clarified Catch, only I think it needed to be said your point of view was only a local one, i.e. there may be some people who devalue social skills because they don't have them. This does not mean that there are not people who by their nature that is not in any way wrong, simply don't find them as valuable.
posted by Schmucko at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2013


BUT! I still watch it because underneath, it is a story of socially awkward people with some severe mental problems (social anxiety, OCD, narcissism and extreme low self esteem) and pairs them with some balanced healthy people who love them and try to rehabilitate them.

Seen in a slightly different way, this is pretty much why I don't watch it -- too much history with folks making it their project to teach me how to normal, not noticing (and having persistent blind spots regarding) that I'm a happy, functional person who actually has pretty good social skills. Much like global thermonuclear warfare, it has a way of being inconvenient, unpleasant, and sometimes a little scary. So I'm not really on with watching more of what I've seen as reading the way I relate to people (for instance, using Darmok-ish referencing as a token of shared history and culture) as a hilarious miscue indicating a lack of connection with people and hence need for "rehabilitation".

That said, I'm formally neutral on the question of whether the show actually contains the elements I perceive -- it's on a short list of things that I recuse myself from examining in detail on the grounds that it's not worth dealing with the material in order to be fair to it.
posted by sparktinker at 8:35 PM on December 5, 2013




« Older Suckerpunch   |   They should have sent a poet Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post