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Would anyone be interested in a Feminist critique of The Big Bang Theory?

(189 Posts)
ShadowsCollideIsSurroundedByAd Wed 30-Dec-15 22:18:20

Inspired by the Friends thread from years ago (was it by SOH?) I watched an episode of TBBT tonight and it genuinely repulsed me.

Howard is a creepy, pushy, sex pest.

Leonard is even worse though. He's the Ross from Friends style 'nice guy'. He's nasty, manipulative, possessive, and in the episode I watched earlier, lorded over and sneered at Penny when she forgot his birthday, then made a joke out of the fact that he'd read her journal, and massively invaded her privacy.

When I first watched TBBT I thought I enjoyed it, but the raging misogyny has put me off. Any other thoughts on it?

ShadowsCollideIsSurroundedByAd Wed 30-Dec-15 22:23:58

Sorry, that was a totally obnoxious way to phrase the question! Does anyone feel the same way and want to discuss it?

YokoUhOh Wed 30-Dec-15 22:30:31

Yes, I hate it, having enjoyed it immensely at the start. I suppose the joke is that the female characters are smarter than the male boffins ('even' Penny). It's turned into a couples-jokes Venus-Mars bore-fest in the last few series, relying on shite stereotypes and cod psychology.

YokoUhOh Wed 30-Dec-15 22:37:08

Howard = damaged by overbearing mother ergo sex pest

Leonard = damaged by refrigerator/overbearing mother ergo passive-aggressive woman-hater

Sheldon = caring mother but HFA therefore 'asexual' (snore)

Amy = intelligent female therefore must be a closet lesbian

Bernadette = more intelligent than husband but unfulfilled/unrealised therefore a fishwife

Penny = attractive/uneducated therefore deserves to be treated appallingly by educated man

<trying to have a sense of humour about it emoticon>

ShadowsCollideIsSurroundedByAd Wed 30-Dec-15 22:51:26

Yes, that's it exactly, Yoko.

The way Amy was written to lust after Penny and behave inappropriately - smart female is repressed closeted lesbian wanting to grope her closest friends (grim).

Bernadette has become a screeching parody of Howard's Mum. Far more successful than Howard = bring her down a peg or two by making her a shrieking 'nag'.

Howard - Oedipus complex. Treats women appallingly.

Leonard: turned into a manipulative, insecure, nasty fucker by his cold, nasty, career woman Mother. So now he's a nasty, sneery, smug arsehole who hated the fact that Penny got a career of her own and wasn't dependant on him anymore.

I used to love TBBT, but the more I watch it, the more it makes me cringe.

pieceofpurplesky Wed 30-Dec-15 22:51:50

I love it. Sorry ... But I just take it at face value and it entertains me. I was so happy when Sheldon and Amy .... Best not add spoilers wink
I also love friends. I think both make the men look like bumbling idiots and that is part of the escapist humour. I also love girls and some girls in which the females are mostly neurotic caricatures and the males fools!

GlacindaTheTroll Wed 30-Dec-15 23:00:11

It started off being all about Penny. (Indeed it started off with her arrival).

She wasn't thick, she was Everywoman, the 'normal' which made the other characters risible.

I did not like what happened to her in the later series, when they made her a caricature and started to make her stupid. But I found much of 8 bad on many levels.

Lightbulbon Wed 30-Dec-15 23:04:03

It was darlene that started the old thread afaicr (which is funny now gown the darlene/Roseanne/Jonny galeki link).

As with friends, tbbt is something I like/can tolerate as 'background' tv but if I analyse it from a feminist pov it is sooo bad!

I didn't watch it at all before mayim bialik started but then watched it because of my love of blossom and her as an intelligent woman and 'Eco' mum.

It's good to have a female TV character who isn't a 'mummy' or a 'bimbo'. I watch it for Amy and would stop if she left.

The guys are all misogynists!

Howard fat shames his mum.

None of them have healthy relationships with their mums and mostly hate them/slag them off. (Although I do love the scenes with Christine and Laurie --another ex Roseanne--)

Lightbulbon Wed 30-Dec-15 23:09:25

link to old friends thread op referred to

Notrevealingmyidentity Wed 30-Dec-15 23:13:34

I hate Sheldon the most. I actually didn't think Leonard was that bad.

Howard was vile but I did like how a recent episode had him admit that he had been a horrible person and had behaved appallingly to women before he met bernadette and that he hoped he was a better person now. Although he's still not great.

Sheldon though - He has always been vile to Amy and openly admits he puts all of his needs before hers.
I couldn't bear to be in a room with him let alone friends.

Sheldons behaviour when him and Amy split up was so bad I was honestly shocked they aired it. It was full on harassment and stalking! There was nothing funny about it at all.

And no one seemed to think it was in any way odd !

DadWasHere Thu 31-Dec-15 09:19:21

Sheldon I always saw as an 'on spectrum' character, being oblivious to social skills, not that he disregarded them. Still, I stopped watching the show after the first few seasons as it seemed to be going downhill, the episode where they bought a prostitute for Raj(?) and how happy he was about it pissed me off, so I have no idea how the characters evolved later.

ShadowsCollideIsSurroundedByAd Thu 31-Dec-15 13:07:32

Just to clarify, when I described Leonard's Mum up there ^ I was referring to how the writers portrayed her, not my thoughts on her.

Yes, Dad, that episode pissed me off too (it was Howard, and they had her pretend to be Jewish) . Your buddy is feeling glum? Buy him a woman, that'll fix everything hmm

HappyGoLuckyGirl Thu 31-Dec-15 13:22:35

Oh for God's sake. hmm

Duckdeamon Thu 31-Dec-15 13:27:50

Almost always fails the bechdel test.

Raj's gf is portrayed as a "bunny boiler". The women accept that the lodger/comic book creepy guy sexually harasses and spies on women.

Some racist (eg to do with Raj) and homophobic jokes (similar jokes to "Friends").

NuggetofPurestGreen Thu 31-Dec-15 13:42:36

Posters who say 'it's just entertainment/lighten up' etc. - you do realise that pervasive negative portrayals of women and or negative stereotypes in general portrayed in popular culture directly influence how people think/behave in real life? Subconsciously or not.

Sorry not very articulate but this stuff is important.

ShadowsCollideIsSurroundedByAd Thu 31-Dec-15 13:47:45

Absolutely, Nugget, I couldn't agree more. It really is very important.

grimbletart Thu 31-Dec-15 14:14:40

Glad I don't know what the hell you are all talking about…which blissful state of ignorance about TV crappy sitcoms seems a good place to be for a woman grin

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 31-Dec-15 16:58:50

Posters who say 'it's just entertainment/lighten up' etc. - you do realise that pervasive negative portrayals of women and or negative stereotypes in general portrayed in popular culture directly influence how people think/behave in real life? Subconsciously or not.

Leonard reminds me of Eilliot Rodgers. Entitled to access to beautiful women because he's clever and has money. This stuff is pervasive and does cause harm.

ArkATerre Thu 31-Dec-15 17:04:19

I think they are all portrayed as a bit pathetic and the female characters are stronger and more independent. It does rely a bit too much on old tropes like Fat Overbearing Mother and Nagging Wife though.

Lightbulbon Thu 31-Dec-15 17:38:39

Also I think the writer are very influenced by friends.

The shows are really quite similar.

There's the way raj sees priya as his possession when Leonard is dating her.

Also didn't Shelton try to get his sister to store her eggs for him or something?

The guys make comments about the girls/penny drinking wine but the girls dont do the same to them always eating carry outs. They'd all be so fat if they ate like that irl.

Even the spheres of science they do is so stereotypical!

BarneySparkles Fri 01-Jan-16 14:46:34

I can't bear the episode where Amy basically takes advantage of Sheldon to get sexual satisfaction. Pretending to be sick so he rubs her chest and bathes her and then the spanking sequence. Gross.

I despise Leonard. He's portrayed as this nice fella who finally gets the girl. In reality he's a "Nice guy" who bitches, moans, basically stalks Penny, and eventually she caves in and starts dating him. At which point he's a horrid little troll who obsesses about losing her but cheats on her and enjoys it when another woman asks him out on a date. He's horrid.

It actually makes me cross because it just contributes to those "nice guys" out there in the real world thinking that the way they see the world and women is accurate.

Exalted Fri 01-Jan-16 15:11:33

I've been silently browsing this forum for sometime now, satisfied with my evaluation and judgement of its arguments. However, the ludicrous content of this thread is so far removed from logic and reason that I simply had to create an account to refute it.

The notion that TBBT is replete with "raging misogyny" is utterly preposterous. This show features a number of intelligent and academically accomplished women who thrive in their respective fields. Moreover, they are strong-willed and independent. Amy, Bernadette, Priya, Leslie Winkle and Howard's mother instantly spring to mind.

On the contrary, the insecurity and self-consciousness/self-loathing of the male characters is the comical foundation of the show. We are reminded time and time again of how pathetic their lives were prior to the relationships they developed with women. Indeed, they embody many stereotypes of men, e.g. by engaging in nerdy gaming culture and being overly reliant on takeaway food. Much of the humour in the show stems from this notion, and often times, the male characters would ridicule themselves and each other about these things.

The fault in your approach, OP, is that you are analysing the content of the show with the intention of finding misogyny. Anything that could conceivably be construed as sexist, no matter how fickle, will inevitably be interpreted as such with that sort of mindset. Ultimately, this is a comedy show. It draws upon stereotypes and a satirical interpretation of the real for humour. Do not take it more seriously than it intends.

Notrevealingmyidentity Fri 01-Jan-16 15:21:56

I'm pretty sure sure something is only sexist if it is in fact sexist. hmm

Just because there are some good female characters and portrayals doesn't give the show some kind of special pass that means the rest of it cannot be sexist.

Which a lot of it is. I also believe we can have comedy without sexism, homophobia or racism. Strangely enough. So no the fact it is a comedy is not an excuse for sexism.

ShowOfHands Fri 01-Jan-16 15:23:55

I think my name is tied, in some people's minds, to the old Friends threads because of my thoughts on Ross which predate the linked thread. I quite like that my MN legacy is a vague recollection that I once waffled about Ross.

TBBT is misogynistic. American sitcoms are. TBBT is sad because it started off with a real nugget of an idea. There are still flashes of it. My favourite relationship in the show is Sheldon/Penny actually and in essence it shows character growth and without relying on patriarchal dynamics. However, they've deeply hidden that behind some obvious and unfair comedy and sacrificed something which worked. Other fave relationship is Sheldon and his Mum.

It's a real shame. I do enjoy the old episodes but wish they'd retained the core of it.

Very well said Exhalted

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