September 2, 2017

I don't watch the show, but I enjoyed "The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory."

It has some great points to make, and it supports those points — nerdily enough — with evidence. That is, there are plenty of clips from the show, so you don't have to know the show to understand what is being talked about.



It's possible that there's an unfair selectivity to the chosen clips and that other templates could be imposed, but even if you're resistant to the idea that this — and other — TV comedies deploy real sexism under cover of nerdiness, you should answer with evidence of your own and not with discourse-averse categorical rejection.

I found that clip through Metafilter, where somebody says:
I can't watch the show. I've tried. (Full disclosure: I have tried because more than one person, on more than one occasion, has informed me that I am very... Sheldon, or anyway what Sheldon would be if he were female.) It's a show that does not genuinely like any of its characters, makes unkind and hurtful fun of all of them, and is sexist in a way I see all the damn time in geek culture. It's not funny there, either.
I attempted to watch the show approximately once, but I couldn't get through it, because I feel like a complete alien to the culture where actors say one gag after another and an audience (or machine) laughs on cue over and over. I can, however, see that "The Big Bang Theory" has been one of the top-3 highest-rated TV shows for the last 5 years.

Ah! Here, you can watch "The Big Bang Theory" without the laugh track. It's put together by someone who hates the show and thinks he can "expose how unfunny the show actually is" by taking out the laugh track. To me, the laugh track is the worst thing about the show. I am not fooled by laugh tracks into thinking things are funnier than they are. I get hostile and think they're less funny than they'd be without the laugh track.

So I prefer the no-laugh-track version of "The Big Bang Theory," even as it's dark and depressing. I'm reminded of what bothered me when I did try to watch the show: The characters are supposed to be very smart, but they don't say smart things. They say stupid things.

181 comments:

Original Mike said...

"It's a show that does not genuinely like any of its characters, makes unkind and hurtful fun of all of them..."

Seems to me that's a requirement for comedy.

rehajm said...

A sitcom where smart people say stupid things reflects reality.

I don't think anybody would watch a sitcom where stupid people say smart things. Sometimes Penny says smart things by accident and it's funny or at least the laugh track tells me it's supposed to be funny.

Michael K said...

I don't watch TV except football.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch.

tim in vermont said...

OK, when they presented Anthony Michael Hall triumphantly showing the panties and presented this as "entitled" I knew he was being completely dishonest. Nowhere in Hollywood has there been a less entitled bunch. And he got them with consent. The woman had all of the power, complete power over him. That was the joke. The narrator's voice is intolerable too. I can just hear him demanding "What about Dingle Norwood?" Is there a transcript? He talks way too slow, as well, as if he is trying to say, let me make sure you troglodytes who disagree with me get this.

The show is funny. I guess that it is apparently politically incorrect, and that is supposed to snuff the humor, but it's funny.

Ann Althouse said...

"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."

Is that true? For everyone? I think "mean-spirited" things can work for people who have some mean spirit in them and need a safe place to experience it. And isn't that everybody? I think it's more a question of what kind of meanness you have and what hits the spot for you.

rhhardin said...

It looks like slamming men to me, not slamming women. There's no misogyny.

Guys are awful (laugh track laugh).

rhhardin said...

It's a who is dumber question.

The show's audience or the narrator.

The show's audience is guy-slammers. They get everything the narrator does, who does not get that.

Gahrie said...

The characters are supposed to be very smart, but they don't say smart things. They say stupid things.

Personally I find this to be true in real life quite often.

Things like emotion is a valid part of reasoning.

tim in vermont said...

So making fun of guys for acting like sexist pigs makes the show misogynist/ I guess misogyny has many more facets to explore, it has more meanings than 'to get.' I can't wait for his take-down of All In the Family for having a sexist bigot as the lead.

Mark said...

So, watching the first minute or so of the clip -- the criticism is that the show mistreats women?? Just that short clip shows them to be a horror-show insult to men. They are the opposite of manhood.

Gahrie said...

Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch.

All comedy is mean-spirited.

rhhardin said...

Paglia on the contrary says math is an escape from women. Guys doing math or physics can go all day without thinking about women.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Oh no... sex....ism and jokes. We must rid our culture of all isms, until we are one united blob of stale gray cold oatmeal.

tim in vermont said...

And retroactively applying the modern white left's definition of "rape" is a neat trick too. The whole thing is a display of creepiness, that much is true.

Mark said...

Ugh. At the two minute mark -- and this goes on for another unwatchable (and unwatched) 19 minutes?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I thought the show was funny. the laugh track is stale and irritating. The newer episodes are boring.

Gahrie said...

I applaud the SJWer who managed to create the idea that a piece of popular culture is insulting to women, considering 99% of it, including commercials, shows men as bumbling fools saved by females.

rhhardin said...

In Get Smart (2008 Carell and Hathaway) the guy does all the klutzy stupid things but in a remarkable winds up the clever, deep and heroic one the the profession the two share.

tim in vermont said...

Next he is going to do a piece on how Uncle Tom's Cabin was a racist novel and should be burned.

Mark said...

BBT is part of a long line of "hip and cool" totally unfunny comedies.
How I Met Your Mother
2 Broke Girls
Will and Grace
Dharma and Greg
Friends . . .

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

The laugh track is used on every single sit-com. Be nice if they would re-think that. What ism is an annoying laugh track? I am deeply offended and I would like some sort of government compensation for my distress.

tim in vermont said...

"Flags of the countries that have been torn apart, and the women I have a feeling were responsible."

My god, you would have to not have watched the show to take that out of context quote as "misogyny." His heart had been broken by Amy, as non traditional a female character as you can get, most of the "plain" women on TV are really just oddball cute, Amy, she is on her own in the looks department, and has to win us over with her personality, which she does, until eventually, you begin to see her as cute in her own way.

This stuff is completely stripped of context and propped up, like so many quotes in a Maureen Down column, for ridicule.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

OK, when they presented Anthony Michael Hall triumphantly showing the panties

I only watched a few episodes many tears ago, but I thought the men were all gay. I didn't realize they were supposed to be straight.

traditionalguy said...

It's amazing to contrast this near perfect legalism enforced hyper gender rules to the free wheeling and hilarious, if very mean spirited, series from 1990 called Married With Children.

Rusty said...

See. This is the thing about the left, and I'm including the usual susects. They can suck the joy out of any situation.

The show was successful because it was funny and it balanced on the razors edge of being PC.
And I hate preachy douchebags.

Fernandinande said...

rhhardin said...
Guys doing math or physics can go all day without thinking about women.

Rusty said...

Oh. One more thing. If you thought that the show was misogynist, listen in on an all female friends poker party some time.

Spiros Pappas said...

The jokes were good. No wonder writers continue to rely on cruel pranks and jokes about retrograde masculinity. And, anyways, the other side does it too. You can't "celebrate the feminism" of Sex and the City without criticizing the writers for their casual misandry. I mean, really, all of New York City's men are mediocre and ugly and awful. Come on!

tim in vermont said...

It was a sweet moment when Sheldon starts sharing his Fun With Flags podcast with Amy, which elevated the pathos of Sheldon's declamation.

This guy goes through BBT, the same way Chomsky goes through US history. With an un-disguised animus used to justify dishonesty.

Laslo Spatula said...

I watched the whole thing and came away thinking this was meta-comedy.

Antifa's Sheldon puts together a clip-show to show how attuned he is to misogyny, so he can White Knight to the SJW chicks.

Well played.

I am Laslo.

David said...

I do not watch it (or any show) regularly. I am a TV grazer. But I find the show quite funny. I have no idea why and don't want to spoil it for myself through overanalysis. It has something to do with earnestness. The characters are all comically earnest about one thing or another.

rehajm said...

I feel like a complete alien to the culture where actors say one gag after another and an audience (or machine) laughs on cue over and over. I can, however, see that "The Big Bang Theory" has been one of the top-3 highest-rated TV shows for the last 5 years.

It's highly rated because of it's a half hour escape from TV desperately trying find the thing to say to overthrow Trump. Then you have the underrepresented STEM types watching to read the equations on the white board or listening for references to their favorite scientists.

The whole thing is really just a scaffold to which to apply the sitcom formula, anyway. It could be anything or nothing...

I'm thinking to develop a pilot about a college professor who blogs and pitches daffy ideas to her snarky blog commenters while her gardener husband 'spins' wisdom to hold the whole thing together. Plus special appearances from the neighbor dog who gets the applause track the first time he makes an appearance in every episode.

rehajm said...

It would make for good drinking games. Everyone finish your beverage when man in shorts shows up.

tim in vermont said...

It's about thought crime. He's worried you are laughing for the wrong reasons. That's why lefty art sucks. Ambiguity not allowed. Humans not inflicted with the leftism virus like ambiguity and irony, even if they are not used to advance politics.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I thought Howard's character was funny. Does that make me a misogynist by default?

I'm already a Deplorable Nazi White Supremacist by default.

tcrosse said...

I'm thinking to develop a pilot about a college professor who blogs and pitches daffy ideas to her snarky blog commenters while her gardener husband 'spins' wisdom to hold the whole thing together. Plus special appearances from the neighbor dog who gets the applause track the first time he makes an appearance in every episode.

Gold.

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."

"Is that true? For everyone? I think "mean-spirited" things can work for people who have some mean spirit in them and need a safe place to experience it."

And I appreciate your providing that safe place. Except, did you maybe mean "express", rather than "experience"? Perhaps there is a subtlety here that I am missing.

J. Farmer said...

I watched the first several seasons of TBBT, mostly because the four leading men were basically my high school classmates brought to life on the small screen (I went to what would now probably be called a "STEM high school"). Speaking of misogyny, I actually started losing interest after they started pairing them all up with life partners. Speaking of sexist, with the exception of dowdy Mayim Bialik (whose casting reinvigorated the show), the mens' love interests are gorgeous blonds.

But...is this really "misogyny?" That seems like a pretty loaded term. Sexist, undoubtedly, but misogynist? And if so, why might this label be applied to nerds? Hmm...perhaps the experience of being a socially awkward beta male with gallons of testosterone coursing through your pubescent veins in high school and the subsequent response that gets from the attractive, popular girls in said high school. Hell, if the maker of this video really wanted to be daring he could have gone back a few more years to the infamous porno Debbie Does Dallas, where the climax (no pun intended) is Richard Balla's nerdy, awkward sports store owner finally lives out his fantasy in making love to Bambi Woods' Debbie, dressed as a Texas cheerleader no less. A scene they show from Revenge of the Nerds pays direct homage to this.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I watched a few episodes based on the recommendation of a friend that the show was hilarious. The laugh track was a complete turn off. I couldn't understand what was so funny as to merit the hysterical laughing. The characters seemed to be borderline retarded and nothing was funny.

Perhaps that was us, not being familiar with the "inside" jokes. I now wonder about my friend's taste in shows and when he makes a recommendation, I am very doubtful.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Here's the really funny part-- I'll bet the writers of the show are Hillary voters and staunch democrats.

Sebastian said...

Rocky Mountains in Philly because Rocky: funny stuff! Meta, I've been told. Misogynist, I've been told.

Laslo Spatula said...

The Socially Awkward Guy Who Makes No Eye Contact works because peeing on women is not necessarily misogyny.

And there is no laugh track.

I am Laslo.

heyboom said...

This reminds me of the way my wife and I interact. If I introduce her to something she's not familiar with using my own biases, she'll more often than not adopt that same bias. I suspect some here are simply adopting the biases of the professor.

All of my friends rave about Breaking Bad being the BEST SHOW EVER, but I never watched it or had any desire to. Taste is an individual thing.

Rob said...

I like the term "lampshading," which describes a standard technique Bill Maher uses. He'll tell a racist or sexist joke but preface it by saying something like, "I'm sure the Republicans are thinking," thereby not only telling the verboten joke but also managing to tar his ideological enemies.

J. Farmer said...

Re: laugh track/studio audience laughter

Norm Macdonald tells a funny story about his first show biz job as a writer on Roseanne. He said that when he read the script, he was terrified because "it sucked so much," but the show runner constantly reassured him that when it got to dress rehearsal, he would see that "it worked." He was then amazed when the audience reacted with uproariously laughter at every joke, because, as he put it they had been "worked into a lather." If you've ever been in the audience for a sitcom shoot, there is invariably a warm-up guy who basically does stand up before things get started or during scene changes. Also, some of the awkward pauses in the supposed "no laugh track" video could be because the cast has to wait a beat for the audience to stop laughing before they can move on to their next line, otherwise the audio will get garbled.

J. Farmer said...

@heyboom:

All of my friends rave about Breaking Bad being the BEST SHOW EVER, but I never watched it or had any desire to. Taste is an individual thing.

Ha. Try being friends with a Game of Thrones enthusiast (pretty much my entire social circle). It's unbearable.

Big Mike said...

I mean, really, all of New York City's men are mediocre and ugly and awful. Come on!

Or gay. @Spiros, you forgot gay.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Ha. Try being friends with a Game of Thrones enthusiast (pretty much my entire social circle). It's unbearable."

Indeed.

When my friends start talking about the show I remind them that I have no interest in a show that solves everything with magic and dragons.

They proceed to tell me it's not about magic and dragons, that it's really about interesting characters in power struggles.

Then they start talking about a fucking dragon.

I am Laslo.

Curious George said...

Plus special appearances from the neighbor dog who gets the applause track the first time he makes an appearance in every episode.

No, everyone yells "Zeus" when he appears. Like "Norm" on Cheers.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

One of the most over-rated sit-coms ever made? Friends.

Here's the rundown:

Cute perfect person with perfect hair says something adorable and clever: Laugh track
Other cute perfect person with perfect hair responds with more clever: Laugh track
Guitar music.
Cut
Repeat

Me? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Rusty said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."

(Guy humor warning)Is it mean spirited? It makes fun of itself more than anything else. It isn't funny when Kobe Bryant casually tells a team mate ,"I'm going to punch you in the nuts."
It would be hilarious if Peter Dinklage? said it. It isn't mean spirited, like all humor it's contextual.It's like saying ,"A Midsummernights Dream." is mean spirited. (pun).

Jupiter said...

I had read about the show, but never watched an episode. Having been a Physics grad student, I was rather surprised to read that there was a very popular show about a bunch of Physics grad students. Seeing those clips clarifies the situation. They are all Corporal Klinger, right? And Radar O'Reilly.

Many of the Physics students I knew resembled the stereotypes in those clips, except that they were, actually, highly intelligent, and therefore incapable of the blithe lack of self-awareness those characters display.

Bruce Hayden said...

"BBT is part of a long line of "hip and cool" totally unfunny comedies.
How I Met Your Mother
2 Broke Girls
Will and Grace
Dharma and Greg
Friends . . ."

Respectfully disagree. Couldn't stand any of those shows, but we do like BBT. Maybe because I have spent enough time with super smart nerds, that I find most of the characters almost credible. It also hits a very different demographic - the Silicon Valley techie nerd, instead of the (mostly) NYC urban chic. Probably doesn't hurt that my kid turned us on to it, during their summer NSF physics REU (Research Experience for Undergrads) where all of the kids in the program obsessed over it. A bunch of clueless brainiac dorks. Of the 7 main characters, 5 have STEM PhDs (3 in physics), 6 working as researchers at CalTech. Yet, they have problems with the simple ordinary things, and esp sex and dating. With the exception of the one "normal", Penny. They represent the class that didn't have dates in HS or college, but are changing the world with their technology. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos etc.The ones who were the smartest kids around, but were ackward in social situations. And didn't move to NYC, but stayed where the real action is - CA.

Christopher said...

In pop culture we live in a sea of hate and scorn directed at men, especially white men, so I can only wish BBT were sexist in the traditional sense as a refreshing contrast to that, which it isn't.

I can't watch the show for more than a few minutes. But to each his own as far as escapism is concerned; it's baseball on the radio for me.

However, this reminds me of one of the great injustices in professional recognition. Steve Carell never won an Emmy for his work playing Michael Scott in The Office. Jim Parsons won *four* for Sheldon Cooper. I think all of those were up against Carell (as well as other actors of course) but many hoped Carell would at least get one after his last season. Nope. Johnny Two-Note won again. I say two notes because yes, Parsons shows great dramatic range in that role, all the way from A to B.

What a farce.

Laslo Spatula said...

It all makes sense after you read this: women have a right to hate men -- sorry, y’all, misandry is justifiable

Stop it, men.

Just stop it.

I am Laslo.

Mark said...

Perhaps that was us, not being familiar with the "inside" jokes.
* * *
Here's the really funny part-- I'll bet the writers of the show are Hillary voters and staunch democrats.


That's just it -- being produced by people of the progressive left, who assume that every correct-thinking person thinks like they do and loves MSNBC, these shows are filled with all sorts of inside jokes which leave the rest of the audience feeling like outsiders.

Meanwhile, being of the progressive left (and really not so much Democrat or pro-Hillary), they are allowed to say all sorts of misogynist, sexist, racist, mean things and not only get away with it, but be praised for it.

If, for example, a Democrat were to jokingly talk about grabbing a woman's crotch, they would either laugh along or think nothing of it. But if, years later, that same Democrat were to run for public office as a Republican, they suddenly it would be cause for rage and riots at how deplorable and offensive this worse-than-Hitler Nazi is. Then they would go and shout over and over and over words that they had just decried as deeply and per se offensive to women and merely to say it was a hate crime, while also putting on hats that were supposed to symbolize said women's crotches.

See, the misogyny of shows like BBT are OK and funny because of who produces it. Added to that is the genuine anti-woman sentiment that persons of a certain sexuality have for them.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Speaking of sexist, with the exception of dowdy Mayim Bialik (whose casting reinvigorated the show), the mens' love interests are gorgeous blonds."

Trivia - she almost plays herself there. In real life, she has essentially the same PhD, but acts instead of doing research because it gives her more time with her large flock of kids.

Paco Wové said...

Someone who hates the show and thinks he can "expose how unfunny the show actually is by taking out the laugh track"

I'll take "people with too much time on their hands" for $1000, Alex...

traditionalguy said...

The fun part of the show is watching the guys get along together. And they are cast as having various levels of functioning among autistic savants, yet they still get the girls because they have good jobs.

Seems pretty realistic to me. Earthy Penny, who is the sine qua non contrast character, accepts them. So there is hope for over educated nerds after all.

Mark said...

the audience reacted with uproariously laughter at every joke, because, as he put it they had been "worked into a lather."

Also, when someone begins to feel really uncomfortable at something that is really awful, they can react with all sorts of nervous laughter.

And you can go to plenty of social events where lots of people have plastic smiles and are gushing with fake enthusiastic joy at the occasion. There is plenty of acting on both sides of the camera.

J. Farmer said...

To be a bit of a math nerd for a second...how representative are these clips? If you take out the prologue and the narration, there looks to be about 15 minutes of clips from TBBT. They have aired 231 episodes; assuming an average run time of 20 minutes, that's 4,620 minutes of content. So these scenes represent about 0.3% of the total, hardly representative of the show as a whole. For example, the Howard character is acknowledged to be a creepy perv, and he is incessantly insulted by and put in his place by the Penny character, who is portrayed as a midwestern, beer-drinking, sex-talking strong woman. In one episode she has to beat up a bully for the four men. But since that doesn't support the narrative of "adorkable misogyny," it doesn't make the cut.

I have the sense that one could just as easily put together a similar package of clips to reveal the show's casual anti-male bias. But depicting men as overgrown little boys who constantly need women to fix their problems and teach them to be better humans is pretty much part of the zeitgeist now.

heyboom said...

@j farmer

Full disclosure, I am a fan of GOT. Enthusiastic but not rabid, if that means anything.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Christopher - the Hollywood Award Show = More grating than a laugh track.

Curious George said...

With laugh track, without laugh track, not funny.

Mark said...

One of the most over-rated sit-coms ever made? Friends.
Here's the rundown:


Every week they are having sex with someone else (as if that is something that everyone everywhere does).
And then they go and spend the rest of their time hanging around a coffee shop sitting on a couch projecting how hip and cool they are -- even weasel-worm Ross and idiot Joey.

J. Farmer said...

Bruce Hayden:

Trivia - she almost plays herself there. In real life, she has essentially the same PhD, but acts instead of doing research because it gives her more time with her large flock of kids.

She is also an Orthodox Jew who prioritized modesty. If you ever notice, either in character or in media appearances, Bialik never reveals her shoulders. It is actually quite refreshing, especially in comparison to Lena Dunham's neurotic nudity, which always seemed to be me an obvious reflection of Dunham's deep insecurity.

J. Farmer said...

@heyboom:

Full disclosure, I am a fan of GOT. Enthusiastic but not rabid, if that means anything.

Some of my best friends are GOT enthusiasts.

rhhardin said...

Stuff I listen to - Rush has been pretty bad recently, having gone all moral. And his experimental guest hosts really unlistenable. Steyn is okay but is out of material owing to his own show.

Mark said...

Steve Carell never won an Emmy for his work playing Michael Scott in The Office. Jim Parsons won *four* for Sheldon Cooper

Carell plays for the "wrong team." And the Emmys, like all the other award shows, have become purely a popularity contest having little to do with merit.

I was happily surprised, though, when Tatiana Maslany won last year.

Big Mike said...

@Bruce Hayden, referring to the characters and their real life counterparts as "clueless brainiac dorks" is and has been one of the big problems facing this society. As you've sort of worked out, they are making the future. In Silicon Valley they're also making north of $150K while they make that future, which may make them more acceptable to women willing to overlook their social ineptitude.

rhhardin said...

Carell is good in Dinner for Schmucks (2010), if you want a nerd reference.

tim in vermont said...

It's funny to me, though maybe not to you, how people can declare a show not funny and assume that large swaths of people come back year after year because of the laugh track.

But now that it's been denounced, I guess no one will watch it anymore.

Does one hate women because he likes watching Penny grom behind climbimg those stairs? Asking for a friend.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

How I Met Your Mother
2 Broke Girls
Will and Grace
Dharma and Greg
Friends . . ."

Agreed- all are unwatchable. BBT, when it first rolled out, was different, and funny. I found myself laughing at the nerds. As J Farmer said above, as soon as the characters all coupled-up, the show became a snooze.

Laslo Spatula said...

All of this talk of misogyny in comedy makes me want to buy this shirt.

The best part of this site is the guy they Photoshopped the shirt onto having no idea what he would be used for.

I am Laslo.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I watched part of that yesterday. I agree with a lot of what he says. If you watch Revenge of the Nerds, which he cites as a seminal work in the dorkable oeuvre, you see at least one rape (by deception), peeping tomism (via hiding cameras) and just generally horrible behavior. I thought that way back when it first came out.

tim in vermont said...

Will and Grace was funny if you underunderstood that it was really the Karen and Jack show.

William said...

i don't watch the show regularly, but every time I do, I laugh out loud. Sheldon Cooper is a great comic creation. His lack of affect is like Jack Benny's stinginess. The humor is in the predictability........What with Netflix and Amazon, its difficult for me to watch a show that's interrupted by commercials. I watch BBT at the gymn. I think if the people here watched it while doing cardio they would find it more amusing.

PJ said...

"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."

Is that true? For everyone? I think "mean-spirited" things can work for people who have some mean spirit in them and need a safe place to experience it. And isn't that everybody? I think it's more a question of what kind of meanness you have and what hits the spot for you.


A lot of humor has a mix of "funny" and "mean" and works (when it does) for that "safe space" reason. And we all see that in normal non-SJW life if something is funny enough it is forgiven for any meanness involved. But many people seem to find meanness itself funny, or at least to require very little in the way of "funny" to provoke amusement at portrayals of meanness. (It is a trait from which I believe fair inferences may be drawn.) Without ever having seen BBT, I suspect there are enough such people to support a network TV show. Perhaps IHMMP's original observation could nerdily be restated, "Any attempt at comedy that falls below the viewer's minimum funny/mean ratio is not fun to watch."

Laslo Spatula said...

If you can't laugh at women then the only thing left is to look at them naked.

I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

Not sure why BBT has to own the crimes of Revenge. I guess nobody would have thought of making a show about California nerds...

tim in vermont said...

BBT is anything but mean. Out of context clips notwithstanding.

CWJ said...

J. Farmer,

Interesting that you reference Roseanne in your first comment. Leonard, Leslie Winkle, and Sheldon's mom are all Roseanne veterans.

Also, GOT fan here, but you forgot broadswords/axes. All problems can be solved by broadswords/axes, magic & dragons. Oh and poison.

Sam L. said...

I tried to watch it once. I have the background for it. Nope. No way. Not funny, laugh track was overbearing.

J. Farmer said...

CWJ:

Interesting that you reference Roseanne in your first comment. Leonard, Leslie Winkle, and Sheldon's mom are all Roseanne veterans.

The show's co-creator, Chuck Lorre, got his start writing and producing Roseanne.

Clark said...

Toward the end of the clip we learn that the creator of this video essay is on the side of those who believe that James Damore committed an unpardonable sin with his Google memo. Do we really think that the way to deal with misogyny and sexism is to stir up ever more outrage? I think there is a place for sending it up humorously. But then I am a fan of BBT.

J. Farmer said...

The Big Bang Theory has been on the SJW hit list for quite some time. Google it and "racist" and you'll get a trove of SJW caterwauling. The behavior of the show's lone ethnic minority, Raj, and Sheldon's fundamentalist Christian mother, are often offered up as Exhibits A and B. That the mother's racist comments are actually an attempt to insult and belittle conservative Christians seems to go right over their heads. And I mentioned porno before, where is the SJW criticism of pornography? At one time, feminists actually protested porn as misogynistic and exploitive of women. Now that is completely gone. Instead, modern feminists comb through sitcom and video game plots to find sexist, misogynist tropes. Yet, even on their best days, sitcoms and video games do not come anywhere near rivaling the amount of eyeballs that porn attracts. And porn, almost by its very nature, is suffused with sexism and misogyny. But since anti-porn sentiments are associated with the religious right and is considered unhip, it's nowhere on the radar.

Scott X said...

Q:"How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
A:"That's not funny!"

Great "that's not funny" deconstruction by the humorless, virtue signaling scold from Metafilter. Any valid points the critic makes are quickly drowned out by his relentless self-righteousness and preening morality.

For what it's worth, my lesbian co-worker told me a few weeks ago that she loved BBT, thought it was hilarious, and like Seinfeld and Friends, she could watch it over-and-over.

Ralph L said...

At some level of maturity, seeing people make fun of or put down other people becomes ugly and tiresome, despite years of doing it oneself. Also, laugh tracks become unbearable.

On Will & Grace, they were just plain hateful to alleged friends.


Anonymous said...

I've been a science fiction fan practically since I first learned to read. I watched one episode of BBT, and have never wanted to see another. Another person in the SF fan community gave what I think is a plausible explanation for this: the BBT producers and writers are doing "geekface," comedy about a population from the viewpoint of people who aren't part of that population and really don't understand more than its superficial mannerisms. Now I have met SF fans who love the show, but I can't imagine ever being one of them.

Ralph L said...

Clark, I agree, the Goolag stuff screwed up their argument. Damore was naive but not nasty.

Bruce Hayden said...

"The fun part of the show is watching the guys get along together. And they are cast as having various levels of functioning among autistic savants, yet they still get the girls because they have good jobs."

One of my favorites was when Bert, the geology guy, won a McArthur grant. He had been trying to get dates online, and got no responses. Then, he changed his profile to mention the grant, and hot women started responding. He brings his girlfriend by, and everyone else convinces him that she was dating him for his money. So, he breaks up with her. She is mad, but he gets her back with a Jetski. Mostly done as call-ins to Sheldon and Amy's "Fun With Flags" podcast (they keep expecting actual viewers, but keep getting calls from him about his relationship issues).

J. Farmer said...

And for a completely different take, the incomparable John Derbyshire: The Nerdcom

tim in vermont said...

I got turned on to TBBT from a physics blog. motls.blogspot.com Kind of funny that it's become a bid for snob appeal to put it down.

I don't watch it regularly any more, but in its heyday, it was a good show.

The JerseyNut said...

So, according to this video, one of the most popular shows on TV is rife with misogamy and racism. And let's assume for a moment that his definition by deconstruction (despite using a handful of episodes repeatedly here, which seems to make his "evidence" a bit selective) is actually valid.

Seems to me it says that America still finds racial, sexual humor amusing. And that the Pop Culture Detective is telling us sternly, in classic SJW-style, "That's not funny!"

A world without humor - or at least, non-POLITICALLY CORRECT humor - is the endgame here. Like BBT or not, television programing is still the ultimate democracy. Watch it, and they will make more, ignore it, and it will quietly vanish. The Culture Warriors cannot destroy BBT by saying it is not fumy (true to them, but not to enough Americans), so they are trying to make viewers turn away by instructing you on why you shouldn't find it funny at all. In fact, enjoying BBT would seem to make you almost...deplorable.

Who can say what tactics will meet with success these days (so much of depends on media amplification, to be sure). But one can be sure that whatever replaces BBT will probably not be as funny to mainstream America. Unless, of course, it is replaced by "Sheldon", the prequel currently in development...!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch my DVD of "Blazing Saddles". Suck it, SJWs...

tim in vermont said...

"That the mother's racist comments are actually an attempt to insult and belittle conservative Christians seems to go right over their heads."

Yes, as I said, this guy would have found Uncle Tom's Cabin as pro-slavery. And the self confidence with which he spews the idiocy only could have come from never being challenged in an intellectually free environment.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with J.Farmer about this being a SJW attack. No doubt, the person making that clip didn't read the Google memo Himself, and couldn't refute its major points if His own life depended on it. I. Also noted the mention of Gamergate there, and, again suspect that he had no clue as to what actually went on there. And, I think that most of us here realize that this use of (presumed) guilt by association is really a combination of virtue signallng and inability to make cogent arguments.

JMS said...

Big Bang Theory has no laugh track. Like the majority of sitcoms in 2017, it is filmed before an audience.

BBT is funny because it is politically incorrect. Sheldon’s mother, a recurring character, is a devoutly religious conservative from Texas and whenever she appears there are jokes about Christians, conservatives and Southerners. Howard’s late mother was ridiculed for her obesity, her divorced status and being a Jew. One of the main characters, Penny, is lampooned as a hick because she is from Omaha. There are jokes about the elites (Caltech administration and Rajesh’s father) and blue-collar workers (Penny and Bernadette's father). The show makes jokes about physical and mental handicaps (recurring characters Barry Kripke and Lucy) and there are jokes about a guy who lost his business in a fire and is now homeless. And yes, all the main characters are ridiculed for stereotypical sex traits. No one in the show is spared. I’ve watched for all 10 seasons and I think it’s funny, but not as funny as black-ish, which is not filmed before an audience and has no laugh track. I often laugh out loud at black-ish and I rarely laugh at TV sitcoms.

BillyTalley said...

I spend time every year in Spain, and BBT is quite popular here. Regularly, people refer to it and many understand bits from the series. Un toque de cultura que ha sido muy bien absorbido aquí. ...which still confuses me since I haven't seen even an entire single eposode yet.

EDH said...

Awful. What's next: "The Bigotry of Archie Bunker" or "Ralph Cramden: The Misogynistic Roots of the Manned Lunar Landing"?

Jump toward the end when the narrator ties this all to sexism pervading Silicon Valley, replete with multiple MSM mischaracterizations of James Damore's memo while at Google.

Likewise, this video could easily be edited into a video about "SJW-scolds who want to get laid by virtue of their visionary non-sexism."

tim in vermont said...

I would like to to see Althouse weigh in one more time, but I am saving that thousand bucks for a trip to a Canadian nudie bar.

Bruce Hayden said...

I also agree with him that the Derbyshire article is probably a better explanation of BBT than this article.

Mark said...

BBT is funny because it is politically incorrect.

Let's see --
Sheldon’s mother, a recurring character, is a devoutly religious conservative from Texas and whenever she appears there are jokes about Christians, conservatives and Southerners. Howard’s late mother was ridiculed for her obesity, her divorced status and being a Jew. One of the main characters, Penny, is lampooned as a hick because she is from Omaha. There are jokes about the elites (Caltech administration and Rajesh’s father) and blue-collar workers (Penny and Bernadette's father). The show makes jokes about physical and mental handicaps (recurring characters Barry Kripke and Lucy) and there are jokes about a guy who lost his business in a fire and is now homeless.

OK, still waiting for that politically incorrect humor. Aside from arguably the bit about elites, this litany is entirely PC with respect to which people and groups it is permissible to ridicule.

Bruce Hayden said...

Talk about stereotypes and the like about the handicapped, Steven Hawking makes cameo appearances (as do a record number of others). He is supposedly a friend of Sheldon's, of sorts. So, Howard, the engineer, in supreme bad taste, comes up with a remote controlled wheelchair toy of Hawking than you can drive around with a remote control, spin around, and get to speak in Hawking's pseudo voice. The episode has him presenting it to the rest of the cast, one by one. All are appalled. Except, in the end, Hawking.

Ann Althouse said...

"It looks like slamming men to me, not slamming women. There's no misogyny. Guys are awful (laugh track laugh)."

From the point of view of the video, that is a technique that's being used to get away with misogyny. You should process that and explain why you reject it, if you do. By making it seem as though they are somehow criticizing the men who talk like that, they are able to present men like that, over and over, on network TV, as comedy.

One inroad to the puzzle could be: Who is enjoying this? Are people who are burdened by sexism in real life tuning in and enjoying the critique of sexists? Or are men who would like to talk like that too watching and getting pleasure vicariously? Research could be done. It might also be enjoyed by women who dislike women who get attention from men and enjoy seeing the pretty women getting attention from undesirable men? Who is enjoying this?

It's very high in the ratings so millions are enjoying it. Is your position that the viewers are people who like seeing men put down?

JMS said...

Mark said: still waiting for that politically incorrect humor. Yes, I agree it's politically correct to insult Christians, Southerners and conservatives. But it's not PC to insult the fat, divorced, handicapped or homeless.

It's interesting that I can't remember the show ever having a gay character and the only black character on the show (the rarely occurring HR director of Caltech) is the only one ever portrayed as normal and sane.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why Are 23.4 Million People Watching The Big Bang Theory?" (New York Magazine). Most useful paragraph:

“There’s a character in so many classic sitcoms that’s just a big monster. He takes up a lot of room, and everybody has to deal with him,” says Sutton. “Roseanne, Jackie Gleason, Sgt. Bilko”—and Big Bang’s Sheldon. “Many times, the best characters are the worst people on the planet. Sheldon is constantly insulting the people that he loves and we just accept it gleefully, because he doesn’t understand. He’s an innocent,” says Evan Smith, professor of television, radio, and film at Syracuse University. Many have speculated that Sheldon has Asperger’s syndrome (including Parsons himself: “He couldn’t display more facets of it,” the actor has said), though the show’s writers deny it: “Our feeling is that Sheldon’s mother never got a diagnosis, so we don’t have one,” Big Bang co-creator Bill Prady has said. This gives the show freedom to poke fun at one character without fear of offending everyone on the autism spectrum (shows like Community and Silicon Valley have taken a similar tack, refusing to label their presumably on-the-spectrum characters). “Sheldon is like a modern-day Vulcan—trouble with emotions, an inability to read other people’s emotions, often robotic. I’m impressed when the writers throw him a brief bit of humanity but have the wisdom to not overdo it,” says Smith. “They give him a little flash where Sheldon is put in the caregiver role, the thing he’s least equipped to do.”

Mary Beth said...

I watched the show in the beginning and thought it was funny. I stopped watching at some point, I don't remember exactly when. I felt like they went from telling science-related jokes to telling them and then explaining them.

Now the show's existence just annoys me because I'll try to search for something about Big Bang the kpop group and get a bunch of search results about the show. Then I have to search again and explain what I want in more precise terms.

Maybe I just don't like explanations for things that I think should just be, "It is known." (Had to throw in a GoT reference.)

Mary Beth said...

Our feeling is that Sheldon’s mother never got a diagnosis, so we don’t have one

But we know he's not crazy, his mother had him tested.

buwaya said...

The implied setting for BBT is actually Cal Tech and JPL in Pasadena. Or was, anyway, we just watched the first two-three seasons. Did they move?

Our daughter (not a Cal Tech grad) is mixed up in that milieu.
Its one where people go to Vandenberg to watch rocket launches as social events.
Its not the internet-software "building the future" vibe, there isnt the money in it for one thing.

For Silicon Valley, see "Silicon Valley", a much better show.

Derbyshire is right, we engineers are a lot of beery oafs who play rugby (well, the British ones do).

rhhardin said...

From the point of view of the video, that is a technique that's being used to get away with misogyny. You should process that and explain why you reject it, if you do. By making it seem as though they are somehow criticizing the men who talk like that, they are able to present men like that, over and over, on network TV, as comedy.

Nerds don't act that way. If they're interested in women, they know the usual lines. If they're not interested in women, it doesn't come up.

The show presents an interest in guy stuff as a disability.

"Suppose an interest in guy stuff were a disability..."

Marc Lowenstein said...

But the show is all about how stupid 'smart' people can be. It is the source of the humor and the darkness of the show.
Furthermore it's an observation about human nature we would do well to remember -- the uneven multi-valence of intelligence.

That doesn't mean the show is always funny or effective, of course. And, oy, the laugh tracks . . . .

Yancey Ward said...

Like Scott X, almost my very first thought about the YouTube rant was the joke about feminists changing light bulbs.

It is a waste of time to explain why the narrator is completely wrong about the show, but here goes- the show isn't misogynistic since the female characters are consistently shown to have more common sense and maturity than all of the male characters combined.

This I can almost state with 100% certainty- the narrator has never watched anything more than the clips he included in his rant- clips he no doubt was made aware of by other relentlessly humorless social justice warriors who hate the fact that people laugh at jokes they don't get.

EDH said...

Althouse said...
It's very high in the ratings so millions are enjoying it. Is your position that the viewers are people who like seeing men put down?

Maybe it's just that they haven't been scolded and indoctrinated into getting their panties in a twist over men being put down so that they feel free to still find the humor in it?

Bruce Hayden said...

“Sheldon is like a modern-day Vulcan—trouble with emotions, an inability to read other people’s emotions, often robotic. I’m impressed when the writers throw him a brief bit of humanity but have the wisdom to not overdo it,” says Smith. “They give him a little flash where Sheldon is put in the caregiver role, the thing he’s least equipped to do.”

So, of course, Spoc made several cameo appearances. In any case,the episode where Sheldon was taking care of Amy was cute because she was enjoying it so much that she lied about still being sick. That ultimately failed when she admitted it to one of the other women, and it inadvertently got back to Sheldon.

I think that they have done a good job at showing the strengths and weaknesses of Aspergers with Sheldon, maybe better than anywhere else on TV. Maybe not quite exactly, but pretty close. Or, maybe in the current vernacular, high functioning ASD. Brilliant in their field, but clueless socially, and mostly almost phobic about human contact. Part, maybe, of an over-stimulation problem, that BBT doesn't seem to touch on. Definitely OCD.

ALP said...

My partner is an engineer/science geek type. He HATES this show passionately. Agreed that they are supposed to be smart, but say dumb things. He simply cannot watch a show where his "kind" are being dumbed down. It appears the show doesn't do ANY demographic group any favors.

What is it about sitcoms these days? Do we age out of them? Seinfeld seems like the last great sitcom. If I want 30 minutes of comedy, I go straight to animation: Bob's Burgers, Archer, Rick and Morty. Hell - Rick and Morty is both funny and deep, spawning many YouTube "aftershows" to analyze each episode.

How is it that animation beats the comedy pants off of sitcoms?

ALP said...

JMS: I often laugh out loud at black-ish and I rarely laugh at TV sitcoms.


Interesting! I am a fan of Anthony Anderson, and have had this show on my "gotta get around to watching this" list.

Yancey Ward said...

As to why the ratings are so high, it is pretty fucking clear to me that most people still, thankfully, don't give a shit about being labeled thought criminals by their "betters". The other thing the show has going for it, though is this- it is ruthlessly apolitical- a trait other producers would do well to take note of.

ALP said...

whswhs: Another person in the SF fan community gave what I think is a plausible explanation for this: the BBT producers and writers are doing "geekface," comedy about a population from the viewpoint of people who aren't part of that population and really don't understand more than its superficial mannerisms.

**********************
I've been discussing Chuck Lorre's new weed themed show "Disjointed" with other potheads. Very much the same conclusion - not a single average, run of the mill cannabis user on the show. Very much the same thing. Your friend nailed it.

ALP said...

Three posts (now 4) from ALP - I LOVE MY TEEVEE and can discuss this subject until the cows come home.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Steven Hawking makes cameo appearances (as do a record number of others). He is supposedly a friend of Sheldon's, of sorts.

Ah, but that's only after Howard introduced them. Howard, the lowly engineer, is Stephen Hawking's friend, much to Sheldon's annoyance.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=big+bang+theory+hawking+howard+friend&&view=detail&mid=7F3D3FA1890FF29D51117F3D3FA1890FF29D5111&rvsmid=9599970EA2F560D8ABCE9599970EA2F560D8ABCE&FORM=VDQVAP

Jupiter said...

It used to be, back when I was learning English as a First Language, that "misogyny" meant a straightforward, active dislike for women, typically evinced by an unwillingness to spend time in their company. A misogynist was someone, usually male, who found the company of women repugnant and avoided it as much as possible.

It seems that is no longer the case. A misogynist is now someone who views women in a way they do not wish to be viewed. In fact, it seems likely that most of the women portraying sex objects in popular entertainment rather enjoy being viewed in that way, so the misogyny does not lie in any offense given to the actual woman in question. Rather, the offense is to some other woman. And I gather that it is now impossible for a female to be a misogynist.

As always, the question of how we are to square these categorizations with the frequent assertion that sex does not exist and gender is socially constructed, is not even addressed. Exercise for the reader; Am I a misogynist if I don't get the hots for Bruce Jenner when he wears women's clothes? That is, is it misogyny to fail to meet the expectations of a man who is pretending to be a woman? You may assume that
a) Bruce wants me to whisper "Oh, Caitlyn, you are irrestible tonight!" in his ear, and
b) I am male, in defiance of the nonexistence of sex postulate.

Good luck and good hunting, papers will be collected at the end of the hour.

Unknown said...

Funny, in grad school (physics) I can't recall any of the faculty, or students for that matter, who had anything to do with "geek culture". I know people will object, but I don't remember anyone (this was Ga Tech) being into sci-fi or comic books, certainly not many, and the geek types in high school or college tend to flunk out of the hard sciences and engineering. Also "The Big Bang Theory" has to be the dumbest thing to ever appear on television, and I vaguely remember "My Mother the Car."

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I attempted to watch the show approximately once, but I couldn't get through it, because I feel like a complete alien to the culture where actors say one gag after another and an audience (or machine) laughs on cue over and over.

If you actually liked science more I'm sure you would understand and appreciate it better.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I am very... Sheldon, or anyway what Sheldon would be if he were female.) It's a show that does not genuinely like any of its characters, makes unkind and hurtful fun of all of them, and is sexist in a way I see all the damn time in geek culture. It's not funny there, either.

Oh for crying out loud. So a mindblinded autistic complains about the purported... cruelty she finds in it. How ironic. That's like Hitler complaining about anti-semitism.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

It doesn't take an English major to understand that however "mean" someone finds the jokes directed at the butt of the majority of them them, the emotionless Sheldon - he basically gets what he wants most of the time anyway.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Funny, in grad school (physics) I can't recall any of the faculty, or students for that matter, who had anything to do with "geek culture".

Then they just happen to be even less relatable (by several orders of magnitude) than the characters in the show.

Zach said...

Another person in the SF fan community gave what I think is a plausible explanation for this: the BBT producers and writers are doing "geekface," comedy about a population from the viewpoint of people who aren't part of that population and really don't understand more than its superficial mannerisms.

That's what I got from the show. Not very funny and not very closely observed, just some superficial mannerisms like comic book stores and geek T-shirts.

To be clear: I'm not offended by the show, I just don't like it. Silicon Valley makes fun of exactly the same group, and does it brilliantly. To quote Seinfeld: "It doesn't offend me as a Jew, it offends me as a comedian!" (about Brian Cranston's dentist who converts to Judaism for the jokes.)

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

At one time, feminists actually protested porn as misogynistic and exploitive of women. Now that is completely gone.

Thank god those days are gone. Prudity as the salvation of women really doesn't work. Better to figure out what personal issues you have that lead you to elevate cultural sexlessness as some sort of an ideal.

And porn, almost by its very nature, is suffused with sexism and misogyny.

Hahahahha. You're gay, right? Welcome to the party. Tell me about the misandry and sexism of gay male porn. I think that's about the last time you'll come close to being taken seriously.

Mark said...

My partner is an engineer/science geek type. He HATES this show passionately.

As a attorney, I can tell you that a lot of us say the same thing about a lot of the lawyer shows, particularly those involving the courtroom. Usually you can't go five minutes before yelling that that's not how it works.

And to make things worse, not a few clients, having watched episodes of Law and Order, think that that is precisely how things work. I still remember the client who told me as we were thinking about a possible deal, that she knew that I and the attorneys on the other side would be getting together for drinks at some bar, etc. And I'm thinking to myself, Whaaaaaat??

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I don't know anyone who dislikes the show. Most of the fans I know personally are female. Geeks vs. feminism? Feminism wins. It's all about who/which side has the better chances of breeding successfully. And that's it. Americans are really stupid at figuring these things out. I suppose some/MOST find the geekiness endearing, but it still can't compete against female sex appeal - and maybe that's the big joke of the show. The reason it feels "safe" to most of the intended audience prone to seeking offense. The show's just entertaining, that's all.

Mark said...

What is it about sitcoms these days? Do we age out of them? Seinfeld seems like the last great sitcom. If I want 30 minutes of comedy, I go straight to animation

Some of us never lost the love of cartoons. But after a couple of decades, The Simpsons did lose me one season when it got veered into stupid partisanship and also committed an unforgivable sin in giving a name to Comic Book Guy.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

The problem with law shows is that they're way overdramatized. That, and they're obsessed, as most shows today are, with fitting in a million miles of phony dialogue into a few seconds. There isn't even the time necessary to build a credible reaction to the lines with most network programming. Heavens help whoever still finds much of that shit entertaining. Totally fake. Here's a hint: IRL, people actually tend to consider what's said to them, rather than whip out a handily crafted one-liner that if anything would only come to mind afterward during a case of staircase wit.

Maybe this is why Curbed Your Enthusiasm does so well. Building the scenes naturally takes precedence over the damn lines.

William said...

Many of the comments here seem to have been made by characters in a BBT episode. I liked Mary Beth's comment about how difficult it was to research the actual Big Bang theory because of all the BBT references on the internet. That had a Sheldonish ring to it.......My research into the matter leads me to believe that the show is popular because the jokes are funny, the characters are likable, and the girls are hot. Jack Benny never explored how his insane need for thrift caused him to miss out on the true beauty of life's passing moments. The true beauty of life's passing moments were encapsulated in his jokes about a cheap character.

tim in vermont said...

One inroad to the puzzle could be: Who is enjoying this?

Somewhere, somehow, Althouse had a sneaking suspicion, somebody is having fun.

We men can laugh at ourselves. Howard is funny. I know guys like Howard, well, one, who happens also to be Jewish, and one time he was leaning against the refrigerator and asked his wife to get him a beer. We all laughed. Not that we were laughing at her either, expecting her to get up and get him a beer, or laughed with him, we laughed AT him.

You are just like the person on the other thread who demanded you denounce white supremacy because, well, you know... never be the first one to stop clapping. Still a liberal, in spite of all of our mansplaining.

Mark said...

"It doesn't offend me as a Jew, it offends me as a comedian!"

That's the thing about a lot of people on the left with their constant anger, bile and attacks, and others as well with their incessant insults of other people. And also the hyper-sexualization of everything.

Almost worse than the substance of what they say and do is that they are SO TEDIOUS AND BORING. As soon as they enter the room, they start off with the same old boring routine.

Zach said...

Funny, in grad school (physics) I can't recall any of the faculty, or students for that matter, who had anything to do with "geek culture".

Professional scientists tend to have fairly conventional entertainment preferences. Some of them like the Comic-Con stuff, some don't.

A lot of geek culture is about announcing your allegiance to a group. But Science is a group unto itself, and professional scientists are immersed in it 24/7. Some of them like to just go home and unwind.

tim in vermont said...

Is your position that the viewers are people who like seeing men put down?

Men have broad shoulders, we use them to earn the money women spend. Advertisers care about who spends the money, not who earns it, thus, the constant put downs of men all over TV. I forbid my kids to watch Nikolodean because of the way they portrayed men, but these are particular men, not all men. We can laugh.

Remember the woman engineer who wrote about how she was offended by the Google memo on behalf of all women because she was a woman, not matter how many times the guy said that his thinking in no way applied to particular women on a case by case basis? Guess what, Colonel Hogan made great fun of Colonel Klink, it didn't upset us because Klink was a man, for gods sake. Klink was a Nazi. A fucking Nazi. That over-rode his having a penis by a long shot.

tim in vermont said...

You know what? I know two Jewish guys like that... Hmmmm.

William said...

I think the funniest show on television is Veep. Congratulations to Julia Louis Dreyfus. She has topped her performance in Seinfeld. (That's very rarely done. I can only think of Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore who topped their previous success. Sit com actors are generally one and done.)...... What's groundbreaking about the Veep show is that it makes fun of politicians who take liberal positions. On HBO yet. I suppose now that Trump has been elected president the writers will turn their heavy guns on Republicans again, but, still, I'm just glad l lived long enough to see a humorless lesbian and a sort of Chelseaesque daughter made fun of.

Jim at said...

I tried watching the show once. Once. In syndication on TBS.

The laugh track was so loud - and so over-the-top - I switched channels and never looked back.

Next.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

That's the thing about a lot of people on the left with their constant anger, bile and attacks, and others as well with their incessant insults of other people.

Almost worse than the substance of what they say and do is that they are SO TEDIOUS AND BORING.


Yes! Because if the right-wing conservative authoritarians are known for anything it's how EXCITING they are! And how respectful they are of other people!

That's the funniest shit I've heard all year!

Every Breitbart, Drudge, and Powerline or Townhall.com or NRO piece I read, I think, "This is really, truly exciting, CUTTING-EDGE stuff! Howcome no one else ever thought of it before! Wow. Damn! These people should be in the entertainment business!"

What a shame that conservatives can't get their wild, innovative stuff out there on the comedy circuits, on Broadway or in America's television studios! It just reeks of discrimination!

Hahahaha. Now that's a conservative who can make. me. LAUGH! Thank you for your entertainment. If only the market for your brand of conservative non-humorous non-entertainment actually existed. Amazing how people who pride themselves on being out-of-touch from the human condition wonder why the market for social interaction passed them up entirely. Oh well. I guess the free market's not ALWAYS right! (Except in this instance).

Rabel said...

It's primarily insult comedy. I didn't like it when I watched it a time or two in earlier years. Then it started in consecutive reruns on TBS and after I watched a few more episodes I became a big fan.

Why the change? The characters grow on you, you acclimate to the "meanness" as you see the targets blow off the insults with acceptance or comedic responses of their own, the actors are excellent and the writing is very sharp, although you learn to recognize that a few dozen jokes are being recycled in slightly different form. But they still get a laugh from me. Often a genuine, extended belly laugh.

Parson's work, in particular is outstanding. I'm not in the acting biz but he plays a very difficult character to perfection, every scene in every show. Give it a chance, watch a few episodes and you might find yourself hooked. And for God's sake, DVR it and skip the commercials.

Also, Penny is hot.

One other thing, if you're the type of person who is highly defensive in the face of criticism even when delivered in good humor, it might not be your cup of tea. Not that I have anyone in particular in mind.

Bill Peschel said...

It took two tries before I realized "Black-ish" is an actual TV series. That's how out of touch I am. From looking at Wikipedia, glad to see it exists.

If you want to see cruel humor, check out "Futurama." It's especially funny whenever something impossibly physical happens, such as Fry, fighting in the arena against Zoidberg (old-school Star Trek style, down to the organist playing the fight theme) getting his arm snipped off, and then he picks it up and beats Zoidberg with it.

If that was done with real actors, well, it wouldn't work. But its a cartoon! It's fast-paced! And my wife busts out laughing every time she sees that kind of humor. There's something about the combination of pacing and cruelty that makes it work.

Here's another example: Scott Adams breaks down a successful piece of humor into trying to hit as many of these six categories as possible: clever, cute, bizarre, naughty, cruel, and recognizable.

One of his best was a Sunday strip with Catbert instituting absurd HR policies. In the last panel, Wally is bent over the table, and Catbert says, "Wally is about to experience brand awareness.

ALP said...

Mark:

Agreed on The Simpsons, which I think is a special case having gone on so long. Any show that goes on for decades is bound to have some weak phases.

What you said about lawyers shows - being a paralegal those irk me too.

Have you seen "Better Call Saul"? If so how do you think that show rates as an attorney show? Jimmy McGill is one of the more interesting lawyer characters to come around, IMHO.

Jupiter said...

"I know people will object, but I don't remember anyone (this was Ga Tech) being into sci-fi or comic books ...".

Really. It is true that you are likely to have a much easier time getting a graduate degree in Physics if you have no other interests. This tends to lead to a lack of cultural and even political sophistication. Plus there were the Chi-Coms, who had already received the equivalent of a graduate degree in China, before they were recruited to demolish the grading curve for us (ahem) Native Americans. They tended to regard us as ignorant, childish and annoying, and they knew and cared next to nothing about any aspect of American culture. Although they were damned good at physics, in a "memorized-the-answer-book" way. But every US-born student I ever discussed the matter with had grown up reading Sci-Fi, and it was commonplace to use examples from classic Sci-Fi to illustrate physical concepts. Of course, this was in the 80s. I gather that Sci-Fi is now rather more, ah, "intersectional".

Darrell said...

There is no laugh track with Big Bang Theory. It is filmed in front of a live studio audience. Those stupid YouTube videos that purport to be "without a laugh track," are just clips from the show where the laughter has been filtered out electronically. They look awkward because the actors paused until the background noise from the laughter had died down when they originally filmed it. All live shows mix the audience laughter in real time--they have dozens of microphones spread throughout the studio. The guy at the mixing board attempts to make the laughter sound normal and get rid of errant laughers. There are always people there that laugh at almost every line and it sounds wrong and breaks the flow. There are also people with extremely loud or odd laughs. If the sound guy can't mix those out, the people are moved to a soundproof booth or asked to leave. The showrunner of Hot in Cleveland had a special behind-the-scenes episode at some show milestone a few years back that showed all the details of the taping process, including a special emphasis on the audience laughter.

tim in vermont said...
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Paco Wové said...

'check out "Futurama."'

There's the original Futurama, and then there's the zombie, post-cancellation Futurama. The former is just about the last funny thing I ever saw on television (including your Clawplach! scene). The latter, unfortunately, is just more vulgar crap.
(Back on the original topic, count me among the people that TBBT does nothing for.)

Mark said...

Like I said, some people are really tiresome bores -- and boors too.

tim in vermont said...
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Mark said...

Meanwhile, I missed the first season of Better Call Saul, so I've not watched it.

rich hahn said...

The secret of sitcom's is to present characters that are like us and our friends in some ways, but are clearly inferior so we can laugh at them.

Think Taxi, Cheers, Mash, Friends, Will and Grace, etc. The same show over and over again.

Matthew Sablan said...

The bit I saw of Big Bang Theory makes me think that this is "nerds written by people who think they're truly nerds." They're so surface level nerdy, but that is primarily caused by being stuck in a sitcom and not being able to really go into detail.

They're essentially just Sam from Cheers, only nerds instead of ex-alcoholic, ex-baseball players.

walter said...

"There are always people there that laugh at almost every line and it sounds wrong and breaks the flow. There are also people with extremely loud or odd laughs."
THAT is funny to imagine...especially when it screws with the actors.
I'm betting there's a funny set term (heard only on intercoms and in control room) for the isolation booth. Dunce tank or the like.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Chuck Lorre, who created Two and a Half Men before he created The Big Bang Theory, is using misogynistic themes? Say it isn't so! Now a video exposing The Adorkable Mysogyny of Mom - that would be interesting.

Mark said...

"There are always people there that laugh at almost every line and it sounds wrong and breaks the flow."

Think about who these audience members are -- A lot of them are tourists who are already excited to be on vacation in LA and to be visiting a production studio where they can see famous people. They got tickets expecting it to be a good time.

When I went to see The Arsenio Hall Show (my family wanted to go when we were out there one year), the crowd was already pretty psyched before the pre-show hyped them up even more. So they were primed for a lot of hoots and hollers and laughs.

Unknown said...

I happen to be a scientist who hangs out with a bunch of scientists and engineers, though not physicists. They are some of the funniest people in the world because they DO things that turn out to be funny IRL, and can tell stories, and know interesting facts. I never hear put downs like in the TV show. I can't watch the show either.

traditionalguy said...

Poor Sheldon. He means no harm. He just knows too much stuff, and he tries to help others who are below his level...oh never mind, he is a total jerk.

Anonymous said...

I was with the Narrator right up until he declared that pointing out biological differences between men & women is sexist.

Freeman Hunt said...
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Ann Althouse said...

"And I appreciate your providing that safe place. Except, did you maybe mean "express", rather than "experience"? Perhaps there is a subtlety here that I am missing."

I meant what I wrote. We're talking about viewers, passively watching a TV show. The audience is "place" where one has an experience — a catharsis, to use a classic term.

Ann Althouse said...

"Rusty said...
Ann Althouse said...
"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."...

9/2/17, 9:59 AM"

I didn't say that. I responded to it.

Fernandinande said...

Unknown said...
... I never hear put downs like in the TV show. I can't watch the show either.


Same here, pretty much. I watched a few minutes of it and thought the characters were based on junior-high school children's stereotypes of nerds.

Ann Althouse said...

"Big Bang Theory has no laugh track. Like the majority of sitcoms in 2017, it is filmed before an audience...."

I don't think we've been using the term "laugh track" to mean canned laughter. The fact that the laughter can be filtered out suggests that it was recorded on a different "track," like when musicians record on different tracks. But just because there's a live audience doesn't mean the reaction isn't sweetened with recorded laughter or other techniques of recording. There's something too full about it. It doesn't seem like a normal audience like what you hear around you at a movie or a stage play.

"'One inroad to the puzzle could be: Who is enjoying this?' Somewhere, somehow, Althouse had a sneaking suspicion, somebody is having fun...."

That's missing my point. I'm genuinely interested in the marketing research. The show is crafted to bring in an audience and it has succeeded. I'm interested in knowing what the gender and age and education breakdown is (and I'm sure the advertisers want to know and that there is research to provide them with what they need).

"We men can laugh at ourselves. Howard is funny. I know guys like Howard, well, one, who happens also to be Jewish, and one time he was leaning against the refrigerator and asked his wife to get him a beer. We all laughed. Not that we were laughing at her either, expecting her to get up and get him a beer, or laughed with him, we laughed AT him."

You are begging the question. The post is about a video presenting evidence that the show is superficially insulting men but really feeding enthusiasm for sexism against women. You're flattering men by claiming to men are laughing because of the insults against men. How can you prove to me that men are not laughing because they like what is being said about and done to women?

n.n said...

Women are technically incompetent, at least with respect to physics. So are all engineers, male and female. Men, especially who are technically competent, or are engineers, are socially inadequate. It takes a woman to lead a man to discover Mother Nature's fitness function. Then: the big bang!, which may or may not be viable in liberal societies.

tim in vermont said...

"How can you prove to me that men are not laughing because they like what is being said about and done to women?"

I can't prove that men aren't committing thought crimes, I just doubt it. TBBT is not Howard Stern. He did that kind of disgusting crap, at least the couple times I clicked through his show, so I am not saying that such guys don't exist, I think that they are not watching basically sweet shows like TBBT.

J. Farmer said...

@Mark and @SLP:

Agreed on The Simpsons, which I think is a special case having gone on so long. Any show that goes on for decades is bound to have some weak phases.

The Simpsons (and South Park) and all other animated series have the great fortune of not having to worry about their actors aging. Sitcoms (especially features children or young actors) are cursed in that within a few years, they basically have to reinvent the entire narrative that drove the show in the first place. Roseanne was a great example of this. Once the child actors started approaching adulthood, the writing went off a cliff. They need to keep thinking up novel situations to put the characters in often lead sitcoms writers into the absurd. Even Seinfeld, my favorite sitcom growing up, started becoming seriously detached from reality in its last two seasons (after Larry David departed). Of course, if you start out absurdist, like the brilliant and underrated Chris Elliot sitcom Get a Life, you likely won't make it past a couple of seasons and will have to be content with cult status a decade later.

Gahrie said...

The post is about a video presenting evidence that the show is superficially insulting men but really feeding enthusiasm for sexism against women. You're flattering men by claiming to men are laughing because of the insults against men. How can you prove to me that men are not laughing because they like what is being said about and done to women?

Personally, I believe the show is superficially insulting men but really feeding enthusiasm for sexism against women in order to allow people to attack men as sexists even as they are insulted.

I've read your book Althouse and can play your game.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Howard is fab.

tim in vermont said...

By the way, if they are involved in some crypto-misogynist plot to woo male viewers, it doesn't make any economic sense.

http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/news-articles/women-viewers-continue-rule-broadcast-primetime/114370

Especially if it costs them women viewers, the loss of which often leads to a show's cancellation, even if their demographics otherwise look good. But as an experiment, I always DVR TBBT anyway, I will count up the commercials on a first run episode. We can see if the commercials are Swedish Bikini Team type beer commercials, and rocks being dumped on a pick-up truck commercials, or more mainstream products hawked to female viewers.

And Howard as pickup artist? He was ridiculed as the least successful PUA of all time, and not only that, his character programed a robotic arm to help him masturbate, which clamped onto his shmeckle, and wouldn't let go. A real Dice Clay, that guy. This guy is dishonest. Not saying that people don't do what he says, it's just not TBBT. look at Bill Maher, or Family Guy, oh wait, those. are shows the left likes because they hate the right people.

Brn said...

If you have watched the show, you can tell from the beginning of the video that he either doesn't understand the show or is lying. The show, at heart, is not about the four male friends. It is about Sheldon, Leonard and Penny. The show begins on the day that Sheldon and Leonard meet Penny and how that changes all three of them forever. Raj and Howard and then all the other characters who are introduced over the years are important, but it is the main three who are the soul.

Xmas said...

The most unrealistic part of The Big Bang Theory is that all the characters on the show bathe regularly. Seriously, there should be one or two stinky guys or girls in there if they wanted to be realistic.




Rigelsen said...

The makers of the video are confused. About human nature, human limitations and pathologies, the nature and place of humor, and much more besides. First about humor. They presume that deprecation can be removed from humor without losing much, but don't really describe what that would look like except to show certain examples that few people would find very funny.

Actually it's not clear that they necessarily condemn deprecation, but only when the target of that deprecation are women or minorities. As has been noted by many, TBBT is most deprecating of its nerdy protagonists. And the so-called misogyny is entirely in the service of showing how out of touch the nerds are.

Toward the end of the video, its makers talk about how widespread misogyny is, talking about the Google memo and the pathologies of nerds and geeks. For anyone who actually knows anything about geek/nerd culture and read that memo, what they describe sounds pretty foreign to the actual reality, something you might see through a well filtered lens that smudges out any subtlety or contrary evidence. That said, this is exactly the same overly filtered attitude they take toward TBBT, ignoring all the facts of the show that would challenge their pet theory.

(While I have seen some of each, I don't normally watch TBBT for much the same reason I didn't care much for Seinfeld or Friends or Sex in the City. I just don't find pathological humans very funny, but I also don't in turn pathologize those who do.)

ballyfager said...

But for Jim Parsons the rest of then would be parking cars or pumping gas.

RonF said...
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RonF said...

I have watched a few fragments of the show, but never an entire episode. I don't need to. I lived in an MIT fraternity for 3 years. I moved out when I got married, otherwise I'd have been there my senior year as well. I lived with a bunch of people who would have made all those characters look normal. Hell, I at the time would have made them look normal.

Rigelsen said...

You are begging the question. The post is about a video presenting evidence that the show is superficially insulting men but really feeding enthusiasm for sexism against women. You're flattering men by claiming to men are laughing because of the insults against men. How can you prove to me that men are not laughing because they like what is being said about and done to women?

Isn't your statement above, and the video's entire point a question beg? Presume the premise, assume all questionable evidence supports your premise, ignore all mitigating or contrary evidence, and accuse anyone disagreeing of ... something. So why should someone less judgmental than they, and seemingly you here, accept the premise that the insulting of specific pathologies of certain men is simply a means of promoting sexism against women? From what I have seen of the show, I would say they have it exactly backwards. Even in the video they point out the non-sexist elements of their "adorkable"-ness. Unless the episodes I have seen were exceptional, the sexist elements of the characters' behavior are drowned out by equivalently "adorkable" behavior with no sexist implications. My impression was: The characters have their pathologies and it's the pathologies we're meant to laugh at.

I am honestly curious how you think anyone can effectively answer the question you're asking.

Another point: Most normal people can laugh at themselves when the humor itself is not too mean spirited, and sometimes even when it is so long as the humor is directed not at them as persons but toward a characteristic of themselves, even when they consider that characteristic pathological or embarrassing. Unfortunately, increasingly, the conversation is being driven by people who can't laugh at either themselves or anyone else they regard as lacking that capacity for self-laughter.

We're quickly entering a neo-Puritan age imposing itself upon the cultural media (as in mediums) of the world. The video is just another sermon for that catechism.

A third point: Catharsis is an important element of humor. And catharsis without outrageousness loses its essence.

0_0 said...

The Big Bang Theory is not for smart people, there aren't enough of us.
It makes fun of smart people stereotypes for the mass audience.
Who didn't get that?

Char Char Binks said...

"Mean-spirited comedy is not fun to watch."

Nice sitcoms are occasionally popular, but rarely funny. Remember all the gut-laughs from "The Cosby Show"? Neither do I.

TBBT is hilarious,and one of the few comedy shows I watch. It doesn't have a laugh track, but a studio audience. I also love Modern Family, despite the lack of audience laughter, but it's not set up to be a stage play, which is basically what a sitcom with an audience is.

Like it or not, laughter isn't only about the quality of the comedy, it's SOCIAL, and a laughing audience gets other people laughing. When is the last time you laughed out loud while reading a humorous book, or even one of Laslo's gems? You didn't, and Laslo is genuinely funny.