Opinion - DO NOT call me "Sheldon"...
It truly is a golden age.
Look around you, when did you think you’d ever see Green Lantern, Transformers, X-Men and the Avengers all at the multiplex? (And yes, I know, there’s plenty of nit-picking to go with some of those appearances for most nerds…get over it and look at the core concept.) When did you think you’d every find so many superhero action figures in regular retail stores, or, sometimes more appropriately, when did you think it would be so hard to find superhero action figures in retails stores because everyone else wants ‘em too? Or a line of Transformers dedicated to reinterpreting old school G1 characters? Hell, even t-shirts in Wal-Mart and Target depicting not just superheroes, but Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so on. Even television has become more nerd friendly. Did you ever think there’d be a Superman TV show that would run for 10 seasons…during that run seeing the likes of Cyborg, Aquaman, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter…hell, even Dr. Fate? Green Arrow has his own TV show. So does S.H.I.E.L.D. Nerds even are the focus of their own sitcom, the subject of this rant: The Big Bang Theory.
The history of nerds in sitcoms, well, it reflects what society typically sees nerds as: socially inept, usually annoying know-it-alls whose over-thinking is just as likely to make matters worse than it is to make things better…and in the framework of the sitcom, usually the first, then the second. There was always one and only one per show…a token stereotyped minority, poked for laughs and always used to highlight or underscore the importance of the normalcy or the mainstream qualities of the main character(s). Now we have a show that gives us four…and those are just the main characters. As one would expect, there are also nerds in supporting roles too. So, let’s break this down. We have Raj, an astrophysicist that’s horribly socially awkward, especially around girls. We have Wolowitz, an engineer that thinks he’s the end all and be all with the ladies, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth…oh, and still lives with his mother (although I’m glad the show’s writers showed restraint and didn’t put him in his mom’s basement). Lastly, we have roommates Leonard and Sheldon, both physicists (the former experimental, the latter theoretical). Their apartment is usually rife with both dry erase boards riddled with physics equations and collectables that any nerd in their right mind would ogle as much as the attractive wanna-be actress/waitress across the hall, Penny (who, as one would expect, has no degree but has more common sense than the “nerds” combined…read into that what you will). As for personalities, Leonard proves to be the straight-man and thus, he’s our vanilla character. Sheldon, however, is a mass of eccentricity all the while reminding everyone of his intellectual superiority.
Now, these characters have kept their show going for, what, I guess 7 or 8 seasons now at the time of this writing. For a show to live that long, well, you need more than a small niche watching. Unless you’re Tyler Perry. Like…seriously…who the hell is that guy? And why does he have so many goddamn movies and TV shows? Another matter for another day/rant. Anyway, back on topic, so these nerds need to have been embraced by the mainstream…and they have, clearly. Wanna know how I can tell? Because when I have to interact with normal people for my job, I get asked the same question over and over again: “Do you watch The Big Bang Theory? You’d love it…you remind me so much of those guys.”
Want me to let you in on a little secret? If you want me to devise AT LEAST one thousand ways to kill you painfully, then please, by all means, suggest I watch the show. Wanna go for the BIG piñata? Call me Sheldon…and the ways I’ll picture killing you will be ENDLESS.
While it can be understandable, what people fail to remember are that these are caricatures of people…not fully dimensioned and faceted people. Take me for instance. Yes, I’m socially awkward, especially when it comes to women. When I walk into a room, I’m pretty damn certain I’m the smartest person there. But I also have common sense (gee, in spite of being a degreed scientist, apparently I’m a rare bird in society’s mind). I’m not stand-offish or offensively exclusive when folks from the “mainstream” show an interest in my hobby (or hobbies)…I’m happy to answer their questions and be welcoming. After all, the more people that buy the stuff I like…the more they have to make! Everybody wins. My point here is, sitcoms are nothing new, yet has anyone thought that anyone in real life behaves like the douchebags on “Friends”? Have you ever walked into a bar that even remotely behaved like “Cheers”? Do you at any point expect to walk into a diner that has Kat Dennings as a waitress? (Um…if you do, could you please leave its address in the comments section below? That’s totally stalk-worthy. Sigh…and for the humorless, NO, I don’t mean that. I mean, unless you got that address…) But god forbid I show my face in public wearing a t-shirt that just happened to be worn by a character on the Big Bang Theory. Suddenly this means I have to sit down and listen to someone prattle on about the show and ohmigod how funny it is. Really? You don’t have anything better to do? And even worse, you have the bad taste to automatically assume that a potentially three dimensional real person is little more than a TV stereotype? Now, granted, I’ve met A LOT of scientists in my field that are anything BUT three dimensional people…hrm…okay, so maybe the stereotyping is warranted.
I hate it when I shoot myself in the foot like that.
Still. Not cool.
And ultimately…my point is perhaps best summed up by paraphrasing one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most famous roles: “Go ahead! Call me Sheldon! Call me Sheldon one more goddamn time! I dare you! I double dare you!” I will punch you in the fucking face.