“The Big Bang Theory”: Where Nerds Fail by Analog – Media – Society
“I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested!” In Sheldon Cooper’s outrage, triumph mingles. As often as he has to defend himself, he is simply misunderstood in his cosmos, which is perfectly clear and logical to the gifted like him.
Sheldon is in his thirties, adores comic book heroes, loves Star Trek costumes, the video game Xbox Live and technical toys, cannot drive a car and has a panicky fear of germs, viruses, touching feelings – in short, the whole organic hustle and bustle of life. The same Sheldon is a theoretical physicist, Dr. Cooper, researching at an elite university, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He makes no secret of his pride in his own superior intelligence quotient, especially not to his roommate and colleague, Leonard Hofstadter, who excels in what Sheldon considers to be the lesser discipline of experimental physics and struggles with asthma and lactose intolerance.
The two of them live in an apartment building with an elevator that’s broken forever. It’s the main plot of the series “The Big Bang Theory”, which is currently being broadcast by Pro Sieben. Next door in the house lives the pretty Penny, whose acting career is exhausted in appearances for commercials. She works as a waitress in the fast-food restaurant where the two natural scientists have lunch with their friends, space engineer Howard Wolowitz and Indian-born physicist Raj, Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali. Apart from a few outdoor shots, the scenario is limited to these rooms – a serial intimate play.
The unspectacular everyday life of these young adults, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), fascinates a spectacularly huge audience around the globe. In the USA, where the comedy began in 2007, it reached some 17 million viewers under fifty on CBS in mid-2014. Comparable ratings are also available in Canada and Australia. Pro Sieben noted two million German viewers in the 14 to 49 age group in July 2015. As the series is the station’s biggest ratings hit, it broadcast 1643 episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” in the past nine months, but only 171 different ones in total – each episode was shown a good ten times. But none of that matters. Fans stay with it.
Even Stephen Hawking appeared in one episode
Already in 2009, the “New York Times” called the record success “The Big Surprise of Big Bang”, a series with which the nerds, until then comical marginal figures in films, became protagonists. The nerds, in which thousands are reflected here, shine in an environment defined by what in Germany are called MINT subjects, mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. Implicitly, the comedy makes critical, witty statements about our present and their adolescence, which is prolonged into adulthood, not only in America. At the same time, it is also about the drama of the demands of a society in which not only the Silicon Valley elites dream of the MINT phantasm, of the idea that exact, mathematical control of existence is possible and desirable. Even Nobel Prize winner and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking made a self-deprecatingly ironic appearance in one episode in 2012.
Overwhelmed by the MINT phantasmagoria, the lovable geniuses are overtaxed by the analog world, which includes their own physical existence, their sexual desire. Clumsiness and misadventures permeate the daily lives of the scientists, soon joined by Sheldon’s IQ-compatible girlfriend, neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), who dissects monkey brains in the university lab. Tenderness with Amy is consistently fended off by Sheldon, while Leonard at least begins a kind of relationship with Penny. That Penny functions as an actor in the reality test, mildly sarcastic in her indulgence with the neighbours, but sometimes also despairing of her own lack of education. Sheldon asks Penny on such an occasion why she bursts into tears. “Because I’m stupid!” she confesses. “That’s no reason to cry!” Sheldon instructs her. “You cry when you’re sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid. That makes me sad.” As she laughs once, without him knowing the reason, he asks, “Is there anywhere in sight a station where I can jump on your giggling train of thought?” Panicked, Sheldon jumps out of his chair in one scene when he learns that it’s from the bulky refuse The furniture is teeming with bacteria, Sheldon suspects, “like dancing hippies in a dodgy San Francisco park!” (In dialogues, American series are simply unbeatable.) Again and again, friends look up to Sheldon’s childish arrogance.
And in the same way they all protect each other, forgive each other as brothers and sisters for their vulgarities, rivalries and childish pranks, and tell about how they were bullied as students. These heroes oscillate between pubescent hedonism on the one hand and highly differentiated scientism on the other. When Howard Wolowitz receives mail from Nasa, which wants to take him on a flight as an astronaut, the others oscillate between amazement, pride in him and envy. Howard cheers unimpressed, “I’m putting this in my synagogue newsletter!” He’s probably trying to impress his mother, who he still lives with.
All parents are disasters.
“My mother had me tested”: All parents here are disasters in their own way, especially the mothers. Howard’s mother, an overweight lady, is always heard as a screechingly demanding voice from the background, she can compete with the famous Jewish mother in the novel “Portnoys complaints”. The parents of Howard’s girlfriend, the squealing pharmacy expert Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), fear, like Howard’s mother, a possible marriage between the Catholic daughter and a Jew.
Sheldon’s mother, a widow in Texas, is an evangelical fundamentalist, and against this background, Sheldon’s purity mania seems a bit like religious delusion, but in secular terrain. Amy’s mother wrote her motto in the college yearbook: “Self-respect and immaculacy are better than friends and fun! Leonard’s mother, a psychiatrist, wrote a book, Suffering Baby Greedy Baby. Her quiet motto is “Analysis not love. Rajesh’s mother alone seems halfway satisfied at the side of her wealthy gynecologist husband. However, as a schoolboy, Raj often spent afternoons parked in his father’s practice, from where the son carried a frightening image of women.
The better you get to know them, these children of an errant middle class, the better you understand their flight into the small, warming group as into the supposedly measurable. They flee, it seems, from an immeasurably absurd world. That is their secret. How could one not love them?