Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Deep Thought: Comedy Hijinks

The more I watch the later epsiodes of Big Bang Theory - which I find rather sweet, despite understanding why it winds up so many geeks/academics - the more clear it becomes that the only real difference between a lot of US comedy and US drama is that in the latter you're actually aloud to punch someone who's being an intolerable douche, rather than have to play along for the sake of setting up jokes.

How about it, Chuck Lorre?  Dip into the drama pool a little. Consider the conflict-resolution advantages offered by a good sock to the jaw.  If there is any character in modern sitcoms who needs a fist in the face more than Sheldon Cooper, they have managed to avoid showing up on my radar.


Tomsk said...

Does it wind many geeks/academics up? Any particular reason? At least in my academic niche everyone loves it. Maybe we're more at peace with our inner Sheldons... or maybe it's just fun to laugh at physicists .... one of the two.

SpaceSquid said...

I know mathematicians who loathe it, though I confess that I can no longer remember exactly why. Something about it being a shitty portrayal of how actual academia works and/or it reinforcing the idea that scientists don't have inner Sheldons so much as are Sheldons. I remember BigHead doesn't like it; if he reads this he might like to expand.

Tomsk said...

I've always thought it was a remarkably accurate portrayal of academia given that it's a sitcom. They certainly take a lot of care over the science references. And the depiction of academic life is not unreasonable given the need to generate comic situations.

On the second point it's clear even within the show that Sheldon is uniquely Sheldonesque. And over the full length of the show there's actually quite a touching story about him striving to overcome his problems.

SpaceSquid said...

I threw this question out to my geek friends, and a compilation of their complaints - other than ones over the shows gender issues, which I don't want to overlook, but which are a separate issue to what's being talked about here - the problem seems to be that the geeks are too often the butt of jokes, the references are badly outdated, and they don't have any interest in productively introducing non-geeks to their loves, as oppose to just making obscure references and ridiculous, untailored recommendations.

That's all reasons for geeks to dislike it, though. I still can't remember any criticisms from academics, though. I too thought it did pretty well as a comic version of what we do (or maybe I should say "did" these days).

Tomsk said...

There is no 'did' - once an academic, always an academic!

Interesting criticisms though. I'm baffled by the idea that geeks are too often the butt of jokes in it. That's like getting offended at Dad's Army because it makes fun of the Home Guard. It could hardly be more affectionate in its piss-taking.

My suspicion is that "geeks" as a self-identified tribe are highly sensitised to the perception of society and apt to feel misunderstood, and so are a little too quick to identify maliciousness where none exists - indeed where the opposite exists.

That's my two penn'orth anyway.

SpaceSquid said...

It's interesting you say that. An old friend of mine responded to my questioning on Twitter to say he thought the show was an "appropriation" of geek culture. It's not a term I'm particulary comfortable with; I think a group overwhelmingly consisting of white men needs to be careful complaining people are stealing their signifiers.

I generally try to steer away from hypothesising on why people feel the way they do about art, but I agree that where others see a hatchet job, I see affectionate needling.