Sitcom science

UPDATE: I saw two episodes.

Catching up on my journals, this Science Magazine fluff interview (sorry, subscription only) with experimental particle physicist David Saltzberg caught my eye. Dr. Saltzberg is the science advisor to the TV show The Big Bang Theory, in which *gasp* nerdy male physicists nerdily woo *double gasp* their sexy and unattainble blond bombshell neighbor. He’s pretty defensive about criticism that the show is sexist:

Most of the show’s detractors, he notes, have never seen a whole episode. Prady stresses that The Big Bang Theory means no ill will. “If the scientific community is concerned with how we depict them, be gentle and be patient,” he says. “We are you; we love you.”

Ok, I’ve never seen an episode, but I might just based on this challenge. Still, no matter how he spins it, there’s nothing new about the male-geek-chases-popular-hot-girl trope. And I, for one, am really sick of it. Clearly, Saltzberg does not understand how condescending this is:

Saltzberg views the show as a tool for science education: PBS’s NOVA with rim shots. During an awkward date, Leonard gets an olive to rotate inside a glass–and corrects Penny, and likely most viewers, that centripetal, not centrifugal, force explains the trick.

This may say “physics is cool,” but it also strongly says that “men do the science, women are the pretty.” There’s just as much gender indoctrination as science education in that scene. In the words of the inimitable Zuska, I puke on The Big Bang Theory‘s shoes.

I am bit raw on this, having just been accosted by a drunk American tourist who accused me of computing on my vacation. When I explained that I was, in fact, a (baby) marine biologist at work, he laughed uproariously and said, “Yeah, and I’m a NASA rocket scientist!” while walking away.

So many of our problems would be solved (and our lives made more interesting) if people were sequential hermaphrodites. (Much credit to Ursula Le Guin for that idea, of course.)


7 Responses to Sitcom science

  1. ny says:

    I join you in puking.

  2. ny says:

    so i actually watched 2 episodes to be fair about the puking. here’s a sample: the guys see a hot girl talking with their friend in his office, and one immediately asks if she’s lost. They all gather around to drool and make comments about their fantasies.


    I was going to give it a Revise & Rewrite, but no this is just a Rejection.

  3. Justin says:

    When the premise of a show is based solely on a pun, you know its gonna fail.

  4. frog says:

    Wait, someone actually said that? Out loud? To *you*??

    I puke on *his* shoes.

  5. Hisly says:

    For further evidence of how men are, after reading him this post, my Rocket Scientist boyfriend asked, “Well, *was* he a rocket scientist?” Because in his world, that’s what, like, everyone does.

    And then I got a 10 minute lecture on the concepts of centripetal/centrifugal forces and how none of this makes sense in relationship to an olive in a martini glass. I replied that this is not the issue – the issue is Women in Science. And he said, “Of course women and men should be treated equally, I don’t need to talk about that” and thus missed the point entirely.

    But in his defense, he also assumed that by “computing” you meant performing complex math in your head, so he is an outlier and should be excluded.

  6. AMAZING. Is it overly nerdly that I want more details on why the olive-martini glass thing is wrong?

  7. Hisly says:

    Is it more amazing that he was picturing you doing mental calculus on the beach, or that, while doing so, you were accosted by a math-hating stranger?

    He wanted to know the shape of the glass in question since that would define the path taken by an olive being swirled in it. And he wanted to know how much liquid (if any) was left behind, and if the inner sides were dry. Then he wanted to talk about angular momentum and totally lost me.

    Overly nerdy? No such thing. 🙂

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