There are all sorts of different genres of film and television that depict characters in all sorts of scenarios, some more realistic than others. One show that has a huge fan following and 12 season run, which is coming to the end of its run after the conclusion of this final season, is “The Big Bang Theory.” “The Big Bang Theory” is a great show. It has a great cast, fun story lines and it never fails to make one laugh. While a great show, it is also filled with many stereotypes. The episode that I chose is titled “The Killer Robot Instability” Many feel stereotypes are a negative representation of real people, but in the field of entertainment, literary, film and television, the use of stereotypes or, in this case, archetypes are literary tools. For those who like the show this does not bother them, but for those that do not, the blatant stereotypes are probably not appreciated.
The greatest stereotypes are apparent in the shows main characters. They are used as a direct strategy of presenting them because they are familiar and easier to identify and understand for many audiences (Kid 26). All four main male characters can be identified as being “geeks” or “nerds. “They have allergies, they are not good at sports and they are socially awkward compared to others.
Each character also has unique stereotypes that make them unique from each other but very familiar to the audience. Sheldon is an odd guy, but has a genius level intelligence. So often really smart people are presented as less friendly and despite his intelligence cannot master day-to-day interactions with others. His near OCD way of going about things make him a source of frustration for the others. He is afraid of everything from birds, germs and anything else that other people might handle readily. Leonard is the quintessential nerdy guy; he has low self esteem and has a limited level of experience with women. Raj originally came from India and his accent and the jokes related to it play on the stereotype of highlighting things he says as not being quite correct. Howard is probably the characters whose stereotypes are the most blatantly obvious.
Howard is Jewish and that becomes the source of the stereotypes. He is a hypochondriac and he lives with his mother who is the perfect stereotype of a loud and over-involved Jewish mother. Finally there is one other character worthy of note is the only character in the show that is not a “nerd” and that is Penny. She is the beautiful blonde girl that lives n the apartment across the hall and main love interest for Leonard.
However, Penny also fits in to a classic stereotype. She is pretty, sexy and nice, but she is not a scientist, she is lost in their sci-fi and theoretical physics conversation and does sometimes fill the stereotype of the “dumb blond.” This is sharply contrasts with the two other female characters Bernadette and Amy. Both are scientists and are presented as being less attractive than Penny. This could lead some to believe that the message is that hot chicks are not smart and smart chicks will inevitably less attractive. Like the two cannot appear together in a single woman.
In this episode, “The Killer Robot Instability,” focuses on the main characters engaged in a 21st century activity that is quite popular among “geeks” and “nerds,” robotic battling. Teams, like the show’s gang, build robots armed with weapons and the robots will be fought in, essentially, robotic gladiator games (“The Big Bang Theory”). This just plays on the different stereotypes. These are things that are only interesting to robotics experts and engineers, generally not the general public. This is the closest that any of these characters get to any kind of athletic competition.
Stereotypes find the way into entertainment because they are familiar to the audience. People understand those stereotypes and when they recognize them it helps them to follow the story. As mentioned in the realm of story-telling, creative writing and performance there is a traditional use of archetypes (Georgas, Regalado and Burgess 120). The hero, the damsel in distress, a wise guide, the fools that provide comic relief and the obstacles that they must overcome. These are all elements of Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey” and the elements can be found in many classic and modern stories.
So the use of stereotypes in story telling has always been relied upon, for better or worse. However, what separates the two is depth of character. Most stereotypes are flat characters; they are not capable of variation or change. Archetypes are much more complex characters and they have more depth (Kidd 36). “The Big Bang Theory” is no exception. The characters are more layered than typical stereotypes. However, there are many who do not approve of stereotypes of any kind, they want characters to break out of their “molds.”
Some people may feel that to promote any stereotypes of any kind is wrong. The Jewish community could be offended, the Indian community could be offended and women could be offended. In the case of “The Big Bang Theory” the characters are definitely stereotypical in so many obvious ways, but the stereotypes work for the story being told. They represent stereotypes that people can relate to.
Everyone has known someone that love comic books, video games and endless supplies of science fiction. After all the series is a half-hour sitcom, not a hard-core drama, so the stereotypes are not taken too seriously. In this the stereotypes are light-hearted. In fairness that is not always the case, sometimes stereotypes can be hurtful and grossly misrepresent different groups of people. However, in this case that is simply not true. The stereotypes are definitely present, but they are not meant to offend and are purely present for the audience’s entertainment.
- Georgas, Helen, Regalado, Mariana, and Burgess, Matthew. ‘Choose Your Own Adventure: The
- Hero’s Journey and the Research Process.’ City University of New York. 2017. pp. 120-134.
- Kidd, Mary Anna. ‘Archetypes, Stereotypes and Media Representation in Multi-Cultural
- Society. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences. vol. 236. 2016. pp. 25-28
- “The Big Bang Theory.” ‘The Killer Robot Instability.’ CBS Television. 2009. Accessed 9 February 2019.