The Big Bang re­vis­ited is kind of creepy

Northern Pen - - Editorial - Thom Barker

After decades of co­me­di­ans push­ing the en­ve­lope and break­ing down taboos, the pool of ac­cept­able things to make fun of is shrink­ing.

Are we headed to­ward a hu­mour­less so­ci­ety?

I used to love The Big Bang The­ory. I was not alone. The show, now in its 12th sea­son, at­tracted up­ward of 20 mil­lion weekly view­ers at its peak.

I lost in­ter­est in it a few sea­sons ago. There were sev­eral rea­sons. For one, I al­ways feel like we build up im­mu­nity to com­edy. Even if the qual­ity of the writ­ing doesn’t de­cay (which it did in this case), it just gets old.

For the most part, though, Shel­don Cooper, one of the main char­ac­ters, just be­came in­suf­fer­able to me. His obliv­i­ous­ness to so­cial mores, or even ba­sic hu­man de­cency for that mat­ter, was funny in its naivety for a few sea­sons, but a char­ac­ter in­ca­pable of per­sonal growth gets tire­some.

For a cou­ple of years now, I haven’t even watched any re­runs, but last night I caught an old episode from 2012. I was ac­tu­ally taken aback by a scene in which Leonard, Howard and Raj go to a bar to pick up women.

The scene starts with Leonard and Howard aban­don­ing Raj, then Leonard asks Howard if they should talk to some of the women.

“No, it’s way too early in the evening for that,” Howard replies. “See, first we let the lawyers and the jocks thin the herd, then we go after the weak, the old and the lame.”

Later they iden­tify a cou­ple of po­ten­tial tar­gets and Howard pro­poses a ploy to do a magic trick to break the ice and get the women laugh­ing.

“You get it?” he says to Leonard. “They’re laugh­ing, we’re laugh­ing, then we get them up to about a point-one-five blood-al­co­hol level and tell them we’re mil­lion­aires.”

Fi­nally, when they strike out com­pletely and are ready to leave, they look for Raj, who they find mak­ing out with a very over­weight woman at the bar. At the end of the episode, Raj wakes up in bed with her and is ap­palled and wants to es­cape, a la the old chew-offy­our-own-arm gag.

Per­haps it says some­thing about my own ca­pac­ity for per­sonal growth that I was taken aback. What used to pass for harm­less geek hu­mour, seen in the light of the #metoo move­ment, has taken on a dis­turb­ing misog­y­nis­tic tone.

More­over, the tropes are kind of lame. The dumb blonde, the dumber jock, the awk­ward nerd, the over­bear­ing mother, the des­per­ate fat chick, while stan­dard comedic archetypes, even­tu­ally fall flat when they are not al­lowed to de­velop be­yond one-di­men­sion.

Of course, com­edy re­lies on stereo­types. We rec­og­nize a ker­nel of truth in them and ex­ag­ger­a­tion is, frankly, funny.

And it can have util­ity. One of the great­est ex­am­ples of this is the 1970s se­ries All in the Fam­ily, which was so­cial com­men­tary wrapped up in comedic big­otry.

Com­edy also re­lies on dis­com­fort. The great co­me­di­ans strad­dle the line be­tween ac­cept­able and un­ac­cept­able while ad­vanc­ing some kind of so­cial agenda.

Jok­ing about prey­ing on vul­ner­a­ble women or get­ting women drunk and de­ceiv­ing them to take ad­van­tage of them sex­u­ally can hardly be looked at as serv­ing some no­ble pur­pose and it can no longer be dis­missed as in­no­cent fun.

And, for Big Bang, it is not even an iso­lated gag, but one of the foun­da­tions of the show. From rig­ging a re­mote con­trol toy car to look up Penny’s skirt to hack­ing a mil­i­tary satel­lite to spy on women in the Amer­ica’s Next Top Model house, the guys are kind of creepy pervs.

After decades of co­me­di­ans push­ing the en­ve­lope and break­ing down taboos, the pool of ac­cept­able things to make fun of is shrink­ing.

And right­fully so. Some things just aren’t funny.

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