A theory on Big Bang Theory

This isn’t really something I initially felt compelled to comment on, because the story seemed relatively benign; a long-running TV show is coming to an end, and is doing so on top. But this opinion piece at news.com.au prompted me to write a response.

The column contends that detractors of the Big Bang Theory sitcom largely have things wrong and that criticism of the show is misguided. The thrust of the argument seems to be that it has given rise to nerd culture, and that it proves an inspiration to people to show an interest in science.

The article also outlines that:

… viewers now realise nerds can be funny and charming and not just locker stuffing.

The last part of that sentence being rather glaring – in that it doesn’t denounce the bullying of stuffing nerds into lockers, and rather seems to “normalise” it.

The reason that I care not for Big Bang Theory’s demise is that the brief watches I did have of the show didn’t celebrate nerd culture as much as it made it the butt of jokes. The characters were playing Dungeons and Dragons, and that was the joke. They were passionate about comic books, and that was the joke. Sheldon did something socially awkward, and that was the joke.

Big Bang Theory was not so much a celebration of nerd culture as much as it was the gentrification of it. It seemed cynical. The pastimes of nerds was distilled down to cliche and stereotype, and then served in a milquetoast beverage for people to consume. This lead to dilettantes to move into the space that nerds had long received bullying for pursuing, and then have them dominate proceedings.

Star Wars, for instance, was that nerdy movie franchise with the very dedicated fan base. Now it’s akin to a religion, with nigh on everyone excited for the next episode on the franchise. It is almost creepy.

Comic books are being transformed into mainstream blockbusters, rather than being a niche product for a passionate audience.

It could be argued that this is something that should be celebrated, as it brings greater prominence to something that needed it, but I would counter that, like any gentrification, that kind of flourishing robs any culture of the genuine heart, soul and character that had given it the charm, and it replaces it with a thin veneer that satisfies enough to stave off complaints, and remains – ultimately – profitable.

Big Bang Theory, from my observation, was an initial breaking of dirt of the gentrification of nerd culture. It has brought much success to the culture, and has introduced new people to something they might have dismissed (or stuffed nerds into lockers over), but it has seemingly left behind those initial customers who had given it the culture to begin with.

I don’t care to rate the humour of BBT, as comedy is subjective. I don’t care about how it introduces science to people – anyone with an enthusiasm for science will get into it anyway, and I would guess that anyone who obtained an interest in science from BBT would soon abandon it for being too boring.

But BBT has left an indelible mark on nerd culture, and it seems to have been administered in a largely cynical way. I understand that capitalism relies upon presenting a product that people want, but to appropriate nerd culture in a way that seems to mock its core is the kind of offensive that I would have though more people would understand.

But nerds are still just locker stuffing, right?

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The long game

It’s difficult to review the political landscape and not recognise the situation panning out. We’re reaching a tipping point, I feel, and it feels that a return to moderation is going to be some time away. This is especially so when you see the popular culture running what appears to be freshly sewn propaganda.

While conservatives fight the policy of the day, the polar opposite are infiltrating popular culture to indoctrinate the youth in their ideals. All the major pop stars support one side of the debate, and for any celebrity to go against this grain, they face large backlash and the ends of their careers.

See the fallout with Kanye West for a prime example. For another example, an up and coming actor had to purge his tweets for daring to not consider conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro a practitioner of hate.

The game that Democrats are playing is a long one. They seem to be seeking intergenerational voters to follow their cause, whereas the conservatives seem content to appeal to their base that has always served them well – middle America. That’s all well and good, except getting people when their minds are the most pliable and open is probably going to play strongly to the Democrats, going forward.

I am from an era where the popular culture was viewed with disdain, that people who consumed the most superficial of media had largely superficial understanding of things. Yet today we seem to give greater credence to ideas espoused by those who are the most popular. The political musings of Katy Perry seem somehow more noteworthy than political commentators who have analysed the field for years.

People who come for the interest of the way power works, rather than people with a vested interest in producing an outcome for their team. Because that’s how I view pop culture personalities who weigh in on politics – sales staff for political powers. They aren’t experts. They are billboards.

But they appeal to the approaching demographic who will soon reach voting age.

There’s a saying that if you aren’t a socialist in your 20’s, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a capitalist in your 30’s, you have no brain. The superficial benevolence of socialism did appeal to me in my younger days, but i understand that the system comes with a large and grave cost.

Conservatives better hope that the conditioning toward the left wears off earlier rather than later.

Just do a better job

As the media seem intent to call themselves a “vital part of democracy”, all the while failing to do even the most basic of reporting, I think it worthwhile to point out why the public rally behind Trump’s call of “fake news”

If the media is in any way confused about this, the solution to their problem of people distrusting the media is actually quite simple:

Do better.

This isn’t to say that the media needs to be Trump’s lapdog. Quite the opposite. But the media seem hell bent on taking any report about Trump, and blowing it well out of proportion. It’s doing nothing to endear the people to the media, and it’s further worsened when the media sees fit to compare themselves literally to soldiers on the front line.

So when every single discussion in the news focuses on the stupid shit that Trump says, while ignoring how policy actually manifests, it tells the public that the media have an ulterior motive. A motive to portray the President in the worst possible light.

… as though the President has trouble doing so without their help.

But it also confirms in peoples’ minds that the media are so far in the tank for one side of the political divide, that they cannot trust what is being reported. The place from where the reporting is coming from is dishonest, and tainted with partisanship.

Take, for example, the recent Antifa skirmishes with Police and journalists. CNN’s talking head will blindly whistle and hand-wave away Antifa’s behaviour on the grounds of it being a moral right. I sincerely doubt that this is a luxury they would afford had it been a conservative group attacking journalists – especially since CNN’s Jim Acosta apparently feared for his safety when he was taunted with jibes of “CNN sucks” at a recent Trump rally.

If the media really wants to earn the trust back from the people, they simply need to do one thing.

Do better.

Stop appearing like the propaganda wing of the Democrat party. Stop treating conservative views like they’re evil. Give opposing views respectful treatment. And be honest about your leanings.

Fox News has been rightly labelled as a right-wing outlet, and they appear to make no apologies for it. CNN, however, purports to be impartial and fair – when the proof provides little to back up the allusion. In fact, I would even think a good start for CNN would be to admit that they’re not impartial, and that they are partisan.

It would be a good start in having people trust them a little more.