Research and The Big Bang Theory (though not necessarily at the same time)

I’ve had a really productive couple of weeks research-wise. I sent the second draft of my lit review section on encoding/decoding off to my supervisor last week (and got a reply today asking if I’m free to meet Thursday). It’s now up to 18,000 words and I’m pretty happy with it. It’s a lot better than the first draft and I think I’ve got some things in there that could be really useful for my work. One of the things I was looking at while reading was anti-fans, and I posted a poll to the LJ X Files comm asking people about their opinions of fic by people who haven’t seen all of the series. What I’ve argued in the lit review is that what I think Jonathan Gray leaves out in his work on anti-fans is the fans who are anti-fans of a specific aspect of a series – the Fowley anti-fans, or end-of-series anti-fans, for example. They have in-depth knowledge of the series, write fic, engage with fan communities, but dislike (or even hate) specific things about the series. I think they are different to the anti-fans Gray talks about, and I think they’re really interesting in terms of studying what fans can tell us about the series they watch. I’m still formulating some of my ideas on this, but I think it could be an interesting area, especially when it relates to fans who write post The Truth or post series (or post S7) fic when they haven’t seen S8 and 9. (If anyone’s interested I can go into more detail on what Gray says about anti-fans.)

I’ve also been thinking about The Big Bang Theory. I’ve recently, as I mentioned before, started watching it and am actually enjoying it. But there are some things I find very problematic. The first of these is the trans-bashing we get in a few episodes. For those of you who haven’t seen the series, before Penny moved in opposite Leonard and Penny the apartment was occupied by a black transvestite. This is referred to a couple of times in a few episodes, such as:

Leonard: Anyway, I went upstairs and knocked on the door.

Large Black Transvestite: Yeah?

Past Leonard: Dr. Cooper?

Transvestite: No, you want the crazy guy across the hall.

Leonard: In retrospect, that was clue number two.

And I really don’t like the suggestion that a trans person should be the crazy one. I was reading a few blogs earlier today, and one of them said The only ep of the show I ever caught had trans-misogyny and the character being mocked was Black. I couldn’t believe I had friends who think themselves “allies” who raved about how great this show was. I would consider myself an LGBT ally, and I do not find the trans references at all funny. Other aspects of the show I do, and so I’m trying to reconcile my dislike of this kind of humour with the show itself. I think it’s possible to do so – as long as you’re aware of the problems with what you’re watching and recognise that for all you enoy it there are issues – but it is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to

Another thing I really, really dislike is Howard and his attitude towards women. Partly I dislike this because it conforms to the ‘geeks are socially awkward misfits who can’t get girls’ stereotype and up until S3 there’s very little character development, but mainly I dislike it because I find it offensive. Lines like

“Love is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A relentless pursuit that only ends when she falls into your arms. Or hits you with the pepper spray.”
“Sit with her. Hold her, comfort her. And if the moment feels right, see if you can cop a feel.”
“There’s a whole new crop of female grad students about to put on just enough winter weight to make them needy and vulnerable.”

are supposed to be funny but I think they end up alienating quite a few people – mainly women – who find no place for themselves in TBBT just as they find no place in the predominantly male geek culture of the real world.

And in The Killer Robot Instability, where the following exchange takes place between Howard and Penny

Penny: I am saying it is not a compliment to call me doable. It’s not sexy to stare at my ass and say, “Ooh, it must be jelly ’cause jam don’t shake like that.” And most important, we are not dancing a tango, we’re not to’ing and fro’ing. Nothing is ever going to happen between us. Ever.

Howard: Wait a minute. This isn’t flirting, you’re serious.

Penny: Flirting? You think I’m flirting with you? I am not flirting with you, no woman is ever gonna flirt with you, you’re just gonna grow old and die alone.

the audience are supposed to feel sorry for Howard because his feelings have gotten hurt. (Penny does actually apologise to Howard towards the end of the episode, after which he tries to hit on her [again] showing a distinct lack of character development and pissing me off even more.) I am enjoying the bulk of the series, don’t get me wrong, but I wish they’d lay off the trans jokes and the misogyny and give us some cool female geeks. The audience would thank them for it.

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