I must be a loser.
I actually posted that as my Facebook status one night.
That’s one reason I’m a loser—I joined the Facebook masses.
But that’s not what was on my mind the night I told all my Facebook friends, “Russ Davis must be a loser because all he has to look forward to is tonight’s Big Bang Theory” or words to that effect.
No, what was on my mind was how, all day long, I had been thinking about, “Oh, yeah, tonight’s The Big Bang Theory!” Somewhere in the midst of these thoughts, it struck me, “Tonight, for 30 minutes, I will be watching The Big Bang Theory, and my life will have some sort of meaning. Then that meaning will go away for the next six days and 23-and-a-half hours, and I will be boring, drab Russ once again.” Hence, the crestfallen Facebook status.
It’s sad to say this, but it’s true! Granted, this status was posted when I was still a senior in high school, and I would hope to think that my life has changed since then, but there’s no doubt: Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard still wield an important influence on my life.
Before I explain why, I should probably explain the show. The Big Bang Theory (produced by the same team behind Dharma and Greg and Two and a Half Men) follows the life trials of four male nerds. I’m using that word “trials” quite seriously: The men are typical geeks—100 percent book-smart, but completely lacking in the life skills department, especially where romance is concerned.
And that’s why I relate to them. Let me put it to you this way: I’m a little like Leonard, who wants to do the right thing but usually falters in executing his plans. I’m a little like Howard, whose flirting techniques usually evoke a widening of the eyes rather than a playful stroke of the hair.
I’m also kind of like Sheldon because sometimes, I don’t even bother with the stupidity of relationships.
And for that reason, I think that these characters perfectly simulate an aspect of geek/nerd/techie culture that is usually mocked: Geek romance. We all know the stereotypes (which I won’t repeat here in the interest of tastefulness), but how often are we confronted with a real, authentic, portrayal of the challenges male nerds face when it comes to the opposite sex?
For starters, take a look at Leonard. The very premise of the series is laid out in the first episode, when Penny—a young, attractive blonde—moves into the apartment across the hall from him and Sheldon. Leonard knows he’s a geek. He knows he needs to work on his social standing. He knows that he needs to make changes if he’s ever going to get anywhere in that whole relating-to-females thing. But just watch how he tries to forge some sort of relationship with Penny.
His attempts to invite her over for lunch are awkward. The lengths he goes to in order to please her might make some viewers shake their heads.
But he’s trying. Being just like him, I can honestly say, that’s all we geeks can really manage to do. Leonard’s forté is in science, where there are multiple theories but only one truth. If a scientist proposes a hypothesis that’s incorrect, his colleagues can prove him wrong through peer review.
In the world of romance, there are also countless theories, but how do you know which one is right? Leonard could abandon all of his research in physics and refocus it on human relationships, but I’d be curious to see what kind of a conclusion he’d reach.
Truth be told, he’d probably die before any conclusions could be reached–––his work would have to be carried on by a succession of subsequent academics.
The thing is, we geeks need concrete material on a few subjects. Romance is one of those subjects. Unfortunately, romance is not like physics, where most of the material has a solid foundation underneath it.
And yet, most people just get it. This is the struggle we geeks face.
We struggle to understand how to get into and out of relationships, and the rest of the world says, “You’ve got to be kidding.” This is likely one of the underlying reasons I enjoy The Big Bang Theory, so people will understand the dilemma that we geeks face when it comes to, once again, that whole relating-to-females thing.
Of course, some people still may not get it. At that point, I’ll give up. Because sometimes, I’m a little like Raj, in that I sometimes have nothing to say at all.
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