Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Some weeks ago on the The Big Bang Theory, in the episode "The Bakersfield Expedition," there was a scene where, while the guys are away, the girls go into the comic book store in order to better understand what the guys enjoy.

As you can see in the video, they walk into the shop and all the male customers stop and gawk, only to stop when admonished by shop owner Stuart.

While I'm sure that moment was very amusing for much of the viewing public, I had a slightly different response, even though I'm not sure I deserved to.

Sure, I read comics from the age of 7, and worked in a comic book store from the ages of 18 to 27, but in the intervening nearly two decades I have not read many comics, so my present level of association with that is from the past.

Further, I should declare for the record I never considered myself a "nerd"—not at all because I thought that shameful but because I felt I lacked the nature that I feel defines those who have earned the title; I am quite certain were I one who could justifiably fly that flag I would make a lot more money than I do, or at least have significantly more readers—but was at best a quasi-nerd. Perhaps nerd-adjacent. Let's stop dwelling on terminology.

So I really should chuckle at the scene and not think about it further, right?

I grasp they're striving for broad comedy but seeing that scene where the ladies walk into the store and all the "nerds" stare at them as though they haven't interacted with that gender at all is a played-out stereotype that draws its humor very much at the expense of a group, not poking fun at a quirk displayed by some who identify in a certain way. Even 25 years ago the store where I worked there were many female customers and several female employees; somehow the male customers managed to act like they'd see one before, because... oh yeah, they had. I concede my experience is not recent, but I cannot imagine things have regressed in the clientele's social skills.

Thus, even after decades away and really only being on the periphery of that group it's (for lack of a better word) offensive enough to make me shake my head in modest disgust.

This is what comes of "nerd culture" becoming "mainstream"? Great.

Like anyone who grew up as any sort of "outsider" (even if not a proper one) I have the response of not knowing quite what to make of that being transformed into what is now popular, but I do know there's something inside me that bristles when it's now mainstream enough to be the butt of jokes—that is, these new jokes that ostensibly take place inside that culture rather than being made from others (which was on the surface worse, but which was far more easily shrugged off).

And it seems that never goes away.


That was such a dorky thing to admit.


A better take on this topic can be found in Noel Murray's piece on the AV Club. Also, had a female comic book fan review the episode who had a similar response.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago I was in Syracuse, NY and checked out a SF/Fantasy shop that sold collectibles like pulp magazines. It was in an old building, nothing really bad, but it wasn't brightly lit and ultra-clean modern as the shop in The Big Bang Theory video clip.

    An androgynous person with long blonde hair came in, looked around, and then left.

    A male customer asked the clerk: "Was that a girl?"

    The male clerk replied: "When the last time you saw a girl in here?"

    Like I said, many years ago.

    Comedy does use stereotypes at times to mine humor. I don't find The Big Bang Theory clip any more offensive than the "Get a life!" skit William Shatner did on Saturday Night Live.

    There's a great difference between comic stereotypes and serious ones promoted to hurt and marginalize a particular group. There can be a bit of truth in a comedic stereotype but people have to realize that comedy isn't reality.


So, what do you think?