Tuesday, November 06, 2007

TV and Physics don't quite get along

CBS just launched The Big Bang Theory, a new sitcom about two physics guys with no social skills and a hot “blond” girl with a cell phone. Putting aside reviews, TBBT makes me question whether or not TV has given scientists a bad rap.

There tend to be three prominent stereotypes that follow physicists wherever they go, and TBBT embraces all of them (I will note that these apply far more to male physicists): physicists are socially inept (except with other physicists), they like people of the opposite sex but turn into goop around them, and they constantly speak in overly complicated jargon.

But wait! Since George Clooney’s reign on ER it’s clear that not all TV scientists are created equal. Doctors have not only beat the rap of nerds, but are triumphantly portrayed as abnormally attractive.

And this isn't an isolated incident. Multiple shows have run off with the hot doctor idea despite the fact that there are physics concepts around every defibrillator!

On the X-Files, Gillian Anderson’s character got her B.S. in physics, but then went to medical school, putting her somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Still, Scully was dubbed the “scientist” of the duo. She had ONE date in NINE YEARS.

Gilligan's Island definitely added to the idea that we should just accept the jargon that scientists throw at us and never question a radio built out of coconuts. The Professor was was kind of rugged and calm, not up-tight and glued to an inhaler like other nerds. Yet the non-sexuality played in at a new level because he seemed kind of gay.

Jerry Lewis pretty much defiled chemists for all time with the Nutty Professor.

While I hate to see my beloved physicists turned into nothing but a stereotype, sometimes I wonder if we haven’t got it coming.

1 comment:

  1. An article on BuddyTV says that The Big Bang Theory has a real-life physics PhD consulting the writers on the physics thats added to the script. It's the least we should expect, but still, props to the writers for seeing it as an important step. The article also says that the actors mingle with the UCLA physics department as research. Read more here: http://www.buddytv.com/articles/the-big-bang-theory/big-bang-theory-gets-a-dose-of-13608.aspx