It all started with an innocent remark form my friend. I’m going to apply the Marxist theory to ‘The Big Bang Theory’, she says, as it was assigned for homework in my English Lit. class. Then there was a good, solid ten minute discussion about television shows and TBBT was mentioned, followed by a comment from my Psychology teacher the very same day: intelligence can be perceived as attractive. It’s not an exact quote because my memory sucks like a straw, but that’s not the point. My point is that WHY IS THIS SHOW FOLLOWING ME?!
I’m not complaining or anything — hell, I like this show. This is simply an observation that somehow overcame me during Psychology class. I mean, my teacher was right. Nowadays, intelligence equals attractiveness. With the onslaught of the superhero films like The Avengers (and various forms of the franchise) and TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, the whole nerd-esque look is gaining momentum.
It’s now ‘cool’ to like nerdy things. Brainy, as they say, is the new sexy.
I’m not saying being a nerd automatically means you’re intelligent, or that being intelligent makes you a shoo-in to be a nerd. Frankly, I don’t know what I’m trying to say here other than TBBT is following me. (I’m caught up on the series, just to let everybody know.) Anyway, below is a lovely paper written by that friend I mentioned at the beginning. Her name is Lizzie and here’s a link to her blog.
An aspect of Marxism says that‘Marxism is about how your social circumstances determine much, if not all of your life.’ This idea can be applied to the TV show The Big Bang Theory and the characters of Leonard Hofstadter, Sheldon Cooper, Raj Koothrapali, Howard Wolowitz and Penny. The show centres on these characters, which are scientists, except for Penny who is an aspiring actress and waitress at The Cheesecake Factory. This particular episode of TBBT is a Christmas episode in which Leonard’s mother, a psychiatrist, visits Leonard and Sheldon. Marxist theory can be applied to this episode as Sheldon and Beverley Hofstadter discuss previous events that have happened. Sheldon refers to Leonard as having ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ caused by ‘unresolved childhood issues’. Therefore, Leonard, according to Marxist theory, is the way he is because of the social circumstances in which he grew up. Sheldon refers to Leonard as ‘coming from a remarkably high-achieving family’. Leonard also explains how his Christmases went as a child, which was unusual to Penny’s Christmas traditions. This sort of childhood and experiences that Leonard had explain the reasons for his behaviour as an adult. Leonard now enjoys Christmas more, because he never got to enjoy traditional Christmases as a child. Contradictorily, Sheldon, who is more blunt and seemingly cleverer than Leonard, grew up in a family with more traditional values and celebrated Christmas as most Western families do. Combined with Sheldon’s personality, his social circumstantial experience of Christmas as a child determined his attitude toward Christmas as an adult. These are more specific examples of applying Marxist theory to this episode of TBBT.
The characters of Leonard, Howard, Sheldon and Raj can be explored through Marxist theory. Their ‘social circumstances’ are their jobs as scientist: Leonard as an experimental physicist, Sheldon as a theoretical physicist, Howard as an aerospace engineer, and Raj who works in the physics department as a specialist in particle astrophysics, and all of them at Caltech University. Their occupations, according to Marxist theory determine their consciousness. This is according to the Marxist statement: ‘It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ The group of best friends and co-workers form a group of what is the epitome of all that is geeky and nerdy. They enjoy playing video games and are interested in comic books and sci-fi such as Star Trek. It could be said, due to Marxist theory that these men do not engage in their hobbies and enjoy it because they think they do, but they do these hobbies and enjoy it because of their position in society as clever scientific thinking men. Their social circumstances and positions in society determine what things they enjoy and the hobbies they prefer. They think that they personally choose their hobbies, but according to Marxist theory, ‘choice is [but] an illusion’. ‘Their minds are not free, they only think they are.’ The way these men make a living set the conditions for their social, political and intellectual lives. Hence, the conversations and experiences that they share actually occur as a result of their occupation or social circumstances as scientists. Because they are scientists/clever people, they think and speak and act like scientists/clever people.