By Guest Contributor Vijay Simhan
There has never been a shortage of television shows, particularly comedies, built on stereotypes. In fact, there’s something we find comforting about stereotypes in that it confirms some of our (often unspoken) assumptions or makes us feel like we’re in on the joke.
The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) follows a circle of four friends who are scientists that “understand how the universe works” but do not know how to “interact with people, especially women.” The characters’ lives change when a beautiful free spirit, Penny, moves in next door. In other words, the show extends the oft-used stereotype of nerds or geeks or dorks that split the atom by day and spend their nights with Dungeons & Dragons and Star Trek, or more currently, World of Warcraft and Battlestar Gallactica.
In most cases a show such as TBBT would not really elicit more than an initial glance. However, with the increasing presence of Indian and Indian-American characters on television, the TBBT character Raj Koothrappali and the Indian stereotypes he represents are worth considering. (That and everyone I know notify me whenever they see any Indian on television.) Particularly curious is Raj’s inability to speak to any attractive girl or to act as his own agent in matters of love coupled with the (un)intentionally ambiguous depiction of his sexuality.