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. Continue reading →
Since the appearance of Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, representation of Asian men in popular culture – and specifically comedy – hasn’t really changed much. They’re mostly still nerdy, socially incapable background characters. Still, primetime TV has shown us that Asian men can be more than just quiet contributions to set dressing. They can be funny in their own right. But being the funny bro doesn’t really mean you’ll have any more success with the ladies. Just ask Lester Patel from Chuck,Raj Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory, or Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation.
Lester (Vik Sahay) works at the Buy More as part of Chuck’s Nerd Herd team and occasionally performs as part of the music group Jeffster! with his best friend, Jeff. Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is an astrophysicist at Caltech who suffers from a case of selective mutism in which he can’t speak to women outside of his family (except after the consumption of alcohol). Tom (Aziz Ansari) is a member of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department team, often serving as Leslie Knope’s right-hand man.
The Asians have gotten cooler, but they still aren’t quite cool, yet.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a new favorite show to watch. My boyfriend has been a How I Met Your Mother devotee for the past couple of years, and tends to always make his way to the couch around eight-ish on Monday nights.
One night, I was working in the bedroom when I caught an errant nerdy reference.
Oh, love! A discussion of the physics involved in Superman with a comic book reference challenge at the end? Be still my heart!
The next time I wasn’t paying attention, but I was in the living room, so I caught the reference that changed my life: