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  • This is take two, take one. Mark.

  • "The Big Bang Theory" is the most popular show on television.

  • It centers on four male friends who are characterized by essentially every Hollywood

  • stereotype about geeks and nerds in existence. "Alright, just a few more feet and...

  • Here we are gentlemen The Gates of Elzebub." "Good Lord!" "Don't panic. This is what the last 97 hours have been about."

  • Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, and Raj all lack most of the traits traditionally associated with leading men in Hollywood.

  • They're not conventionally handsome. They're not confident, and they're definitely not athletic.

  • What they are, are dorky insecure fanboys who are plagued with a wide variety of anxieties,

  • illnesses, and awkward personality quirks.

  • They also happen to be the perfect embodiment of a media trope which I call: The 'Adorkable' Misogynist.

  • 'Adorkable' Misogynists are male characters, whose geeky version of masculinity is framed

  • as both comically pathetic and endearing.

  • "Wait, wait, what's on top of them?" "Wireless webcams! Wave hello!"

  • And it's their status as nerdy nice guys that then lets them off the hook for a wide range of creepy,

  • entitled and downright sexist behaviors.

  • "You may want to put on slacks"

  • "What? Ew. Stop it! No! Leave me alone."

  • Now, in order to help explain how this convention works we will need to take a quick trip back in time to the 1980s.

  • The year was 1984.

  • "Say 'Cheese!'" "Cheese!"

  • And one of the most popular summer movies was a film called "Revenge of the Nerds."

  • These weren't the first socially awkward nerds to grace the big screen,

  • but they did help popularize this type of character.

  • Over the next few years, this geeky guy archetype quickly gained traction in Hollywood.

  • And by the 1990s it had become something of a mainstay in comedy entertainment.

  • It's worth noting that this type of character is nearly always whitethough there are a few rare exceptions.

  • "Caught ya sweetums!"

  • The Hollywood Nerd is almost always positioned in opposition to the expected norms of Macho Manhood.

  • This is usually accomplished through the juxtaposition with the jock archetype.

  • When contrasted with hyper masculine guys who perform a crude,

  • aggressive form of manhood, our geeky hero gets to be framed as the better,

  • smarter, more sensitive alternative.

  • He's the misunderstood nice guy.

  • "Hi Betty."

  • "I'm not kissing a nerd."

  • Who's unfairly bullied and mocked by his peers.

  • "Hey, not every guy's born with blonde hair and a chin you can crack walnuts with."

  • "To catch babes, I had to use my imagination."

  • He's presented as the clear underdog in the manhood competition.

  • "Is that another way of saying I'm out of this world?

  • Oh Lisa, I love the excitement of chasing ya."

  • (Screams)

  • "Is this a good time to ask you about the dance?"

  • On closer inspection, however, we start to notice that these type of characters are shown engaging in a variety of harassing,

  • entitled, and sexist behavior where women are concerned. They consistently stalk, spy on,

  • lie to, and try to manipulate the women in their lives.

  • They're overbearing. They refuse to take no for an answer and they often ignore the basic tenants of consent.

  • Most of this behavior falls under the rubric of sexual harassment,

  • and occasionally it escalates to the level of sexual assault.

  • Both "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Sixteen Candles"

  • include scenes in which geeky nice guys commit acts of rape.

  • This type of behavior should be understood as reprehensible.

  • I say "should be" because that's not how these TV shows and movies frame it.

  • Instead, this behavior is framed as kind of pathetic

  • but ultimately harmless

  • and even endearing in an 'adorkable' sort of way.

  • "You're that nerd."

  • "Yeah."

  • "God, you were wonderful."

  • "Thanks."

  • And it's the 'adorkable' part of the 'adorkable' misogynist that makes this trope so insidious.

  • So let's return to "The Big Bang Theory." "We have to get rid of the time machine."

  • The four geeky friends on this show are written to be genuinely likable guys.

  • They're even capable of fleeting moments of heartfelt sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and sweetness.

  • "What is it?"

  • "It's a snowflake from the North Pole."

  • "Are you serious?"

  • "It'll last forever. I preserved it in a 1% solution of polyvinyl acetyl resin."

  • This non-threatening, 'adorkable' framing is designed to excuse the other more toxic part of the trope.

  • The four leading men on "Big Bang Theory" each present their own distinct flavor of 'adorkable' misogyny.

  • Howard is the creepy pervert with a heart of gold.

  • "Come to Papa you unkosher delight!"

  • "I'm not necessarily talking to the food."

  • "Would you have opened the door if you knew it was me?"

  • "Not since I found out the teddy bear you gave me had a webcam in it."

  • Throughout the first several seasons, he's depicted as a wannabe pickup artist.

  • "Yes. We're here to fix the cable."

  • He stalks, harasses,

  • objectifies, and tries to trick dozens of women into sleeping with him.

  • Howard talks about women the way a zookeeper might talk about trapping and taming wild animals.

  • "See first we let the lawyers and the jocks thin the herd, and then... we go after the weak and the old and the lame"

  • He's conniving,

  • he's manipulative, and his behavior sometimes crosses the line into criminal activity.

  • "There's the house! I found America's Top Models!"

  • "Are you sure?"

  • "Look on the roof! Anaise and Giselle are sunbathing,

  • European-style!"

  • "You can recognize people on Google Earth?"

  • "Of course not. I got a buddy of mine at NORAD to have a spy drone fly over."

  • I should note that once Howard is in a committed long-term

  • relationship, the way that his male chauvinism is expressed does shift slightly.

  • So he stops trying to be a womanizer, but he still demands to be taken care of.

  • And he refuses to share in any of the domestic responsibilities.

  • "Wanna pause the video game and help me clean up?"

  • "I am cleaning up. Look at the mess the Joker made of Gotham City!"

  • "I want this to feel like my house too."

  • "Oh, honey. Of course it's your house. Why else would you be cleaning it all the time?"

  • Raj is the sensitive guy turned inappropriate drunk.

  • He's the show's token geek of color and is endlessly mocked for being the most effeminate of the four friends.

  • "I'm sorry, what was your name again?"

  • Raj is also the most socially awkward around women. In the first few seasons, he can't speak to women at all.

  • "That's just fascinating!" "Thank you."

  • Except when he's drunk or on drugs.

  • "Would you like to hear more about it in my hot tub?"

  • And it's in those uninhibited moments when we see some very extreme levels of

  • underlying misogyny come to the forefront.

  • "I'm very comfortable here."

  • "Penny dearwhy don't you shoot another Silver bullet my way?"

  • "Where are you going? We're doing so well... She never even got to see my penis!"

  • "Tada!"

  • Leonard is the nice guy enabler. He plays the more down-to-earth, "normal" one of the group.

  • Still, he participates in much of the same behavior as his cohorts, just to a lesser degree.

  • Leonard's character arc is basically the pathetic nice guy who refuses to take no for an answer,

  • and who eventually gets the girl.

  • "How did you get her to go out with you?"

  • "Well, she moved in across the hall."

  • "He started to slowly wear me down."

  • "Like a river carves a canyon."

  • One of the roles that Leonard plays on the show is as the guy who excuses and enables the sexism of his male friends.

  • "You know that deep down inside Howard's a really nice guy."

  • "Cut the crap, you set this up, didn't you?"

  • "Yes."

  • "She's a hooker, isn't she?"

  • "A prostitute, yes."

  • "You already gave her the money?"

  • "Yes."

  • "Thank you!"

  • He might roll his eyes at his friends' antics, but he never seriously challenges their behavior.

  • "But I'd like to get lost in her Bermuda Triangle."

  • "That's not helpful."

  • "Then I won't say I'd like to cover three quarters of her surface area."

  • "Are we done?"

  • And his mild protests work as a springboard for still more sexist jokes.

  • "Not yet. This is fun! Ooh, I know! I'd let her free my willy!"

  • Sheldon, is the innocent bigot.

  • Most of the guys display a general disdain for icky girl stuff,

  • but Sheldon is the one who harbors the most virulent form of casual misogyny.

  • "Tonight's theme: flags of countries that have been torn apart and the women I have a feeling were responsible."

  • "My father used to say that a woman is like an egg salad sandwich on a warm, Texas day."

  • "What?"

  • "Full of eggs and only appealing for a short time."

  • The whole shtick of Sheldon's character is that he's too smart to understand or care to understand

  • what's socially appropriate and what's not. As such, he's dismissive of nearly everyone and their feelings.

  • But when he belittles and devalues women,

  • it's very specifically because they are women.

  • "Thanks to you, I know better than to ask if you're menstruating."

  • "And based on your behavior, I don't have to."

  • "All you hear women say is 'I'll just have a salad.'

  • "'Where's my lipgloss? I think this element should be called radium.'

  • "That last one was Madame Curie. You know what, she was kind of an honorary man. She had a penis made of science."

  • So how does "The Big Bang Theory" keep us, as the audience, sympathetic to men who behave in such reprehensible ways?

  • Well, it's done by leaning heavily on a combination of ironic humor and a popular writer's trick known as lamp shading.

  • Most of the jokes on "The Big Bang Theory," such as they are, revolve around the following ironic hook:

  • Since geeky guys don't fit into the macho mold of what we expect sexism or male entitlement to look like,

  • it's funny to watch them engaging in that type of behavior.

  • "It's 'anything-can-happen-Thursday, let's hit the clubs and meet hot women!"

  • "Here we go! Lock up your daughters. We're gonna hit it and quit it!"

  • Notice the target of the joke is not the misogynist behavior.

  • "Or... we could finish eating and go to the comic book store."

  • "Also a good plan."

  • Instead, it's making fun of men who are not traditionally masculine enough to believably pull it off.

  • "Smell that? That's the smell of new comic books."

  • Unlike many of our earlier examples from the 1980s, the creepy behavior on "The Big Bang Theory" is

  • meant to be understood for what it is.

  • "I know you think you're some sort of smooth-talking ladies man,

  • but the truth is you are just pathetic and creepy."