Ever since the implosion of Two and a Half Men’s marquee star Charlie Sheen, America has moved to Chuck Lorre’s other sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Over the course of 200 episodes, the comedy has transformed itself from a show about a group of nerds fawning over a hot chick, to a true ensemble that’s filled to the brim with quirky characters and offbeat humor. There’s a reason that The Big Bang Theory is on top. However, if you thought that Chuck Lorre’s latest hit was completely without controversy, then you’d be dead wrong. Behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera, The Big Bang Theory has courted scandal almost since the beginning. Here, for your consideration, are some of the most controversial moments from the hilarious CBS sitcom.
1. ‘Real Nerds’ Hate It
Hate. A lot of the people who’ve enjoyed video games, comics, and science fiction since childhood, really hate The Big Bang Theory because they feel like the show makes nerds and nerd culture the butt of too many jokes. See, shows like South Park for example, are constantly poking fun at nerd culture, but they do so in a manner that mocks certain aspects of nerd culture from an insider’s perspective. The Big Bang Theory however, makes fun of nerd culture itself. The show’s main characters are constantly derided because of their basic interests. Do they like toys and video games? Sure, but they also pay their rent, hold down incredibly impressive jobs, and generally have the most important aspects of adulthood nailed down. But, they read comics, so they’re actually just sad little man-children.
2. ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is Sexist As Heck
The show often uses its central weirdo, Sheldon, as a means to generate some comedy by having him spout some Neanderthal bull crap that the other characters can correct. In the season nine opener for example, Sheldon gets dumped and then decides to declare war on women. Essentially, he spends the entire episode running around saying stuff like, “I’m done with women. Like when I swore off Pop Rocks. They both hurt you on purpose,” and “You’re a man, the champagne of genders.”
3. The Show Is Incredibly Racist . . . Like, Super Racist
From the beginning of the series, Raj Koothrappali has been one of the core foursome of nerds. An Indian physicist who is completely unable to talk to women unless he ties one on, and Raj’s surface and cultural differences are constantly held up as a source of humor. Whether Sheldon is referring to Raj as “the foreigner who tries to understand our culture and fails” or Raj himself is ridiculing India (“I don’t want to go back to India! It’s hot, and it’s loud, and there are so many people! You have no idea — they’re everywhere.”), easy jokes that place Raj as an outsider and clown abound on The Big Bang Theory.
4. Rumors Suggest That Money Is a Big Issue on the Set
Any fan of celebrity news can tell you that perhaps the most famous salary negotiation of all time came in 1996, when the six cast members of Friends decided to band together and negotiate their contracts as one group. The insinuation was simple, either pay every cast member the same rate, or they’d all walk off the show. The cast members of The Big Bang Theory did not do that. At present, the three top-billed stars — Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, and Jim Parsons — make about 25 percent more money than anyone else on the show plus, they get access to bonuses that the other actors don’t. This has led to reports of feuding among cast members, like when actress Mayim Bialik complained publicly about the fact that every member of the cast was overpaid (which didn’t sit well with Cuoco).
5. There’s Really No Place on the Show For Girl Nerds
Oh, don’t misunderstand, there are ladies on the show who are intelligent and who wear glasses, but they’re not archetypal nerds for the most part. They don’t share the boys’ love of comics or video games. Aside from being socially awkward in a similar way, the women on The Big Bang Theory are essentially just average women with odd social ticks. For some people, it feels as if the show is neglecting what is an extremely important aspect of nerd culture: women can be nerds too. Instead, The Big Bang Theory makes nerdiness a boys’ club filled with awkward virgins who freak out at the mere sight of a woman on their turf.
6. One Scene Was Actually Banned in the UK
In the tenth season of The Big Bang Theory, the producers decided to have two of the show’s characters engage in a little fun bondage. During a dream sequence in which Sheldon tries to process the fact that Penny and Leonard had sex in his childhood bed, he imagines that the two have redone his bedroom as a BDSM fantasy, complete with Penny in the process of whipping a bound Leonard. It was a bit racy, so racy in fact, that advertisers in the United Kingdom edited the episode to exclude the scene.
7. Cuoco Was Once Called Un-American
In a now-deleted Instagram post, Kaley Cuoco featured a picture of her entire family lounging on a Saturday afternoon. Fan feathers were ruffled however, when someone noticed that the family dogs were actually sitting on the American flag. The backlash was so severe that Cuoco was actually forced to apologize to millions of Instagram fans saying, “I sincerely apologize to anyone that has been offended by my previous post. This is no way reflects my feelings toward what the American flag represents.”
8. The Laugh Track Is the Worst Part of the Show
These days, most modern sitcoms have largely eschewed the old school multi-camera comedy with a laugh track, in favor of the one-camera-no-laugh-track style of storytelling (seen on shows like Modern Family and 30 Rock). The Big Bang Theory goes old school, which is a huge point of contention among the fans. Some suggest that the show isn’t actually funny without the canned laughter, while others suggest that The Big Bang Theory uses its laugh track to highlight the completely shallow nature of the jokes, like when Sheldon’s remark about playing Nintendo 64 on an emulator gets a laugh (as though someone playing N64 games on a computer is a completely ridiculous thing to do).
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