Tag Archives: TV

Big Bang Theory: The Detrimental Effects of “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

Some of you may know that I’ve done posts on the Big Bang Theory before, one where I used Sheldon and Amy as examples of asexual characters and another where I point out how poorly the writers dealt with Lucy’s social anxiety. This time, I’m discussing how the reoccurring punch line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” fails as a joke and actually has a detrimental effect on some viewers.

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The joke started as a result of the other characters judging Sheldons’ quirks and coming to the conclusion that Sheldon must have some form of autism (although they never call it that on the show). I’m guessing that this came from a lot of fan theorizing at the time and a lot of fans seeing these traits and diagnosing Sheldon as being on the autistic spectrum. The writers were quick to deny this, using the line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” to establish that Sheldon has no such condition.

What bothers me so much about this is that I know young kids with mild autism who identify with Sheldon and love the character because of these traits. These people are desperate for representation and an autistic character who leads a happy, successful life would be a godsend.
The line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” absolutely destroys this perfect representation. Sheldon is not only flat out denying that he has this condition but he also refers as those who do as being “crazy” (or “insane” depending on the episode) which is horrendously offensive.

Sheldon had such great potential to be a well-rounded, representational character. At its creation, the show was designed to take what was a neglected subsection of people and portray them as successful academics. The character of Sheldon embodied this the most. His repulsion of any sexual contact but still being in a happy relationship would have been fantastic representation for asexuals, but as I’ve mentioned previously this was ruined by the sudden switch of Amy’s personality and the constant hints that the couple might one day have sex. Similarly, Sheldon could have been a fantastic role model for children; a child prodigy who became a respected scientist whilst being on the autistic spectrum. But the writers go out of the way to stress that Sheldon isn’t like them. Sheldon is normal, whilst the members of their audience who also display these traits as “crazy.”

The Doctors Slipping Asexuality

If you’ve read my post about asexuals in the media, then you’ll know how strongly I feel about the importance of there being asexual characters in the media. You’ll also know how few of them there are, the main three being Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper (from the big bang theory) and the Doctor.
So it probably doesn’t shock you to find out that when Moffat announced that the Doctor engaged in premarital sex with Queen Elizabeth, I was pretty annoyed about it.

The Doctor has had children in the past (he occasionally mentions his Time Lord family) however, the Doctor has historically never shown interest in having sex with humans, and therefore could be considered as being an asexual character.

This level of plot twist is like if Sheldon Cooper had sex with his girlfriend (something which the writers constantly hint at despite the fact the Sheldon openly states that he’s disgusted by the idea of sexual acts. That’s not how you do character development, that’s how you do erasure of different sexualities). However, it wasn’t even written into the show. In an interview with the Dr Who magazine, Moffat reportedly said: ‘I said the marriage was unconsummated – and so it was. You saw for yourself in The Day of the Doctor – he ran straight off after the ceremony. Would we have put that on television if it wasn’t true? But I never said – not once, not ever – that the relationship was unconsummated!’

For a character uninterested in sex, it seems like something like this should be addressed in the show, not a passing comment in an interview. It’s like Dumbledores sexuality not factoring in the books but being mentioned by JK Rowling afterwards.

People from minority sexualities need to see representation so that their own sexuality can be validated. As an asexual, the idea that even characters like the Doctor will eventually come around and conduct in “normal” sexual activity is pretty offensive. It’s a bit like how now the Master is female the Doctor can suddenly have a relationship with her. Strange that.

The Mindy Project: Prude/Slut Shaming

Last night I watched the most recent episode of the Mindy Project to air in England entitled “Indian BBW”. Now, normally I love this show. It’s about a lovable female doctor who tries to apply the principles of romantic comedies to her everyday life. The episode however was a total departure from the normal formula and managed to simultaneously slut-shame and prude-shame our protagonist in a single episode, which is both impressive and incredibly offensive. Now this episode annoyed me so much that I’m going to do a scene by scene explanation of where the men in her life are going wrong. So without further ado:

The episode opens with Mindy and Danny (her co-worker and latest boyfriend) in bed kissing. Mindy’s first lines in this episode are “Wait, Danny” and “I don’t want to have sex with you.” Danny thinks that this is a joke and responds “Yeah, you’re very classy” and leans in for another kiss despite the fact that Mindy says no about five times before their lips touch.

Mindy says that she doesn’t want to rush things and Danny responds. “We’ve been kissing for 20 minutes. That’s like a week in guy minutes. Don’t I get any credit for that?” Now see, I’m not an expert in romance and sex, but I don’t think that bargaining is the best way to go about it. Especially when you’re making up some dumbass time frame to justify yourself.

Mindy then states that she normally doesn’t sleep with guys until the fifth date and Danny again attempts to bargain saying that they’ve gone on hundreds of dates “doctors lounge dates, subway commute dates, medical conference dates”. And Mindy, the hopeless romantic, surprisingly agrees with him and Danny instantly goes in to kiss her again.

As she pushes Danny away he looks incredibly offended and states “Do you realize there are literally thousands of girls in New York City that would kill to have sex with me right now?” Mindy is dubious about his claim and challenges him to do so in front of her.

So in a bizarre turn of events, Mindy is now stood in her kitchen watching Danny go through his phone book, attempting to find a woman to sleep with. And when no girls take him up on his offer, Mindy actually consoles her boyfriend instead of kicking him out for being so offensive. This wouldn’t be quite so bad if they had an open relationship, but Mindy’s whole character is geared to her finding the special someone and having the story-book relationship, something that Danny should know given the amount of time that he’s spent with her over the years that they’ve worked together.

Danny is then admitted to hospital for viral meningitis and when Mindy goes to visit him he introduced her to his brother as his “co-worker”. When they’re alone, Danny justifies this by saying “You know, we’re not having sex, so technically we’re not dating.” In one single sentence, the show manages to insult an entire community of people who either chose not to have sex for personal/ religious reasons or people whose sexual identity means that they don’t have sex with their partners (eg asexual or demisexual). The implication is that for a relationship to be valid there needs to be a high level of physical connection, and this demeans any relationship which doesn’t fit this standard, and should be interpreted as being highly offensive. Danny then tries to get Mindy to give him a hand job. I will reiterate: Danny is in the hospital for viral meningitis. His sex life should not be his top priority. Mindy however uses it as a justification “It’s your brain fever making you a real pervert.” So this concludes the prude shaming portion of this episode. Onto the slut shaming.

While at the hospital, her co-worker Peter texts Mindy saying that he needs to see her urgently. When she arrives, Peter very excitedly takes her to his computer. He states that while at work her was looking at pornography and he shows her a video that he found on a porn site of her and her ex-boyfriend having sex.

Mindy is naturally horrified and Peter says “What on earth were you thinking? Making a sex tape? Don’t you know that means that creeps like me are going to watch it?” He shows absolutely no shame over having seen the video and even admits to “gratifying” himself while watching. He even commented on the video saying that he knows the ‘actress’. He labels her as a “pornography actress” and despite the fact that she is clearly incredibly upset, Peter very enthusiastically asks questions about the video, such as what the background music was.

Peter and Mindy go to her boyfriend and find out that he lent the sex tape to his brother who was depressed after a break up. The brother then released the film online. While Mindy is upset about the video, Peter is just “super psyched” to meet another porn actor. Despite this, Mindy still views Peter as a friend, albeit a “slimy friend”. The ex says that he’ll destroy the tape the minute he gets home, but Peter points out that when guys say this, they never really mean it. So they demand that he brings the tape to Mindy’s office so that she can dispose of it herself.

The pair then plan to take the video of the internet, but Mindy doesn’t want to visit the offices of the site. Peter replies “You’re being pretty close minded for someone who just got her start in porn.” As though Mindy made a conscious choice about the matter.

They visit the offices but the owners refuse to take the sex tape online because there was a growing market for “Indian BBW” (big beautiful women). Which is both an invasion of her privacy and possibly illegal due to issues surrounding consent. Peter then attempts a motivation speech about morals in an attempt to get them to take the video down. The speech revolves around the fact that he took hundreds of pictures of naked girls whilst he was in college. And did he put them online? “No, because I wouldn’t work it out.” He’s cut off before he reaches the end, but I have no idea how was that story going to end well. Eventually the video is taken down purely because Peter went to the same college as the men in charge of the porn site. But they then immediately offer her to star in another film, something that she actually considers due to the amount of money involved.

Meanwhile, Mindy’s ex leaves sex tape on her desk in plain sight of everyone. Another co-worker accidentally brings the disc to Danny who reads the message “For you Babe. In case you miss me” and assumes that the video must be for him. He plays the video and even though it is instantly clear that the tape isn’t for him, he doesn’t turn it off. Instead he covers his eyes and yells at the screen.

When Mindy enters the room, Danny immediately calls her a sicko and yells “Where you taking it slow when you made this with Tom?” He calls her disgusting even though she’s visibly upset and says that one of the main reasons he’s upset is that it would be bad for their medical practice.
Mindy then collapses as she’s caught Danny’s strain of meningitis. Peter instantly comments that her shirt is up, and Danny yells at him, telling him not to look. THEN they call for a nurse. While Mindy is hospitalised, Peter attempts to cheer her up by saying that tape had a lot going against it “bad lighting, female director.” Nice sexism asshole.

Mindys ex Tom shows up to apologise to Danny. He states that his girlfriend doesn’t know about the sex tape, and that she thinks that he is a virgin. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about Barney from How I Met Your Mother, lying to women in order to coerce them into having sex with you is a crime and makes the characters that do so rapists. During his apology, Tom explains that he and Mindy had sex so often because they didn’t like spending time with each other and that’s his justification for everything that’s happened. Danny realises that Mindy must be taking it slow with him because she unlike Tom, she likes spending time with him and he decides to forgive her despite the fact that she hasn’t done anything wrong. And the episode ends with a supposedly romantic reconciliation.

It seems that no matter what Mindy does, the men in her life are going to make her feel bad about her sex life. When she decides that it’s too soon for sex it’s met with a baffling attempt at bargaining and she’s labelled as a prude. When she has an active sex life, the men around her can’t be trusted. They share tapes of her having sex, post them online and will unashamedly watch them and tease her about it. In one episode, the Mindy Project manages to both prude shame and slut shame its protagonist.

So as you can probably tell, I was pretty upset about the latest episode. Did you have a similar reaction? Or did you think that it was purely comedy? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Barney Stinson: The Rapist

Barney Stinson is an odd character. Despite how often he tricks women into sleeping with him. He’s still depicted as being a good guy. He may be morally abhorrent, but it’s just a phase that he went thought which was cured by him having a child in the last episode. There are quite a few instances where the women in their friendship group (Lily in particular) voice their disgust with his actions, but on the whole he’s treated as being a close friend. This means that the viewers see him as being a character worthy of both sympathy and admiration. It also means that the writers are free to treat his abuse of women as a joke, and just another punchline in the script.

The problem is that in the majority of Barney’s one night stands, the women have never given their full, informed consent.

This is called “rape by deception”. The perpetrator has the victim’s consent but gains it through deception or fraudulent statements and/or actions. This crime is also known as “rape by fraud” “rape by impersonation” or “rape by trickery”.

Barney Stinson is essentially the TV equivalent of Robin Thicke. He thinks that consent is flexible and that if the women says yes, then he has their full permission. But these women aren’t saying yes to him, they’re saying yes to whoever he’s pretending to be.

Ergo: Barney Stinson is technically a rapist and I have to add How I Met Your Mother to the list of TV shows I can’t watch anymore.

Big Bang Theory: Social Anxiety

I’ve already talked about how terribly the writers of Big Bang Theory tackle asexuality in this blog post. But there is another major issue with the Big Bang Theory; the way they tackle social anxiety.

In the episode ‘The Bon Voyage Reaction’ Raj attempts to integrate his girlfriend Lucy into his group of friends, despite her problems with social anxiety. Whilst introducing his Lucy to Amy, Raj says “you can’t put her on the spot like that, she hates being put on the spot.” And then instantly ‘puts her on the spot’. This isn’t funny, it’s cruel. And Raj when pushes the subject regarding their relationship status, Lucy gets so overwhelmed that she locks herself in the bathroom, which Raj instantly dismisses as not being serious, despite the fact that she’s having a break-down.

He even interrupts when Amy is sympathising with Lucy’s condition, saying that; “You can’t talk about social anxiety with someone who’s socially anxious, it makes them anxious”. This isn’t clever wordplay, it’s Raj feeling like he knows what’s best for Lucy and taking away her voice on the subject, which it likely to make her condition worse.

One of the main thing that upsets me is that throughout her appearances, Lucy’s anxiety isn’t taken seriously, it’s just another horrendously offensive punchline.

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In the same episode, Lucy understandably breaks up with Raj, who has been putting way too much pressure on her to attend a party, and she’s treated like the bad guy. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Raj, despite the fact that it is 100% his own fault. Raj even gets a happy ending, as towards the episode he is suddenly cured from his inability to speak to women with absolutely no explanation. So they you go folks, have a social anxiety disorder? Endure a break up. That’ll solve anything.

I really need to stop watching big bang theory. It just upsets me…

Asexuality in Popular Media

I love seeing asexuals represented in the media, unfortunately it literally never happens.

The three main examples of asexuals that we have right now are Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Lee Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. These three are the only asexuals that I’ve been able to find. (I’ve excluded cartoon characters, since their young audience tends to mean that their inherently asexual.) It is possible that there are other asexual characters out there, but these are the only ones that I see on a daily basis.

One of the main problems here is that asexuality is largely constructed as being something absurdly different. According to TV, normal people can’t be asexual. So the only examples we have are either alien (Dr Who) or possibly aspergic (Sherlock and Sheldon). Asexuals also can’t be female according to the medias representation, because god forbid a woman wouldn’t want to have sex. What a terrible message that would be to send out.

There’s also a massive issue in that although these characters were originally created to be asexual, recent writers and directors have ruined the characterisation.

Dr Who:

The Doctor started off as an asexual. His relationship with his companions was strictly platonic. It can be argued that since Susan is his granddaughter, then he must have had sex at some point however, he also had a daughter by accidently using a progenation machine, so anything is possible.

Matt Smith has been reported as saying that he deliberately played the Doctor as asexual, however the recent episodes have made it clear that the Doctor is very into kissing, regardless as to whether or not he has consent. In fact, this goes so far that it can easily be argued that he sexually assaulted Jenny (a queer, married woman) in the episode Crimson Horror.

Sherlock:

Sherlock is an asexual/aromantic character, regardless as to what the fanfiction tells you. Unfortunately, a lot of adaptions misinterpret his relationship with Irene Adler. In the story, Irene intrigued Sherlock purely because she was the only person to outsmart him. Here’s an extract from the beginning of Scandal in Bohemia;

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.

And equally, Irene has no interest in Sherlock and at the end of the story, she escapes with her husband Norton.
The BBC series tries to keep in aspects of Sherlocks original characterisation, but they were waaaay off base with Irene.

However, that’s not nearly as bad as the portrayal in the American series ‘Elementary’. In Elementary, they make it incredibly obvious that Sherlock has an incredibly active sex life, and he even refers to Watson as a “prude” after she questions him exchanging erotic letters with a woman he’s never met.

There’s a fine line between developing a character and going overboard with the development. The writers of Elementary appear to have missed this line completely.

Big Bang Theory:

At the start of this post I mentioned that there are no female asexuals in media, which is a shame, because we used to have a great one.

When Amy Farrah Fowler was introduced, she and Sheldon made the perfect couple because they were equally uninterested in physical contact and equally uninterested in social interactions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t interested enough, and in the space of one episode Amy suddenly developed a sex drive. Now, watching the new episodes, there are an average of about five ‘Amy is frustrated’ or ‘Sheldon doesn’t understand sex’ jokes every episode.

Asexuality isn’t being represented as a liveable life choice. It’s being represented as a joke. And in an episode that hasn’t aired in the UK yet, the couple kiss. Now, I haven’t seen this episode yet, but I really hope that it isn’t going to be the case that Sheldon finally understands Amy’s nagging and gives in to placate her. If it’s the case that Sheldon develops his own desire to have physical contact, then that’s not quite as bad. But I still don’t see why these characters need to have a sexual relationship to be ‘normal’.

EDIT: Never mind. Big Bang sucks.

Let me know what you think. Are there any asexual characters that I’ve missed off? Is there a decent depiction out there? I’d love to find any other adaptions.

EDIT:

Shortly after writing this blog post, I came across this tumblr post about the tv show Sirens which includes a female asexual character. This hasn’t come over to the UK yet, but I’m really hoping it does as it appears to go against everything that I’ve written about in the post as it includes a female asexual character, whose asexuality isn’t linked to any social disorder. If you have access to it, go check it out and let me know if it’s as good as it seems.