How Scientists Are Portrayed In The Big Bang Theory

Physics Today magazine features a special article this month examining science stereotypes in the popular TV show
Jason Socrates Bardi, Editor

(Inside Science) -- The article that Margaret Weitekamp, curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, wrote for Physics Today magazine is about the television show The Big Bang Theory.  It is a somewhat unusual piece in how it presents science and scientists in a popular medium.

Weitekamp says, “The show itself starts from the idea that scientists and nerds have a certain number of stereotypes and then the characters, I think, are really written in ways that both play off of and sometimes play against those existing stereotypes.”

“Part of the popularity of The Big Bang Theory has come out of it being the right show at the right moment where there’s been an evolution in the social acceptance of geeks or nerds. Being able to work on computers, to know about science to know these kinds of things, and seeing that as a new kind of ‘geek chic,’ and this show then tapped into that very effectively,” says Weitekamp.

“It’s unusual to have a depiction of scientists in a comedy not in a drama. They tend to be the side character who comes in with the answer, or who is so obsessed with their own work that they have actually created the problem,” says Weitekamp.

Finally, says Weitekamp, “If readers get a chance to look at my academic look at The Big Bang Theory, and see how science, scientists, knowledge about science, and how science works, it might allow readers to think a little about the ways in which science gets depiced on television and in the movies.”

Author Bio & Story Archive

Jason Socrates Bardi is the former News Director of the American Institute of Physics and a longtime science writer.