How "The Big Bang Theory" portrays scientists

January 6, 2017

Love it or hate it, you've probably at least heard of CBS's hit TV show The Big Bang Theory, now in its 10th year of production. But how accurately does it portray scientific culture, and does it break or reinforce stereotypes? A free article in this month's edition of Physics Today and a companion Inside Science video interview with its author explore these questions.

Science has seen a recent renaissance in pop culture in positive and affectionate ways. The widely popular CBS comedy, whose two lead characters are fictional Caltech physicists, has played no small role in this shift during its decade of production and tens of millions of annual viewers.

The show serves as a rich, recognizable backdrop for Margaret Weitekamp, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to investigate the stereotypes and portrayals of scientists. Her article, "The Image of Scientists in The Big Bang Theory," is featured in this month's Physics Today and is now available for free download.

Weitekamp's article offers a thorough, objective examination of how these characters portray (or notably don't portray) many cultural quirks and gender idiosyncrasies commonly associated with science and academia. Introducing her perspective in the article she said, "The characters and comedy of 'The Big Bang Theory' both build on and play against enduring stereotypes of scientists as depicted in popular culture."

Credit: Inside Science

Explore further: Kids think stereotypes reflect how world should be

More information: Margaret A. Weitekamp. The image of scientists in, Physics Today (2017). DOI: 10.1063/PT.3.3427

Related Stories

Kids think stereotypes reflect how world should be

December 22, 2016

Once children believe that a group is characterized by a certain trait, they think individual people within that group should also be judged by that trait, according to a University of Michigan study.

Accountancy stereotypes add up to stable profession

April 1, 2015

The media is littered with celebrity trainers, bakers, nutritionists, even gardeners. But, one profession is always missing from the roster - the celebrity accountant. The reason is most likely due to the negative stereotypes ...

Women, men and the bedroom

October 14, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- In the racy television hit show, Sex and the City, Carrie, one of the main characters tells her best girlfriends that "Men who are too good looking are never good in bed because they never had to be." ...

NASA goes to the set of CBS's 'The Big Bang Theory'

November 17, 2010

It all started with a Big Bang. Well, actually, it all started with a beach ball. Not just any beach ball, but one that is printed with data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). This educational beach ball ...

Tough girl or sidechick?

April 21, 2010

These have the potential to influence a young viewing audience and their ideas about gender and violence. Her study is published in Springer's journal Sex Roles.

Recommended for you

How the Earth stops high-energy neutrinos in their tracks

November 22, 2017

Neutrinos are abundant subatomic particles that are famous for passing through anything and everything, only very rarely interacting with matter. About 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second. Now, scientists ...

Quantum internet goes hybrid

November 22, 2017

In a recent study published in Nature, ICFO researchers led by ICREA Prof. Hugues de Riedmatten report an elementary "hybrid" quantum network link and demonstrate photonic quantum communication between two distinct quantum ...

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

November 22, 2017

Researchers have discovered that dense ensembles of quantum spins can be created in diamond with high resolution using an electron microscopes, paving the way for enhanced sensors and resources for quantum technologies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.