Thursday, May 9, 2013

'The Big Bang Theory', Still Afraid to Make Real Strides with Sheldon & Amy, Real Relationship Issues in General...

When CBS advertised "The Love Spell Potential" episode of The Big Bang Theory as one in which "Sheldon and Amy's relationship [takes] an unexpected turn," I assumed that would mean either they would finally kiss, or they would finally break-up, and I eagerly tuned back in (it helped that CBS sent the "big" episode ahead of time). Now, I haven't been watching the show consistently this season, but still I'm ashamed to say that one-line episode summary duped me. Because the characters neither kissed, nor broke up; they merely played a game of Dungeons & Dragons (an often-reused story device this season) in which their D&D characters became intimate. There are a lot of people who watch The Big Bang Theory and don't understand Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy's (Mayim Bialik) relationship, but the show itself always seemed to understand their special situation and never made fun of it-- until now.

 
When Penny (Kaley Cuoco) jokingly suggested that Sheldon and Amy's D&D characters have to get it on in the game since they were nowhere near that in real life, the friends ran with it, and Amy ran off to Sheldon's room. In what actually was a big step for him, he followed her to find out what was wrong and comfort her in his own way. She made a very important point that people think their relationship is a joke, and he countered that he didn't think their relationship was a joke but that he actually though he was being quite intimate with her. His intimacy just doesn't include physical intimacy. He even repeated a notion from episodes back that before he met her, he never wanted to be intimate with anyone, and now he wasn't completely opposed to the idea. For Sheldon, that is huge. 

The Big Bang Theory has never come out and labeled Sheldon as asexual, and in all honesty, I'm not even sure the character himself would identify that way; he merely doesn't consider physical intimacy as a part of his life, so why would he need a word to define that? But (and I've said this before, too, but a show that recycles as much as this one does warrants the repetition in commentary, too) Amy was always a character with a healthy sexual appetite. She has made it clear she wants more from Sheldon. The fact that three years into their relationship, she hasn't changed her stance (why would she?), and neither has he (why would he?) should prompt a real "Then why are we still together?" conversation. It would worry me that there is further commentary on the kind of insecure woman Amy is to stay (read: settle) with someone who isn't giving her everything she wants simply because she thinks he's the best she can do. But in all honesty, this is a traditional situation comedy at its core, and I think at the end of the day, that just means it's not a show you should read more than face value into and therefore isn't the show to tackle the reality of uniqueness of something like an asexual relationship.

I think the show proved that by managing a really sweet and honest and even forward-moving conversation for those characters, only to follow it up immediately with the punchline that Amy could get her kicks by having Sheldon's D&D character "ravage" her D&D character. It was an over-the-top punchline that turned her character into a cartoon and pushed aside all of the very real issues this relationship is still facing. It was the equivalent of an immature teenage boy uncomfortable with the truthful emotions he just revealed making a farting noise to distract away from the seriousness-- Chandler on Friends literally had this exact moment. The Big Bang Theory would rather wade in an interesting story, swimming around and around in a circle, repeating itself without picking up forward momentum, just to be able to mine the same humor points for years, rather than push itself or its characters forward.

It's truly a shame because Sheldon is one of the most interesting and original characters created in recent television (simply because we don't see many like him on television at all), and so is Amy for wanting to be with him despite their very basic but still important differences. But this is a sitcom, and so the weight their story needs, let alone deserves, is not granted, and the audience is asked to laugh at them more than it is to sympathsize, let alone identify with them. 

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