The Big Bang Theory and the Emotional and Relationship Life of Raj

Posted on January 20, 2012 by

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Big Bang Theory is drawing me back to TV, or at least some semblance of a TV-watching routine, something I haven’t had since late night with Conan back in the high school days.

Love the humor, love that they’re at Cal Tech, love that they make tons of LA-Pasadena references.

The show’s powered by some quirky characters.

Sheldon, the asocial, sometimes-too-literal physics genius who adheres to strict routines and interacts with people as if they are scientific objects.

Wallowitz, the outwardly Jewish engineer who “only” got his Master’s from MIT, lives with his shouting mom, and pretends he has all this charm with women.

Leonard, the “normal” guy of the group who has lots of sexual tension with the next-door neighborhood Penny.

And then, there’s Raj, the Indian guy who can’t even talk to women unless he’s drunk.

I can’t emphasize how much I love the show.

However, every time I see the show, I come to expect a few things:

  • Raj won’t have that many catchlines;  even though he’s one of the four main characters, he’s not a leading character or the focus of an episode
  • Raj getting with women is a punchline in itself.  He only hooks up with women when drunk, underscoring a confidence in social interaction that he generally lacks.
  • The only other person of color that comes into the show:  a main character’s love interest, a woman. This happens when Leonard has a relationship with Raj’s sister, obviously an Indian girl.  I’m all for women of color getting in, but its always as objects of affection.  She’s smart but

My sister, who’d introduced me to the show, made the comment that she was “shocked” that there wasn’t as many Asians in the background. Their place of employment is Cal Tech, a school with a 39% Asian-American student body.

I realize that the show is trying to stay edgy and funny, and its commitment isn’t necessarily to equal representation.

However, if they can be accurate and meticulous with facts and references, why can’t they be accurate and meticulous with the demographics who make up Cal Tech?

I think this little bit is just one sign of still-existing racial hegemony on these shows.

What is notable is that the direction of the show manages to be edgy and funny while being somewhat serious, if not committed to exploring storylines and love interests for the other three characters.

While we know these characters have a funny side, there’s a lot of depth to the three characters;  we know that they are humans and they have hearts.

We know that beyond Sheldon’s impersonalized exterior is someone concerned with some approval from people, particularly his mom. We see him easily moved when his mom takes action.

We know that Wolowitz is extremely sensitive when it comes to women, despite the bravado that he likes to show to his friends.  He’s a softy.

We follow all of Leonard’s wallowings in and out of relationships, we want to cheer when he gets with Raj.

But we don’t know anything about Raj.  We don’t really understand his one-night stands other than attributing it to his drunkenness, and that what he does with women is just all one big joke.