I got quite a few comments on my new Big Bang Theory comic - some positive, some not. Some people agree with me, some don't, and others insist that the show is "cute", "sweet", and "funny". They don't understand how people who actually ARE what the show thinks it's representing can get upset by it.
Maybe I have a metaphor that can help shed some light on this:
I once saw a 1956 American comedy called "Teahouse of the August Moon" in which the American soldiers in Japan after WW2 try to civilize/Westernize the Japanese people.
Marlon Brando plays a character named Sakini (often pronounced Zuccini in the film). He wears tape over his eyes, dyes his hair black and wears yellow makeup, and speaks in a stilted Japanese accent. Over the course of the movie our soldier becomes charmed by the welcoming simplicity of the conquered Japanese people and even falls in love with a Geisha who has the delightful English name of Lotus Blossom.
It's sweet, cute, with shallowly written characters and a paper-thin story that at the time was seen as very progressive. It was rare to see Hollywood show Asians in a non-threatening light. It was based on a Tony Award AND Pulitzer Prize winning play (holy shit!) that in turn was based on a novel. Seeing an interracial romance? WOW! Having "Nips" and "Yanks" getting along? OMG DUDE! BIG PROGRESS!
Is it still racist? Oh HELL yes - it is VERY racist and VERY condescending. It's impossible to get this film on TV today and Brando pretty much brushed it under his career rug. No matter how positive the intention we still have a white guy mixing his r's and l's and squinting into the camera.
The more you think about it, the more slimy the movie is. It was made during the era when Americans occupied Japan right after nuking it. The Japanese are a proud, strong people and this was an impossible blow to their egos. What we are seeing in "Teahouse" is a conquered people being forcibly held down, neutered, and told "It's okay, we're all friends here!". There is no doubt who is dominant and who is being pressed into submission.
Sure, the Japanese in the movie fight back by being passive aggressively sassy, but they are never shown taking stands for their rights or, god forbid, demanding to be treated with basic human decency. That would scare the nervous white people with the guns, and we certainly don't want that.
I know that comparing Teahouse of the August Moon, which is fisting an open sore while telling knock knock jokes, to Big Bang Theory sounds absurd, but there are some serious similarities.
Thanks to the internet, nerds, introverts, and other social rejects are getting a voice for the first time in known history (no, I'm serious). Suddenly a people who no one even thought about are talking and gaining attention. It's no where near as big of a revolution as what the racial "minorities", women, Jews, and everyone in the LGBT circles have faced, but it's still scary to many people who are not used to sharing the spotlight.
The socially normal HAVE to adapt, and the best way people in power know how to adapt is to force something into submission, carve it into something more accessible to the ones who have always had their way, and giggle about how much fun we're all having even when it's not true.
I like to think that in fifty years we'll look back on BBT the way we look back on Teahouse, Amos & Andy, The Jazz Singer, Birth of a Nation, Cruising, The Crying Game, Will & Grace, Song of the South, various Looney Tunes shorts, and anything on this list www.imdb.com/list/jgCvvn6BvNw/ will be seen as part of an ugly, ignorant "bad old days".
Time marches on, someday this will all be in the past, and right now people see it as cheerful, fun, happy progress. Great.