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RECAP: The Big Bang Theory 6×20 “The Tenure Turbulence”

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The Big Bang Theory has never been perfect. It is, after all, a Chuck Lorre production. Despite that unfortunate set up, and its completely overdone premise (nerds meet hot girl, social awkwardness ensues!), I have largely enjoyed much of the series. Big Bang has shown a variety of interesting and nuanced relationships between its characters, punctuated by the occasional joke that crosses the line (often related to fatness, queerness or gender essentialism).

Those occasional jokes have become more and more prevalent, to the point that tuning in this season has become extremely painful. I yell at the TV more than laugh these days, and thats sad because I love these characters, and they have had some truly amusing story lines. Take this week’s indictment of the tenure process. Kripke approaches the men at lunch to inform them that the stink coming out of an office turned out to be the person who had died in there two weeks ago (does the university have such lax cleaning regulations that custodial staff hadn’t visited the office in two weeks, really?). This means that a tenured position has opened up! The guys, minus Howard who is ineligible due to his lack of PhD, each think about what a tenured position would mean to them.

Alas, a problem! Mrs. Davis, the Human Resources director that dealt with Sheldon’s inappropriate sexual comments earlier this season, is on the tenure committee! In an attempt to butter her up, Sheldon sticks his foot in it further by giving her a DVD of Roots. Leonard attempts to get on her good side by meeting up with her at the gym where his lack of fitness becomes evident. Raj thinks that the best way to bring Mrs. Davis around to his side is by sending her a 90 minute video about his life detailing how he came to love astronomy (he saw the moon when he was 5!).

The episode comes to a head when all the characters show up to the service for the dead professor. They meet outside, and chide each other for showing up when they had all agreed that would not attend the service. When Penny is rudely questioned by Sheldon about what she could possibly bring that would benefit Leonard, she (at the demand of Leonard) removes her coat to reveal her gravity defying boobs in a very tight dress. Cue drooling from Raj.

Penny totally rocked the dress, and were she a real human being I would 100% support her decision to wear whatever the hell she wanted. Unfortunately, in the context of the episode, her sexuality becomes the domain of the men, used as a pawn to further advance Leonard’s career. At the same time, her sexuality is used to demean Amy, whose appearance rarely conforms to idealized notions of feminine beauty. When Amy’s perceived lack of sexuality is smacked down, Sheldon asks “Are you implying my girlfriend has no sexuality?” When its confirmed, he simply responds that he was looking for clarification. It becomes evident that Amy’s lack of sexuality is taken as a given solely because she dresses in a way that some would describe as frumpy. And that furthermore, any attempts to use her sexuality to aid Sheldon would be fruitless because she is not seen as a sexually desirable woman.

Ultimately, it is discovered that Mrs. Davis has recommended all three of the men to be shortlisted for the tenure position. I am assuming that we will discover if one of them was successful in a future episode. My money is on Leslie Winkle winning the position!

Unfortunately, while the episode had great potential, I felt very uncomfortable with the scene that played the women’s sexuality for laughs. Theres a way to make sexuality funny and political, but they just didn’t get it right last night.

Favourite Moments:

– Howard referring to the other three men as “meercats”

– Bernadette scolding Howard for stirring the pot

– Amy’s line ” I should have taken my breasts out when I had the chance.”

What did you think of the episode? Who is going to get tenure? Are there any redeeming qualities to this show left?  Let me know in the comments!

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About Alicia

TV addict. Activist. Burlesque Dancer. Political Economy MA. Queer Theorist. Feminist. Cat Lady.

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