Cultural Arts Review – Big Bang Theory

Posted on September 26, 2012 by


The Big Bang Theory is a popular American sitcom and one of my favorite shows. However, after becoming a member of a World Religions course at my college I started to understand how westernized and stereotypical our television programs can be in the United States, specifically The Big Bang Theory.

For those of you that are not familiar with the show it was created by Chuck Zorre and Bill Prady. The writers are Steven Molaro and the two creators of the show. The storyline focuses on five main characters. There are four guys who are scientists, friends, and co-workers. The fifth main character is their neighbor Penny. I will be focusing on the character Rajesh Koothrappoli. In the show, Rajesh is an astrophysicist. He moved to the United States from New Delhi, India. He practices Hinduism, but you never see him doing anything that would demonstrate he is Hindu. However,  he does talk  about his Indian culture, Hindu religion, and homeland.

Now, I love this show, but I found that it emphasizes only one way to be from India, a Hindu, and that the two are linked closely together. It is also strongly westernized, which to me means that Eastern culture, the entire nation of India, and the Hindu religion have all been stereotyped. There are several ways that the show westernizes the Hindu religion, Hindu culture, and pokes fun at the people that practice Hinduism. First, is the fact that the character Rajesh is classified as a nerd and has a PhD. This is an example of the stereotype that people from Asia are nerds. Second, in The Spaghetti Catalyst (Season 3 Episode 20) Rajesh mentions his belief in reincarnation and karma. There is nothing wrong with these beliefs and both are important to Hinduism. However, Hinduism has many different traditions, practices, and philosophies. Therefore, some of these different practices or philosophies may not include reincarnation and karma in their doctrine and now a stereotype of what Hindu’s believe in has been created. Another example, is when Rajesh eats beef. In the show, Rajesh makes it clear that he is breaking his religious beliefs by eating beef, but shows no remorse. This is stereotypical because it demonstrates to Americans that as soon as a Hindu from India leaves his country he leaves behind his beliefs and his religious practices when that is not true. Many devote Hindu’s refrain from eating beef their entire lives and continue to practice their religion outside of the East.

Another major problem with the The Big Bang Theory’s portrayal of Hinduism and Indian culture is the fact they do not show the diversity of India. Only one type of person, from India, is portrayed in the show, so westerners assume, based on this that there is just that one stereotypical Indian, the Hindu Indian. The problem with this is there are many different religions and cultures that exist in India. India has a wide range of religious practices. The most popular are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. India is the most religiously diverse nation in the world and if westerners are getting their information from popular television, then stereotypes will continue to exist about Hindu’s and the people from India.

Posted in: Hinduism