The Great Divide
My life can be divided into two segments: before and after 2013.
Before 2013, the words "The Big Bang Theory" represent a theory of how this world came to be, a scientific hypothesis built upon the writings of Charles Darwin.
After 2013 - which, incidentally, was my wedding year - the same four words came to mean a Chuck Lorre sitcom with a large cast of characters that included hardcore geeks, scientific geniuses, hopeless romantics, social misfits, and - Penny.
My husband has watched the show since its infancy almost one decade ago. As a diehard pop culture geek, Jim revels in the references popping from every other line of the teleplay. He doesn't love every episode, but he fairly likes the show.
But when I asked him if he did, he said no.
"Why?" I said.
"It makes geeks look bad," he answered.
My jaw dropped. "No, it doesn't."
"Yes, it does."
I shook my head in disbelief. "It makes ignorant people look bad! It always makes Penny look bad!"
We stared at each other - a marital standstill.
The Butt of the Joke
Does "The Big Bang Theory" make geeks look bad? Yes. Does it make a struggling wannabe actress look bad? Yes. Turns out, we were both right.
While some may argue that the subtle (or not so subtle) jabs at Sheldon Cooper always paint studious geniuses in a bad light, the show doesn't target its humor against any particular stereotype. In the world of Chuck Lorre, everyone and everything is fair play.
And it happens that way because the beauty of "The Big Bang Theory" as a show is the familial atmosphere amongst its otherwise non-related characters. The palpable kinship shared in that iconic living room is what keeps any joke possible. It's family humor in the most classic I-prank-my-baby-brother-but-I-love-him-anyway form.
Too blond to understand a 3-syllable word? Haha! But we love you.
Too unadaptable to enjoy Japanese food on Thai night? Joke's on you, buddy.
Too heartbroken to sustain a healthy relationship? We'll be your wingman.
It's family in the truest sense of the word.
Close to Home
But the magic of the show doesn't end there. It's not just funny. It's not just about a group of people who get along with each other while we hover and envy them from a distance.
When it comes to kinship, "The Big Bang Theory" brings it directly to you.
People like to watch characters whom they identify with. For Jim, that was Ted Mosby from "How I Met Your Mother" and the geeks in general from "The Big Bang Theory." Given how Ted's one-true-love story turned out disastrously wrong, that series is ruined forever. The good news? This other one is still going on strong.
And because of Chuck Lorre's amazing leadership, the emotions resonate on all levels.
When Bernadette complains about Howard's latest expensive new toy, the two of us exchange glances, look at Jim's Hot Toys collection, and chuckle.
When Sheldon starts asking about "The Flash" in the middle of a make-out session with Amy? We both laugh and blush.
It's not just a show for geeks. It's a show for everyone who has geeks in their lives. And given the recent comic-world takeover in pop culture, the above demographic is almost universal.
Not all the jokes are funny; not all the acting is good. But when it comes to why we truly love "The Big Bang Theory" - it's because it makes us all feel normal.
It makes Jim feel normal that his dream vacation is San Diego Comic Con. It makes the two of us feel normal that I've been buying more female superhero costumes than lingerie. It makes me feel hopeful that even if I don't understand a word of his conversation with his geek friends...he still loves me.
It's a different type of family culture. And we thank Chuck Lorre for assuring us that it's okay to be this way.