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The Big Bang Theory: "The Raiders Minimization"

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Raiders Of The Lost Ark is one of those films that will be staunchly defended in nerd circles no matter what the criticism, but Sheldon and the gang find themselves faced with a horrible truth when Amy Farrah-Fowler watches the movie for the first time and makes a sad discovery: Indiana Jones is completely inessential to the plot. If he wasn’t in the movie, the Nazis would have found the Ark of the Covenant, brought it to the island, opened it, and died. Just like they did. Amy is lucky when she gets any sort of emotional reaction from her boyfriend, but her comment about Raiders sparks an anger in Sheldon that drives him to all of Amy’s favorite pieces of entertainment so that he can find something to ruin.


This show tends to do very well when it addresses a specific part of nerd culture, and Amy’s Raiders criticism is not only valid, but paves the way for real communication between her and Sheldon. On his quest to find something to ruin, Sheldon exposes himself to the media that Amy loves and learns to appreciate the flawless plot of Pride & Prejudice and the comic high jinks of Marmaduke and Garfield. He ultimately decides to invite Amy over to watch Little House On The Prairie with his running commentary of each historical inaccuracy, a strategy that fails to diminish the show’s value in any way and forces Sheldon to have an honest confrontation with Amy about his feelings.


All the guys on this show have fucked up relationships with their mothers, and this week we see how childhood interactions with their mothers have influenced Sheldon and Leonard’s adult behavior. When Sheldon was a child, he would see his mother put hamster poop in his father’s chewing tobacco to get back at him for staying out all night, so Sheldon’s natural response to anger is seeking revenge rather than showing vulnerability and confronting another person about hurt feelings. When he’s honest to Amy and tells her that he didn’t appreciate having one of his favorite franchises ruined, Amy sincerely apologizes and Sheldon feels better. Amy didn’t necessarily do anything wrong by stating the truth, but she knows how much the movie means to Sheldon and used the opportunity to knock it down a few pegs by pointing out a big problem.


Sheldon doesn’t love Amy nearly as much as he loves his movies and comics and video games, so it’s reasonable that she would try to divert attention away from those things and on to her. Unfortunately, in this situation the attention is negative, so she has to recalibrate her strategy if she’s going to hold on to any of the progress they’ve made thus far. She apologizes, yes, but that’s because she’s already won a major victory by having Sheldon express interest in the things she holds dear, even if the interest stems from a desire to find the flaws. She’s brought Sheldon closer without him even realizing it, creating more common ground in their interests while helping him express his emotions in a positive way.

Across the hall, The Disappointing Child by Beverly Hofstadter is on the required reading list for Penny’s psychology class, digging up years of traumatic memories for Leonard when he thinks about all the embarrassing things his mother wrote about in her academic text. It’s great to see Penny’s school life create drama in her personal life, and Dr. Hofstadter’s book is a quick, easy way of bringing Leonard’s past back to haunt him. Penny asks Leonard why a 5-year-old would put on his mom’s makeup and balloon boobies, and he responds by saying that he was pretending to be the Hulk so he could smash his way out of his house and away from the woman who recorded every fluid that left his body. (The bra kept his muscles up.) Leonard’s mother was an emotionally detached, highly analytical intellectual that never gave him the attention he needed, which explains why he’s so eager for the approval and support of his romantic partners, but things get really weird when his Oedipus complex starts coming into play.


Penny takes pity on Leonard for reopening old wounds, and he takes advantage of this to get more sex and avoid hanging out with her friends by whining about his relationship with his mother. Leonard brags about this emotional manipulation to Howard, who tries it on Bernadette to no avail. Beyond the immorality of tricking their significant others to have sex with them, Leonard and Howard’s sex tactics are even more disturbing because they connect damaging maternal experiences with sexual pleasure. Why does Leonard want to engage in intercourse after talking about how his mother stunted his development? Dr. Hofstadter wants to know, and she gets her chance to find out when Penny sets up Leonard for an awkward video chat with his mother to get back at him for telling Howard about their intimate relations. It’s a great conclusion to one of the strongest plots Leonard and Penny have ever had, and a Christine Baranski cameo is always appreciated on this series.

Of the men, Raj has the least developed relationship with his mother, although we can assume it wasn’t the healthiest considering he wasn’t able to talk to women sober until about five months ago. The C-plot revives the bromance of Raj and Stuart to look at the highs and low of online dating as the two men create profiles and experience digital loneliness. The story is simple but entertaining, and it provides a nice balance to the more substantial relationship drama that surrounds it. “The Raiders Minimalization” is The Big Bang Theory firing on all cylinders, and it’s the kind of episode that shows why this series remains the top comedy on television.


Stray observations:

  • You know, Raj is starting to look like Halle Berry. Maybe it’s his makeup.
  • April 13, 2013: The dark night someone almost slipped Sheldon a mickey by putting a curly fry in his order of regular fries. A close call indeed.
  • Melissa Rauch only has one scene this week, but she completely rocks it. Bernadette is a delightful little blonde ball of sass, and Rauch has developed fantastic chemistry with Simon Helberg to make Howard and Bernadette’s the show’s strongest romantic relationship.
  • “I enjoyed it. But when you told me I was going to be losing my virginity, I didn’t think you meant showing me Raiders Of The Lost Ark for the first time.”
  • “Oh my god. You still go left!”
  • Sheldon: “Amy ruined Raiders Of The Lost Ark for me, so now I’m trying to find something beloved to her and ruin that.” Howard: “Because her life wasn’t enough?”
  • “I’m copying Leonard. When he does this to Penny they have sex and watch Monty Python.
  • “Let’s discuss why you continue to involve me in your sex life.”