The Big Bang Theory season 6 episode 11 review: The Santa Simulation

Review Kaci Ferrell 14 Dec 2012 - 08:22

It's The Big Bang Theory's Christmas episode, complete with Santa, carols, and a bell choir...

This review contains spoilers.

6.11 The Santa Simulation

I know I can be hard on The Big Bang Theory writers sometimes, but even I have to give them credit for one of the most unique takes on the ubiquitous Christmas episode that I've seen in a very long time. By framing the episode as a holiday-themed D&D campaign, they manage to work in carols, a bell choir, Santa, and even a little character development. 

It all starts when the boys break the news to their significant others. The girls are predictably unhappy (especially Amy, once she is told she's not invited after she expresses interest), but Stuart (who the writers suddenly seem to have remembered is living with Raj) is excited, mostly because he's invited. Apparently it's not so much that significant others aren't invited as it is No Girls Allowed, which...is not a move I really approve of on a show that's got a lot of problematic things in terms of gender. 

But when the game gets going, Raj is too amped up to strategize and gets himself killed almost immediately, prompting him to ask the ladies if he can join them on their Girls Night Out. They let him, mostly because Raj is adorable and who could say no to him? Other than apparently every woman in Burbank who he's not friends with. 

Despite the girls' best efforts, they can't find Raj an interested girl, prompting him to casually mention his former crushes on Penny and Bernadette. When Amy notes that she's missing from his list, the two get to talking about loneliness and I'm left to wonder if maybe we're heading for a Raj/Amy hookup somewhere down the line, especially after he notes that he's attracted to her because she no longer wants him. Not that I question Amy's devotion to Sheldon, but he's not budging on the physical side of things and Amy's...well, as we saw last week, she's getting desperate. Who could blame her if she ended things with Sheldon and pursued something with someone else? (And really who could blame her if that someone else was Raj, who we've previously established is adorable.) Plus, just speaking from a comedy standpoint, it's always hilarious when Sheldon is reluctantly jealous, so an extended arc of him dealing with Amy/Raj could potentially yield comedic gold, if the writers played their cards right.

Back at the apartment, Leonard has set up the D&D game to revolve around Christmas. At various points, Sheldon sings the entirety of Good King Winceslas (on a personal note: I love it when Jim sings), the boys form a bell choir to perform Jingle Bells, and they find melted snowmen--corncob pipes and all. But when they reach the end of their quest to save Santa from the ogres, Sheldon turns on Howard and Stuart, and explains that the last time he encountered Santa was when he was five and he asked for Santa to bring him back his grandfather, who had died earlier that year. Obviously, Santa didn't pull through, and Sheldon has apparently hated Santa Claus ever since. 

It's one of those things that's simultaneously absurd and rooted in real emotion that works so well for Sheldon's character. Heartless though he may seem, the boy does love his family, particularly his grandparents. So while it's completely ridiculous for a grown man to harbour a grudge against Santa for failing to revive a deceased relative, it's the same brand of ridiculous that made it possible for a grown man to harbour a grudge against Wil Wheaton. With any other character, I couldn't buy it, but with Sheldon Cooper, my heart hurts just thinking about it. 

There were a few problems here or there in the episode (I really dislike how the boys continuously segregate themselves from the girls, particularly when it comes to geeky things) but overall, a solid episode that managed an original take on the Christmas theme that I'm sure a lot of us are tiring on.

Read Kaci's review of the previous episode, The Fish Guts Displacement, here.

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I'm slightly confused. In previous reviews you've said you miss the older episodes where it was just the guys, then when they do an episode like that, you miss the girls.

What's wrong with the boys playing D&D without the girls? You don't understand geeks very well, do you? When the show started, it was just the boys and Penny was the new neighbor. It makes sense that the guys would occasionally have a guy's night with the core group.

I do wish you would stop inserting your obvious gender issues into your reviews.

Hi, Rachael. What I miss about the earlier episodes isn't that it was just the guys, it was the fact that those earlier episodes were better written and funnier. I didn't miss the girls in this episode--they were there and had about even screen time as the boys. My problem with it is that I dislike the way the show refuses to include geeky women. Amy and Bernadette are highly intelligent scientists, absolutely, but Bernadette has never shown any interest in geeky interests (comics, games, genre movies, etc etc...her only geeky "thing" is that she's smart) and when Amy expressed an interest in learning to play D&D, she was shot down.

I'm sure you're aware of the fact that geeky girls are not exactly welcomed into the wider geek community by and large--please see the recent "fake geek girls" drama if you're not familiar with what I'm talking about. The Big Bang Theory purports itself to be a representation of the geek community, so I would really like to see the inclusion of geeky girls. Even just something small such as one of the female characters sharing a non-scientific interest with the boys would be a good step, but unfortunately it hasn't happened yet. The closest they ever came was with Leslie Winkle, but she has been absent from the show for years.

In short, it's not that I miss the girls; they're there. I just want some kind of acknowledgement that female geeks exist.

Hi, BlackPepper.

I actually do understand geeks very well, being that I am in fact one myself. And you are absolutely correct that the boys might occasionally want a boys' night, just as the girls want a girls' night. There's nothing wrong with that at all.

What I don't like, however, is the complete erasure of female geeks that this show has been doing since day one. Please, name me one female geek on this show. Amy and Bernadette are very intelligent, sure, but neither of them have ever expressed interest in any of the geeky activities the boys engage in (comics, games, genre films) other than Amy's interest in playing D&D in this episode, when she was turned down. (And, I'd like to note, Sheldon didn't say, "I'll teach you some other time, we're having a boys' night on Saturday," he said, "You're not invited.")

This show constantly makes jokes about the fact that there are no female geeks (examples such as when Penny went to the comic book store, Stuart told her to blink if she was there against her will, and Leonard told her not to fear the guys in the store, as they were "more afraid of you than you are of them").

After six seasons, I don't think I'm asking for much by wanting to see some kind of positive representation of a geek girl. They're not my gender issues. They're the writers'. I'm just pointing them out.

you want a girl geek? get Felicia Day on the show.

Not cool calling Amy "desperate" and she's pretty devoted to Sheldon. BOOO for suggesting that.

Good point - intelligent does not equal geeky. You are right - there are no actual female geeks on the show. Since Raj is the only one without a girl and there are no girl geeks, it would be great if Raj got a girlfriend that was just as geeky as all the guys. Maybe more so. The writers could have a blast with that.

One other female geek on the show: Alice (played by Courtney Ford) in The Good Guy Fluctuation was a pretty intriguing character, and I wish we could've seen her in more episodes

Really enjoyed this episode - only main problem I had with it was that it was too short - I really enjoyed the twin dynamics of the D&D and the girls' night out (that time Sheldon went out with the girls yielded some great results after all), and both subverted expectations in an intelligent manner - Raj made a thoughtful apology to Amy and I thought the explanation behind Sheldon's Christmas hate was also well done, and Santa's cameo was brilliant.

I also like that they're taking steps to question and explain Raj as a character more now, what with Stuart pointing out all the stupid innuendos and Raj himself trying to work out why he's having so many relationship problems.

Hi, ChaosWalking. I didn't mention Alice since she was around for such a short time and they basically treated her as a unicorn. "WHAT? YOU'RE A GIRL? WHO LIKES COMICS? HOW ARE YOU REAL?" But I would like more of her or more characters like her. That would be such a good step towards at least acknowledging that there's a female contingent of the geek community, too.

When the girls do join in geeky activities, they often end up beating the guys (Pictionary, Halo, paintball, etc.), so it does make sense for the guys to want to have girl-free evenings. BTW I totally love the way Sheldon reacts when Penny makes fun of Amy's dress being 'forever 63'.

" that geeky girls are not exactly welcomed into the wider geek community"

What do you mean by this way? For real? Or in the show?

I'm not sure that will be exact. Well, I can explain my position. I think, the matter it's not the men.. but mostly the other womens who doesn't understand this universe.

Well, for my part, I'm a girl, I'm working like an engeenering in an IT, I listen to metal, I'm a gamer, I love heroic fantasy, I like science, I had many useless stuffs... and so on!
Men likes me like a buddy. They accept me. But the real matter for me, it's the other girls they look at me an alien... At the beginning it was hurt, a little, now I don't care anymore.

It is a fact that in the real world geek community, women are not as welcomed as men--and sometimes they are outright ostracized. When a woman tries to join a geek community or go to a con, her credibility is questioned. If she carries an Avengers tote bag, men stop to ask if she's "really a fan" or if she only likes them "because of the movies." And if she dares to insist that she's "really a fan" (what does that even MEAN anyway? Who can define that? Who decides who's "really a fan" and who's not?) then she has to prove her knowledge. If it's not on par with her questioner, then she's deemed to be a "fake geek." (That example is based on something that really happened to a girl carrying an Avengers tote bag.)

Recently, there was an uproar over girls who choose to cosplay when they go to conventions, saying that they only come because they want to be admired by guys they "wouldn't give a second look outside of the convention center" and that they choose characters who are "hot, without knowing anything about them," completely ignoring the fact that if a woman chooses to cosplay, it is, just maybe, because that's how she chooses to express her geekiness, and it has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else other than what makes her personally happy. The argument hit its fervor when an actual comic professional told female fans to stop coming to conventions and/or cosplaying because the "real fans" (i.e. men) didn't want them there via his Facebook.

If you have been welcomed by male geeks into your community, then that is absolutely wonderful and as it should be. However, that's not what it's like for most women (particularly conventionally attractive women who enjoy cosplay or women whose fandom has had a major motion picture within the last decade or two) who join the fray.

There are so many other issues for female fans that I haven't even mentioned here, and I invite you or anyone else to do further research to learn more about them as I don't really have the time to educate about all of them. This is the tip of the iceberg and while it's great that you seem to feel welcomed by male geeks, most of us ladynerds still don't.

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