The Big Bang Theory season 6 episode 22: The Proton Resurgence
This week's The Big Bang Theory on childhood heroes gets to the heart of what it is to be a geek. Here's Kaci's review...
This review contains spoilers.
6.22 The Proton Resurgence
In this week's episode of The Big Bang Theory, Howard and Bernadette lose Raj's dog and the show pays tribute to childhood and science heroes.
Raj asks his friends to look after his dog and it inspires them to re-visit the conversation of whether or not they want kids, and this time, Bernadette is more amenable to the idea. Not only that, but when she scolds Raj upon finding out that he has had his supposedly lost pet for several hours without informing them, Howard points out that she'd be great at it. It's cute and funny but I have to admit that mostly I want to talk about the Sheldon, Leonard, and Penny story of this episode.
There are a lot of criticisms geeks level at this show. Many of them are quite valid. I myself have called it out for its ardent refusal to accurately reflect the female geek community. But the thing about this show is that when it gets something right, it really gets it right. By introducing us to Professor Proton, we're thrown back to whatever childhood hero we once had who inspired us to reach for our dreams on top of recalling fond days in science class spent letting Bill Nye the Science Guy teach us the scientific method.
By exposing Professor Proton not as the monolithic hero that Leonard and Sheldon have built him up to be but rather as just a normal guy with normal problems from a cheating wife to a tetchy pacemaker, it reminds us that our heroes are just like us: but that's not a let down, that's an amazing inspiration. Because if they're just like us, then we can be just like them, too. That's why they inspire us; because we believe that if they did it, so can we.
And fine, I'm a sap, I've never tried to hide that, but I honestly teared up a little when Sheldon told Professor Proton how he'd inspired a generation of scientists and their discoveries were his discoveries, too. It calls to mind the influence of real-world scientists frequently in the public eye like Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson and just how many people are learning to love science because of how much passion we see in them. And it's not limited to just scientists; the same idea applies to all kinds of professions. Our victories are their victories and even if they themselves never discover anything revelatory, they have truly changed the world because someone, somewhere, who did have that epiphany, only had the courage to follow their passion because of those heroes.
Okay, climbing down off my soapbox now. What I mean to say is that when this show understands us and our culture, it really, truly does get it right. It's not always, which is possibly why it's all the more frustrating when it lets us down; we know it can soar, and so when it doesn't, we're harder on it than we should be.
This episode of The Big Bang Theory, at least for me, really got to the heart of what it is to be a geek: to be passionate, to be inspired, to follow in the footsteps of our heroes while blazing our own trail. So I salute you, Professor Proton, and the generation of scientists you inspired. Now quiet down and let Penny plug that potato into your pacemaker. At least she'll learn something.