The Big Bang Theory "The Bakersfield Expedition" Review: Comic Book Women

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 11, 2013

The Big Bang Theory S06E13: "The Bakersfield Expedition"

So the women-in-the-comic-shop storyline didn’t go as poorly as I assumed it would. Cool. Don’t get me wrong, it started out pretty bad. For a show that loves to present itself as “for the nerd, by the nerd,” The Big Bang Theory tends to fall back on stereotypes often enough that I can’t help but wonder if the writers have ever actually been to a comic book shop. The assumption that comics are for boys and not girls isn’t new, both inside and outside of geekdom, but the situation is more nuanced than the lazy reinforcement of the gender divide that “The Bakersfield Expedition” presented. It’s hard to be a female geek, but they exist, and OMG they even go to comic book stores. No, really, I’ve seen it. I’ve DONE it. Carrying around ladyparts doesn’t make anyone incapable of enjoying or engaging in nerd culture. Conversely, if a chick doesn’t like Superman comics, it’s not because she’s a female, it’s because she doesn’t like Superman comics.

I don’t know that I would go so far as to assume that Penny, Bernadette, and Amy arguing over the mechanics of Mjolnir is a sort of turning point, which is unfortunate because it was delightful, not to mention that writing the women as retaining their passionate foray into the Marvel universe could open up so many new storytelling avenues. But let’s be honest—come next week, they will most likely be right back to feeling like pedos whenever their respective partners come to bed wearing Batman pajamas. It was nice while it lasted, though, and I’d be lying if I said my sofa co-pilot and I didn’t get sucked right into the Mjolnir debate ourselves. Also, for all the cringeworthy stuff in the women’s storyline, there was quite a bit of awesome. Such as:

1. Stu! Look, I’m not saying that women don’t ever get leered at by dudes who may or may not still live in their parents’ basement, I’m just saying that it’s not like the entire world stops turning because OMG BOOBS every single time one of them dares to enter the shop and Stu illustrated that brilliantly. “They’re just girls. Nothing you haven’t seen in movies or drawings.” Thanks for the reality check, Stu. Not to mention, he was just helpful in general. Fables was a good call!

2. Penny! Stu recommended the Fables series to the women because it’s well written and has a lot of awesome female characters. However, with Penny leading the charge, they decided on Thor because tall, blonde, Asgardian god types are hot. There’s a lot of debate in comics over the portrayal of women, whether it’s too sexualized and unrealistic, and while the argument that the medium does the same thing to men is out there, it tends to not come up as often. Penny’s objectification of Thor was a smart way to draw attention to that.

3. Mjolnir! Red Hulk! One of the things that bothered Bernadette about the men’s comic book obsessions was, “They spend hours arguing over things that don’t even exist!” She found out very quickly how easy it is to get into those debates about fantastical (but sadly non-existent) things and it was awesome. Her passionate defense of Red Hulk, “You don’t know his life!” made me proud.

While the women got in touch with their geeky side and enjoyed it, the men headed to Bakersfield for a convention with their nerd flag flying high, only to end up slushied and demoralized when their car was stolen, stranding them in the desert in full Star Trek: The Next Generation regalia. The tone of the episode shifted so sharply between the positive experience of the women and the negative experience of the men that I was concerned about whiplash. First the car was stolen, then they couldn’t hitch a ride to civilization, then once they reached a diner, everyone stared and made fun of them and it was actually a big downer, you guys. I mean, you know it’s bad when even Sheldon is ready to pack it up and go home. But at least they were consoled with the sound of their respective ladies bickering over comic book minutiae? Actually, that makes their entire botched trip to Bakersfield more depressing if you take into consideration that everyone on The Big Bang Theory typically reverts to their default state once the end-credits roll. Think of it like the new (awful) DC continuity: “We reboot because we can. Also, thinking is hard.”

However, The Big Bang Theory finally managed to make me feel bad for Sheldon and that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. The women discovering comics storyline also wasn’t the foaming-at-the-mouth affront to television and society that the episode promo (and the internet) led us to believe it would be. I count that as a win.

The Stray Observation Addendum

– One-liner of the night: “Did we at least rent a car from Enterprise?” —Raj, followed by “Screw you guys that was funny,” because it was.

– Wow, Sheldon’s Data was spot on. Raj and Howard looked pretty great too. Unfortunately, Leonard’s bald cap just weirded me out the whole time.

– Sheldon’s GPS hack was great, especially the trivia. Was anyone else screaming “Eisenhower! Eisenhower!” at the TV following his question about who signed the interstate act?

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  • JustinJohnson9 Jan 12, 2013

    Honestly, that was hands-down the funniest episode of Big Bang Theory ever and one of the funniest half-hours of television I can remember. I thoroughly enjoyed both storylines. The girls arguing over the comics, the guys gawking at them the way they did when the ladies came in (hell yeah, I loved it!!), just everything that happened. I also loved the guys in their trekkie uniforms (props to Sheldon for pulling off Data marvelously), the picture poses, even the "Beam me up, Scotty" joke from the waitress. I was ROTFL the whole episode. Then of course that freaking awesome ending with the guys walking into a comic book argument!!! Brilliant, just brilliant!!

  • eaudra1 Jan 12, 2013

    that was like the funniest episode this season. And girls tasting comics was simply awesome. Standing applause for this ep :D

  • peachykeen817 Jan 12, 2013

    I didn't know the Eisenhower one, but I did know about the north/south and east/west interstate numbers. I always feel smarter when I know some of the "nerdy" stuff on this show. :)

  • aimeemccrae Jan 12, 2013

    The only part of the episode that I didn't like was the laugh track that played when Sheldon got hit by the slushy. It wasn't funny, it was mean! The guys looked awesome! The girls were hilarious!

  • JennySanduJax Jan 12, 2013

    yeah agree.. but tbbt doesn't use laugh track. it's live audience.

  • alikat961 Jan 12, 2013

    This is my favorite show and this episode is the BEST one yet. I laughed so hard my sides still hurt.

  • Watashii Jan 11, 2013

    I don't think TBBT should be analyzed like that. TBBT has always pointed out the obvious stereotypes especially when it comes to 'geekdom'. Its not a clever show as it is made out to be. Sometimes they just make geeky references for the sake of making geeky references. Of course there are some people who will pick subtle references but the show has always been about making fun of geeks and nerds. Compared to shows like Chuck or The Guild which are about geeks and nerds.

    Regardless though, I thought Raj was the funniest in this episode. Lol cheekbones!

  • safibwana Jan 11, 2013

    I was screaming "Eisenhower" on the inside.

  • mcepin3 Jan 11, 2013

    oh I forgot one did kinda threw me off,when girls said,they don't read comics. I mean,when they said,they have never read a comic before. Sure Penny I would get,but Bernadette and Amy? I thought that those 2 picked up comic long time ago...wheter they liked it or not,is not really important,just the fact,when they said,they have never read comic before.

  • mcepin3 Jan 11, 2013

    gonna sound like broken record, but this episode was awsome and topped the rest of season's 6 episodes...again for me. Man,o man, season 6 keeps on swinging and swinging,HARD! Every episode is better then last one and there is no stopping TBBT,when they do,with what they do. They do it the any other comedy show on tv. Episode was awsome from the second it started to the second,when credits rolled.

    Episode had both elements(good and bad, or might be best to say funny and sad,so I don't confuse people) and I was heartbroken,when guys "were defeated" in spirit sense. I saw it coming with Leonard and Howard,but when I saw Sheldon "defeated" like heart broke. Not many people and shows,can pull that kinda emotional stuff. With car being stolen, I was handling it,but when someone threw that soda or whatever it was and those people at dinner laughed at them like they did, I was seeing red! Of course TBBT lightened the mood(as they always do,since it is a comedy show),when Sheldon said "we are Next joke's on you" and I was happy and laughing,when he said it,because it meant,he still has fighting spirit in him and doesn't care what others think.

    Now to more happy thoughts:
    Car thieves had nice twist(and just maybe original in some way),that they were enjoying Sheldon's quiz and info's. Girls nailed their performance's and those scenes were/are pure gold. And for sake of argument...only Thor can pick up his Mjölnir. And for Penny's question...she only "picked up" guy,not girl(was nice twist,when she asked her question relating it to hammer). Brunch scenes, comic book store scenes, apartment scenes-->all awsome.

    Guys also had awsome scenes and I love,when I see genuine smiles from cast. From Leonard giving Penny paper to Raj's photoshoot....I am just gonna describe whole episode,if I go on. Think it is safe to say,that there is no need to do that:D

    Their costumes were spot on and when they started dancing,while Raj provided some beats....burned into my brains this episode:D....pure ecstasy...ahh,good times:P

  • mcepin3 Jan 11, 2013

    so I copied that Mjolnir with those 2 dots above o and it didn't show in my comment. Sigh...some people already said it,but will say it as well. Would be great,if we get editor for comments.

  • sandorxian Jan 12, 2013

    Like Mjölnir? ;)

  • mcepin3 Jan 12, 2013

    yep and in mine comment it didn't says Mjlnir(first comment)

  • sandorxian Jan 12, 2013

    It's easier with a swedish keyboard :)

  • shocker713 Jan 11, 2013

    The girls definitely had the better storyline this week.

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