The Big Bang Theory "The Contractual Obligation Implementation" Review: Mean Girls and Cinderfellas
Who knew that a roomful of teenage girls could bring such hilarity to The Big Bang Theory? The girls themselves didn’t even have to actually DO anything, such is the terrifying truth about their cruel nature. I wasn’t even a COOL middle-schooler and I was STILL an asshole and once Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard entered the locker-lined arena of Howard’s old middle school, their awareness of just how awful middle school was and is stole their lunch money and gave their contractually obligated women-in-science program a swirlie.
Meanwhile, Bernadette, Amy, and Penny played hooky to go to Disneyland and Raj’s library date with Lucy actually wasn’t a disaster. In fact, Raj wins this episode of TBBT, if only because he was the only one who wasn’t completely miserable by the end of the episode. He came up with an unorthodox but ultimately successful date-night idea to accommodate both his inability to talk to women without being drunk and Lucy’s crippling social anxiety, and it was great and everyone was happy and he ALMOST got a kiss out of it. YAY RAJ!
The contractual obligation in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” forced Leonard, Howard, and Sheldon to create a program that would help draw women into science careers, but The Big Bang Theory took the opportunity to point out (and poke fun at) female inequalities all across geekdom—from grotesquely proportioned video game warriors in barely there armor to the fact that, for as advanced and civilized as the society in the original Star Trek series was meant to be, the show still featured a black lady (in a mini skirt) answering the space telephone. Even Sheldon—who was initially apprehensive to the point of being antagonistic in his reluctance to devote time to a female-oriented program—conceded to the often-overlooked practice of women using their initials rather than their full names to take credit for work in order to avoid being dismissed before a superior even bothered to look at the content.
And so The Big Bang Theory tackled a fairly serious issue in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation,” and while its commentary was far from being the definitive statement on the matter, it WAS a very good, and more importantly for TBBT, very FUNNY. It’s honestly not hard to make me laugh, but sometimes it’s hard for The Big Bang Theory to make me laugh because so much of its humor relies on overcooked stereotypes (apologies). Yet the one-liners in “The Contractual Obligation Implementation” just kept coming—and they were excellent.
Plus we got ragey Bernadette marking her Cinderella territory with threats of open violence and ragey Bernadette on The Big Bang Theory is like Mark Pellegrino in everything-except-that-one-episode-of-Being-Human-where-his-presence-served-absolutely-no-point-whatsoever. It just makes everything better. The fact that the three women fought over who got to be Cinderella on their Disney princess makeover adventure was an entirely appropriate parallel to the guys’ story. Cinderella is often touted as the ideal princess in that she did her time, worked hard, suffered the indignities of serving her stepmother and stepsisters, and eventually, magically, lived happily ever after with Prince Charming—if we’re sticking to the Disney version. There's even a book about the “Cinderella complex” that talks all about women who fear independence and whose only apparent goal in life is to be taken care of.
But for all the recent negativity surrounding what she can sometimes symbolize, Cinderella is maintained as the ideal. True story: When I went shopping for a wedding dress a few months ago, the woman at the shop asked what kind of dress I was interested in and I actually said “like a Cinderella dress,” and then I immediately wanted to kick my own ass. CINDY GETS INTO YOUR HEAD, MAN.
So. Highly-educated, employed-in-the-sciences women fighting over who gets to be Cinderella at Disneyland? Totally appropriate, and a situation that kind of made Sheldon’s point that, like so many other things that end up being assigned different notions of gender appropriateness and desirability, perhaps with some encouragement, girls of today will find themselves fighting to play with toxic chemicals with the same fervor they might invest in fighting over who gets to wear the Cinderella costume for a day.
What did you think of this episode?
The Stray Observation Addendum
– One-liner of the night: “How do I get 12-year-old girls excited?” —Something Sheldon should probably never ask the Google machine.
– “It’s a joke. Based on real events.” As the best jokes are.
– “Hello, female children.” I like that Sheldon addressed the middle school girls like aliens because let's face it, middle school girls ARE aliens.
– Do you think Lucy will lead to Raj overcoming his inability to talk to women while sober, once and for all? I hope so, because 1) I like Lucy, and 2) I’m sick of Raj’s woman issues.
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