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

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?


Comments (47)
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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!!
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that was like the funniest episode this season. And girls tasting comics was simply awesome. Standing applause for this ep :D
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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. :)
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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!
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yeah agree.. but tbbt doesn't use laugh track. it's live audience.
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This is my favorite show and this episode is the BEST one yet. I laughed so hard my sides still hurt.
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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!
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I was screaming "Eisenhower" on the inside.
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oh I forgot one thing....it 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.
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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 best....beats 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 THAT...my 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 Generation....so 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
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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.
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Like Mjölnir? ;)
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yep and in mine comment it didn't show...it says Mjlnir(first comment)
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It's easier with a swedish keyboard :)
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The girls definitely had the better storyline this week.
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i thought this was a great episode, funny all the way through and filled with heart. yeah, it was poignant the way the boys felt defeated but when they got back and heard the girls debating comic book minutiae, it made me feel that they knew they were really home, and with people who loved and understood them. they got their spirits back up and went straight into role play. awesome episode.
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I loved that at the end the guys that stole the car were enjoying Sheldon's GPS trivia. In fact I loved the whole episode. It's rare that I literally laugh out loud, but I burst out laughing all though this episode.
It was really sad when Sheldon said he wanted to go home, but I thought Raj's Enterprise was hilarious. I also thought it redeemed the guys story line a little that they pulled themselves back. I understand your complaint about a reset at the end of every episode, but I would hate to see the guys lose their love of LARPing or costumes or comic conventions.
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I was screaming FDR but that was because I was wrong.
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Man, I highly enjoyed the girls storyline. Took me back to the days when me and my best friend argued over Mechwarrior Details :D

I'd have loved to see a few more minutes at the end, the girl's reaction to the guys costumes when they stormed in, model phasers flashing :)
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In Los Angeles County, there's no comic store that would have customers gawk at female patrons, EVER. They'd peer behind racks and give sideways glances maybe, but not the silly garbage they portrayed on this show, that was embarrassing... that said, it was cartoony sitcom silliness so it didn't frustrate me as much as it should, I suppose. This show takes a lot of cheap shots at nerds, geeks, spazzes and weirdos with stereotypes, it's par for the course.

Your review is awesome, but I'm sorry, Red Hulk is indefensible, he sucks from soup to nuts.

I was glad to see ST:TNG get some love finally, these guys are at the age where it would have impacted them far more than TOS. Sheldon as Data was brilliant, if they recast TNG that's the guy to go with, holy crap he looked great (except he didn't have yellow contact lenses, I cry foul!). The episode was cute, I'm surprised they spent so much money painting Vasquez Rocks as a backdrop instead of just going there, they made the right choice but I suspect this might actually have been more expensive than a road trip. Sheldon facing reality for once also felt apt, it was a big bummer but their attitudes eventually redeemed it.

Still, my favorite Sheldon moment here was when he shut up and accepted orders merely because Leonard was wearing the captain rank pips.

I thought Leonard's Picard look was great, and Raj's Worf was way off due to wrong hair work head and facial, at first I didn't even think it was supposed to be Worf.
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I've seen it happen once or twice. I wasn't leering, but a fairly hot lower-20's came in and the other guys were leering quite a bit. Unlike the characters of TBBT she was actually a fan, knew what was going on with the current events and everything.

To give guys the benefit of the doubt... I think it was less "OMG A GIRL" but "Wow, an actually HOT girl is in here AND knows what she's talking about". It probably sent their day-dream engines into overdrive.


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I think my favorite part of the episode was that Raj wasn't deterred by what happened to them. I liked that the writers kept at least one them alright with who they are and what had happened to them. I suppose it could have been any of them, but the fact that it was Raj somehow made it that much better for me. Seeing Sheldon and Howard so crestfallen because of what had happened to them hurt because its sad to see that even after so many years of seemingly being happy in their skin and with who they are, they were able to be so easily broken down by bullies. Having at least one of them not lose their faith in who they are was the only saving grace of that entire storyline. I have never been able to understand why people care so much if other people mock them because of what they like. Seeing Raj still in good spirits and wanting to continue on in their adventure, and his joke about renting the car from Enterprise was funny damn it and I sucks that none of his "friends" laughed at it.

The ladies storyline was the highlight of the episode, and I can't believe I just typed it. I like that they so easily got swept up in the debate about Thor and that they finally made an attempt at adapting to their men, when so often we see the men attempting to adapt to them. I especially liked when it the debate spilled over to Leonard and Sheldon's apartment (though what may have made it better was my sister cringing in horror at them eating chinese food while reading them). It was nice to see Big Bang Theory create a self- contained story instead of giving us a great set up episode that ultimately leads nowhere. I fully believe that comic books will function like Red Kryptonite for Superman and when the woman are no longer exposed to them they will regain their senses

Especially fun was the tag at the end with the car theives. I fully expected that they were going to be annoyed by the Sheldon GPS, but the fact that they actually found joy in it was a welcome surprise. The last question about which four states are not services by the interstate system kept the family racking their brains until we had figured them all out.

Spoilers!!!!Juneau, AKPierre, SDDover, DEandJefferson City, MOEnd Spoilers
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I was getting tired of the idea that women can't enjoy nerd culture, so I'm glad that episode fixed it up (I'm still hoping that Raj will get an awesome nerdy girlfriend)! And, I have to say, Sheldon was surprisingly hot as Data.
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If Raj's girlfriend had a penis, would he be able to talk to her?
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While no one will think this is even note worthy, when the guys go into the diner, there is a jukebox on the wall. I have that same jukebox in my garage!

I thought Sheldon's Data was spot on!

And the PADD app on my iPad mini even sent out an alert reminding me to watch the show.
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Bernadette saying "You don't know his life!" was my favorite part of the episode, she delivered the line perfectly in fact I hit the 10 sec rewind button on my remote about 5 times in a row on that part
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It was so perfect! I love Bernadette's rage.
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This might be the first time when the girls had their own story and the guys had their own story where I thoroughly enjoyed the girls storyline much more than the guys. Don't get me wrong the guys had some good moments (the photo shoot was hilarious), but from beginning to end the girls arguing comic books was golden.

This episode was probably not as good as the 7 or 8 before it, but it was still quite enjoyable
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Hilarious deserves ever viewer watching and is the best comedy on Tv right now and yes that means it beats HIMYM which i love but damn this show is better.
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I like big bang but it is in no way the best comedy on TV. Its more of a switch your brain off kind of comedy. For me personally it ranks way behind the likes of Community, Archer and Parks and Rec.
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all this depends on person really...for me TBBT is the best of what is on TV now. I don't watch Louie,HIMYM and other shows. I gave some of them a chance,but just didn't work for me. They all seem played out to me and boring. With TBBT I laugh in every episode,I like every character. Stories they come up with are smart and funny,but can also deliver emotional stuff if needed. I get science jokes,comic jokes,nerd jokes,girl jokes,etc. And considering this is it's 6 season and still going strong, is saying something....B E S T !!! :D
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Agree to the max...
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Best comedy on TV? What? Are you insane?
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Nineteeen point seven eight million viewers in America can't be wrong!

Possibly YOU are?
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19.7M viewers means most popular.
"Most popular" does not equal "Best." Never has.
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Do you see the word "best" anywhere in my earlier response?

I perhaps inferred it! I did NOT say it!
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Yes they can, and they are...
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Wow dude, talking about God complex... of course TBBT is not the best, but that reply of yours is so arrogant that it makes me sick.
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Yes best comedy currently on TV
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Amy saying she can't take Penny seriously was my favourite line.

All the stranded in the desert scenes were brilliant. It was a different experience watching Sheldon lose all hope like that.
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I really liked the girls' storyline because about ten to thirteen years ago, I was actually about what Penny's age is now and because I was bored one evening I flipped on Buffy to see what someone was talking about..next thing I knew, my roommate and I were making sure we were there for Buffy, for Smallville and I think Star Trek Deep Space Nine (I did have previous experience with Star Trek TNG because my dad liked it and he died so I kept watching) and reading what turned into that godawful Anita Blake series, I discovered Sookie Stackhouse and dear lord I am a fantasy/horror geek now. If I had friends who were into comic books, I probably would have a different bent. But I also liked that they kind of wove the girls as a hit and run type way so you were laughing (that you didn't notice that the boys' storyline was actually like, sad, sort of the boys having that experience that Leonard had briefly when they bought the time machine and Penny yelled at him but this was a little different, they kind of were having a grown up moment, well, except for Raj)
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The boys' story was so sad! The girls' grew on me as it went along. I've read comics since I was a kid, but I specifically remember an incident where my mother was really embarrassed about it and actually said, "I wish you would like girl things" as we're standing in line at the bookstore with a stack of Batman comics, so certainly, I think there's a bit of a challenge for women who want to get into "geeky stuff." The great part is that once you get into one thing, it tends to lead you to other awesome things though! One of my best friends had a similar experience with Sookie Stackhouse just opening up a whole new genre to her that she'd never really considered looking at before. It was magical. :)
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My mom actually introduced me to both comic books and Star Trek, so she gets the credit/blame. (She also borrows my comic books whenever she comes to visit.) I have been in shops where I felt super comfortable and one I've never gone back to because it was the guy behind the counter who was the creepy staring weirdo. He did not get my money and never will. Because of that, the girls at the comic book shop scene made me laugh. When they started debating, I started cracking up too.

Like you mentioned in your review, I dislike the DC reboot as well. Maybe I'm just getting too old to tolerate such blatantly commercialized plot shifts. (I think the X-Men getting killed off/brought back to life so many times wore out my willingness to suspend my disbelief while they have their hand in my pocket.) I'm still reading the series I had before the shift a year ago, but am still mildly annoyed. I keep hoping it will get better.
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/me stares at you two.
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Ha! You're creeping me out man!
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Honestly, my dad probably influenced my taste in a lot of things, he was really into science fiction (like I spent an hour in a bookstore one time staring at the front of a Robert Jordan book before I realized I remember it from my father's nightstand) and my mother didn't get too girl oriented about things until I was actually in middle school, but fantasy/horror more caught my interest.

I feel for the boys' in this story line a lot more than I have in a long while, and I will be very interested if it will continue into the season.

And randomly, I kind of hope that Raj buys the girls' the DVDs of Supernatural and that will hit all their interest levels (I figure since in the past the show had no issue talking about shows on other networks, might as well explore the other side that is a little more geared toward a female audience). I also suspect that Raj is the only one of the guys to have watched the show.
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