The Big Bang Theory "The Contractual Obligation Implementation" Review: Mean Girls and Cinderfellas

The Big Bang Theory S06E18: “The Contractual Obligation Implementation”

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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Too bad Priya wasn't still around for this episode. She'd have made a good princess Jasmine.
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What a fun episode. Bernadettes threats, all wanted to be Cinderella. I liked the end, when the guys reacted to the girls in their respective costumes :)
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Hilarious from beginning to end. Loved Bernie's temper tantrums when it came to dressing like Cinderella lol!!! The guys were having me rolling at the middle school!!! Plus, Raj had a great idea for that first date given his and Lucy's quirks. Well done all around!!!
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I don't think they were trying to "sell Disney" , ABC is owned by Disney, not CBS, but that doesn't mean a show set in California has to ignore Disneyland any more than it would ignore Hollywood with an actress as a character. Adults like Disneyland, no reason a couple of the characters in a show obsessed with cartoons and comic books wouldn't have an episode with Disney or Looney tunes in it.

I didn't like the porn/prawn autocomplete joke, it seemed forced. Seriously a web designer who can't text clearly is one thing, but I tried to mistype prawn and no way that my auto complete jumps to porn with the 5 letters in any order i tried. They telegraphed it for such a small payoff.

I like that Raj's story is moving away from all the gay jokes and stereotypical behaviorisms. If they wanted him to be gay, they could have made him gay, but he and Stuart were becoming a one-joke pairing.

And finally, now that Micucci is on the show, I want her better half from Garfunkle and Oates to return for a tiny cameo together. I love their videos.
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She's a prom, not a prawn, web designer. Take another look through that episode
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I think people are missing the point of why this episode seemed off kilter, if still somewhat funny, in that it was a giant commercial for Disney. Not sure why this episode isn't getting any criticism for that as much as the "New Girl" did for it's "Ford" episode, which was at least funnier.
The writers seem to shoehorn in a story about trying to promote science to girls as a way to justify convincing a growing adult population to flock to Disneyland(world) in order to live out escapism from the everyday work life.
I agree with some of the other criticism that it would have made more sense to incorporate the other scientists of the group (who are women) into the campaign. I'm sure the justification was that it was part of a university project to which the men only belong, but that shouldn't have stopped them from getting their respective partners to participate.
The dichotomy of the 2 (out of 3) women being accomplished in a science career and still succumbing to the old gender stereotypes was funny and handled well. But these are both extremely successful women. And are we supposed to believe that their biggest social goals in life are to emulate Penny?
I'd really like to see Amy and Bernadette bring Penny up rather than continuously succumbing to these fits of retro adolescence.
Leonard's speech and rapping were just cringe worthy. The only nice and amusing thing to see was that Sheldon, being the least willing to participate, was the sole member with the common sense to realize to include women scientists in the presentation. It's funny because it's rare when he's the mature and realistic one of the group. But then that made it seem like the production crew got half way through filming the episode and then thought, "Oh, right. Have women scientist talk to girls about science".
I think if they hadn't been trying to sell Disney then it would have generated a much better story line. Either that or they should have made the episode all about the women on a day trip as a contrast to the "Landing Party" episode with the guys facing their nerd ennui.
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They didn't really show anything besides Disney costumes and mention going there, if they had spent more screen time on it, then yea I get your point but it feels like an over reaction to a sitcom based comedy, however high they set their own bar early on...
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average , nothing really stood out, filler episode..

sheldon's scripts are getting very close to offensive/sexist/racist...

leonard well he did pretty well with what he had to work with..

penny wasn't scared of bernie more like 'chill the fuck out'

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I thought the "I'm going to be Cinderella"-conversation was hilarious, reminded me very much of when the boys all wanted to be The Flash for Halloween, it was structured very much in the same manner.
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Frankly, this episode came off as being filler. I just didn't find it interesting or funny. Maybe there were just too many humans and not enough science. I guess that is where they lost me.
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To not be filler, wouldn't it have to have character development and hence focus on humans rather than science? Could it be that the episodes you like are the filler episodes?
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I think all gender issues might be solved if everyone just embraced who they are. Let women be women and men be men. everyone should be who they want to be and do what they want to do. People still have to understand that being equal doesn't mean being identical, difference is a good thing and we should just enjoy what makes us women. And men should enjoy what makes them men without feeling the need to refer as manhood as some kind of superior quality. They love us and they should celebrate our qualities, not use them as an insult. It's plain creepy that in 2013 the worst insult for a girl is "whore" and for a guy is "faggot", i.e. in both cases, the worst insult is to call someone a woman!
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Best episode of season so far for me.
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I hope Lucy becomes a regular. And she fixes Raj. After six years, that quirk has got to go.
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Nice episode and for a second episode in a row Raj has some meaningful storyline.Agree about the one-liner of the night :)
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Amy Farrah Fowler looked AWESOME as Snow White! I'm rooting for Raj and Lucy!
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You don't gonna say anything about the porn moment? "Do you see porn? "No, never. What is ponr? xD" that was hilarious. That literally killed me :)
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are you writing this from beyond the grave?
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Literally?
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I loved this Big Bang episode! Best one I've seen for a while.
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Pulling for the Gooch!
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Penny definitely got beat down by Angry Bernadette. She shoulda asked to be Belle. Who was she even sposed to be??
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Penny actually seemed frightened. I don't think I've ever seen her frightened by anyone before. I just don't find Bernie's rage explosions humorous.
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Penny was Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty
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I really don't get how Raj hasn't gotten over his inability to talk to women yet. I mean, he has three female friends now and is shown as being pretty close with them - and is able to talk to them at times when alcohol doesn't appear to be present
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I think the easy answer is that despite having a clearly diagnosed personality disorder, Raj has never talked about going to a therapist, just a few drug trials. They didn't work and he found drinking helps so uses that to self medicate. He can talk to family, and slipped up with non-alcoholic beer on the train with Summer Glau, but like a lot of people he found a way to function at a level he could accept, and hasn't tried anything more. So the writers can still use it, instead of it being a dead plot point.
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Agreed. It's annoying. He doesn't even act awkward or intimidated by his female friends anymore, just mute. It's been making less and less sense as time goes on.
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When?

Either they explicitly show him drinking, or there is an empty beer car or something nearby, suggesting he's had something to drink.
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Then I must not have been paying close enough attention to his alcohol intake.
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Were you watching this episode on 'shrooms, MaryAnn? Hilarity? That stuff in the classroom was pure sitcom pain, thoughtlessly written "nerd" antics that didn't even make sense - why not include scientists Amy and Bernie, or at least talk to them in advance rather than a last-minute hail mary phone call? Why go in with no idea of what to say, and why did Leonard think that sad garbage was freestyle rap when it was just pathetic? And why would Sheldon, the socially awkward one, come up with the answer in the first place, and how is he supposed to be able to connect with young girls? Hated these scenes.

At least your shrooms wore off for Raj's scenes, they were the winner here, they were funny and charming and awkward without feeling stilted. Also, I was thinking the same thing about the miniskirts on Star Trek, even though I knew Roddenberry had to give that as a concession to NBC - the original pilot had women dressed in roughly the same uniform as men - it still deserved mention.

Bernadette raging is starting to bum me out because the writers simply go there at every opportunity now, and I'm sorry to hear you think it's welcome, I find it distasteful.

Bernadette looked amazing in her "please Disney don't sue us" Cinderella-like dress, Amy looked charming in her Snow White getup, but why did they have Penny looking so trashy and cheap and sloppy as Sleeping Beauty? Also, her holding the worst prop popcorn container was lazy for a show that's usually so geek-accurate (they even had actual screenshots of Soul Calibur), yet a Disneyland popcorn box was somehow too difficult to either get or fake? There are tons of nerds and geeks into Disney, they should have worked harder on that.

I doubt Lucy will get Raj over his fear of talking to women, but I can see him just carrying a flask for future occasions. You could be right on that though, that'd be nice. I don't think that level of deep-seated fear goes away so easily though.

No comment about Brian Posehn showing up for a brief bit that went nowhere? I was expecting a recognizable comedic actor like him to have more of a part, that was some weirdass casting for a throwaway.
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I had exactly the same thoughts about Brian. His was a totally superfluous and underutilized appearance. I wanted -- and expected -- to see more of him.
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I also remember in the orginal ST:TOS pilot The Cage Majel Barrett played the Enterprise's first officer.
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Majel (aka Mrs. Gene Roddenberry) loves strong female characters. My guess is she would have done great things as the original Number One. It's too bad the network didn't think the audiences would be receptive to that. She despised the meek nature of Nurse Chapel.
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I agree. As much as I loved Spock, I would have loved to see her as Number One and him as Science Officer.
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There's two kinds of Bernie rage. One is getting tiring, the other is still refreshing.

There's the hulking out, yelling at Howard in a voice similar to his mothers. Either CREEPILY similar or just somewhat. They're over-playing that.

And then there's dangerous Bernie... who out nowhere will threaten someone with bodily harm. Like the old line where she threatens with her weapons grade germs or reveals that SHE was the one that messed with Amy's car. Sometimes she raises a voice, but others she's quite passive. These are the fun ones.
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Bernie is psychotic,,,in a dangerous way. She even has Penny cowed,,,and Penny isn't usually cowed by anyone. She seems like someone who is only a step away from releasing weapons grade germs.
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You lost me at 'shrooms..
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What do you mean?
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Oh, the princess thing made me laugh. But ladies, when will you learn, BELLE is the best Disney princess?
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Agreed! You stole my comment ;)
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I was always more of an Ariel girl. Belle was a close second though!
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I'm sorry, but Ariel is the WORST. She falls in love with a guy she's never actually met, only seen from a distance and never talked to, so basically she only loves him for shallow reasons. To top it off this guy already has *another girlfriend*, making the mermaid a total homewrecker. Then she gives up not only her tail but also her voice to be with him, completly comprimising who she is. If ever there was a poster child for women who make bad decisions, it's Ariel.
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Oh absolutely. But she had the best hair. Or at least I thought so when I was five.
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Ariel is awesome too. But Cinderella/Aurora/Snow are the worst and most uninspiring of the Disney princesses... You want Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan... Nala! Princesses with BRAINS and personality...
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The whole library thing was stupid. They must've known it would look strange and unrealistic to have them type for a second and then have a voice-over of the actors saying complete sentences. But they did it, anyways. Also, you can't eat inside of a library. Let alone bring a picnic basket. None of that storyline made any sense. If they had cut it from the storyline, they could've had more of the girls at Disneyland.

Having three separate stories was a mistake. Especially when one of them was as retarded and not well-thought out at all like Raj's was. They should've just focused more on the other two stories and just had Raj with the rest of the guys. Then, do the first date story better in a different episode.
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To each their own.

I like Raj's story, if for no other reason than it giving him something to do and move his character forward a little. Face it, he hasn't had much to do lately save for the ambiguously homosexual comments and actions.

And some libraries allow eating, though might ask you to stop and clean up if you're making a mess.

And it was a little cute doing the text thing... not insanely so but a little.
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I really thought it was sweet and inspired. I couldn't think of another way for them to have a date without Raj drinking.
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We only deem Raj's comments as homosexual because our minds are in the toilet. His comments are actually quite innocent.
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Yeah, to each their own.

I've always thought Raj was an unnecessary character. You already have four dudes who are more or less similar in terms of the archetype they represent. Then, they kept adding more like Stuart and Kripke. Then, when they finally did add more women, they added Amy who's very similar to Sheldon. I just think they have too many characters who are alike and so they can't find meaningful stories for any of them. Like what happened with Leslie Winkle.

It's a shame because they had a lot of momentum in those first three seasons and now, they're just stalled out, trying to create conflicts. They need to add completely different people or change some of the dynamics more. Turning it into a show about relationships has been a terrible decision. It's just beyond repetitive now.

If it wasn't for Sheldon and the occasional funny line from Leonard, Penny, Howard and Bernadette, I'd have tuned out a long time ago. But every now and then, they can still make me laugh. It's just a shame they're no longer consistent.
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You can eat in a lot of libraries these days. Mostly a change over the last 10 years as libraries have struggled to stay relevant and bring in patrons as an increase in the use of e-content has decreased the need for print materials or a physical space.
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You can eat at libraries? Good to know. Looks like I won't be needing those fancy dinner reservations after all...
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Hilarious episode with the lone exception being Bernadette,,,as usual. Once again she comes off as a screeching, domineering witch. Can't stand the Bernadette character.
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I've never liked her.
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I like it when Bernie goes evil and/or tuff...

EXCEPT for when she just starts screaming at Howard in a voice like his mother's. They are REALLY over-playing that card. We get it... Howard ended up with a girl like his mother. Let the joke die. It takes away from the moments when normally sweet / passive Bernie reveals her dark and evil side.
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Pretty funny episode. But yeah, I wondered why the guys didn't turn to their scientist girlfriends sooner, but that would have ruined the Disney story line. Loved the Raj & Lucy story line. Funny, I just saw a repeat the day before with the other half of Garfunkel and Oats playing Sheldon's grad student assistant.
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I love this episode! so funny, one of the best
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Nice thoughtful review, and definitely a B+ episode in terms of funniness.

Not to quibble, but it didn't appear to me that Leonard or Howard were that miserable once they arrived home to find their sig. others all princessed up...though why, precisely, this was such a turn on eludes me!

Lastly, I thought the idea of a texting date was ingenious! Credit to the writers of the series for keeping Raj's selective mutism trait going for 5+ years, I always figured they were going to engineer some corny breakthrough that would permit him to talk to women sans alcohol, but so far no talk-ee.
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It's a fairly recent generalization that has a lot of truth in it(I myself and some other male geeks I know have the same affection) that male nerds and geeks have a Disney Princes fetish.(though not always sexualized) The writer for the website Geekologie is one of them often posting Disney princess crossover fan art including steampunk as well as superheros and cosplay. This can go back to at least the first American Pie Movie were Jim refers to Ariel as "hot" Just do a google search on the subject for fan art and cosplay I'm pretty sure there is fan art of Ariel dressed as princess Leia in her slave outfit.I believe this is probably what the writers were trying to highlight
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Ok fine I can see someone thinking Ariel or Jasmine is hot, they were fit and you saw some skin. and slave outfit Leia is like the most popular costly ever. But I'm just having a hard time seeing the allure of the 3 chosen. Sure they were pretty, but I don't see them as "get naked NOW" hawt
But to each their own.
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Yeh, the turn-on bit was a bit weird. I mean sure, Cos-Play is Cos-Play... but classic ball-room-gown-wearing Disney Princesses? There are lots more story / film costumes that would have made more sense with that.
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There is pretty recent generalization of nerds and geeks having Disney princess fetishes.
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I've never known a guy who was into princesses. In junior high I knew a dude who had a little mermaid fetish.
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Thanks!

Haha, valid point about the guys cheering up at the Disney princess sexytimes, though I'm not entirely sure why it was such a turn-on either.

I loved the texting date! I especially loved that Raj appeared to come up with it on his own. It was thoughtful and it made him look like he was really trying to put forth a good effort with Lucy.
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Google Disney princess fetishes it's a real thing.
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A university would never create a committee with that charge that was that small or that had no female members. Suspension of disbelief destroyed due to unrealistic committee makeup. Episode broken.
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and Congress would never set up a committee on women's rights without having women on the panel.... oh wait.
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Sort of my point. After that famous cockup, this would never happen. docspector's initial idea that they were one of several committees is the only plausible explanation (the rest of what he said is bunk because big faculty, big diversity initiative, state school, etc).
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Well I'm sure they'd ask Leslie Winkle (the only apparent female Physicist in the department) but it's a pretty sure bet she'd just call them all "dumbasses" and walk away.
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It's a TV show. They aren't supposed to be 100% accurate. Why would anybody want to watch them if they were? And at a smaller university, it can and does happen. It's not the norm, but sometimes you just can't get around it.
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What I think I liked the most about the whole issue (and isn't weird how TBBT is doing all these weird takes on women issues, the sexual harassment episode, which I still think was weird, the comic book episode, which I thought the girls carried) was that it was Sheldon making all the actual intelligent points (that middle school should be where they start directing girls toward the sciences, that, oh, wait, we actually know some intelligent women scientists). I did think we would get a joke from Sheldon that maybe Leonard wasn't suited for teaching like he had thought.

I love the girls (and yes, I love ragey Bernadette, what I oddly weirdly like about it is that it sort of points out the dynamic of their group, like even though Penny and Bernadette were friends first and Penny brought Bernadette into the group, Penny and Amy are actually getting to be better friends, like Penny and Amy were all for them all being Cinderella). I must say, I don't get the Cinderella thing, I felt nothing for Disney princesses until Belle. I sometimes am totally wrong or don't know references in OUAT though, but I can tell you a bunch about the Muppets and Sesame Street characters. I do occasionally point out to my mother that her hatred of cartoons stunted me. Anyway...

I did actually expect Raj to manage to say something at the end of the date and somehow it freaked out both of them.
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I missed a couple of minutes. Which princess was Penny supposed to be? I don't recall a pink dressed princess from the old days of Disney cartoons but I'm sure I'm forgetting something obvious.
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Poor Aurora. She's always the forgotten one. I didn't even know Sleeping Beauty had a name until I had a daughter.
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Aurora? From Sleeping Beauty?
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I'm pretty sure she was Aurora from Sleeping Beauty.
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Cool thanks.
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Thanks. That's what I figured, but I wasn't sure.
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T'was her.
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Yeah, but as a sloppy stripper, if the costume department's work here is trying to tell us something.
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