The Big Bang Theory – The Proton Displacement


Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

“He’s a little broken and he needs me. Guess I need him too.”

Rejection is one of those things in life we all deal with. In real life circumstances it’s not terribly funny. It hurts. In the newest episode of The Big Bang Theory, “The Proton Displacement,” Sheldon is rejected by his childhood hero, Professor Proton (aka Arthur Jeffries). It seems that the good Professor wants Leonard’s help on a paper that he’s writing and bypasses Sheldon altogether. In retaliation, Sheldon attempts to replace Professor Proton with Bill Nye as his go to science hero, and is ultimately rejected again.

It brings up something that is both funny and slightly uncomfortable for the viewer. Sheldon has been told his entire life that he’s annoying. From the time he was a child and some of the more religious people in town started to think he was a witch, to college after the fifth grade, to his professional life. At every turn he has been rejected.

I think many of us know people like Sheldon, you know, “one of God’s special little people.” Many times, too, we stay away from them because we don’t recognize something that Leonard has. Sheldon is broken and he needs Leonard. But this is only half the equation. Leonard recognizes his own brokenness and that he, Leonard, needs Sheldon as well. Of course this is conveyed through comedy, which makes hard lessons easier to go down–a spoonful of sugar and all that. There is something significant in Leonard’s response to Professor Proton’s question about how Leonard can put up with Sheldon and why they’re friends. Because of Leonard, Sheldon Cooper is no longer an outcast. Raj and Howard liked Leonard and so put up with Sheldon until they too developed a love for him. Penny liked Leonard (before the actual liking) and hung out with the guys and developed a love for Sheldon.

Then along came Bernadette. Then came Amy who loves Sheldon deeply. The point is simply that they’re all broken. They all need each other. They all fit together so that none of them is alone. This cadre of misfits has morphed not only into an identifiable social group, but a real community. There is support. There is compassion. There is forgiveness. There is love.

As evidence to this new communal reality, and its significance, we witness how Howard hurts Raj. Raj doesn’t have a girlfriend. He doesn’t have someone in his life to share things with, and any time he tries to share something with his best friend, Howard, Howard usually makes fun of him by making comments about his lack of testosterone, his bunching “koothrapanties “and so forth. And so Raj goes to girl’s night just so he can connect with someone on an intimate level. He needs someone to share his burdens. We all do. So, it wasn’t really about the act of making jewellery. It’s the coming together of people and sharing in their lives.

It’s really akin to the time when Raj wanted to do a gaming marathon a couple seasons back. It wasn’t really about gaming as such, but rather that need to be in a shared experience with his friends. Here it is the same. When Howard comes in with his fancy tools and better ways of doing things, and takes over girl’s night Raj loses the safe place that he had constructed for himself.

Ultimately it had to happen this way, I think. Howard was never trying to hurt his friend, and didn’t realize that he was going too far in the things that he was saying. But Raj was able to express how Howard’s jokes were sometimes hurtful, and they were restored to friendship. This is crucial for the continued life of this small community. Everyone now recognizes that each one is broken. They’re all broken in different ways to be sure, and when they fail to see their own brokenness there’s a situation that will remind them of it, not so that they will feel defeated or depressed, but so that they can better show compassion on the other broken people in their lives.

Not the funniest episode, but one of the best of the last two seasons in terms of character development. It shows how deeply these characters love one another.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

    One Comment

  1. PeppermintaNovember 8th, 2013 at 11:13 am

    My favourite line was “Hey Sheldon, let’s mock the people buying homoepathic medicine.. you love that!”
    Good episode. Also loved ” Look who’s here to put the Jew in jewelry night.”

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