Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dehumanizing characters: The Big Bang Theory.

Here's one of the weirdest things I've ever seen.

The Big Bang Theory's scripts for some reason use last names for two of their characters: Howard Wolowitz and Rajesh Koothrappali.

I have no idea why they do that.

Not only are Koothrappali and Wolowitz rather hard to write and pronounce, but it also dehumanizes Howard and Raj. To me it's almost like describing them as character X and character Y.

I think that's simply wrong.

For example, could you imagine if scripts for Friends had Chandler Bing as 'Bing' or Rachel Green as 'Green'?

I don't think so. Thankfully that didn't happen. We had Chandler and Rachel (and Joey and Ross and Phoebe).

I'm not saying that there can't be any exceptions. House for example uses House for Dr. Gregory House. But that's okay because House is an abbreviation and well, House has an attitude.

But when it comes to The Big Bang Theory, I have no idea what Lorre and Prady were thinking.

No wonder the show lacks character development. You can't develope your characters unless you treat them as real human beings.

Shame on you guys with your last names.


  1. Totally with you about Big Theory's lack of character development - I stopped watching it at Season 2, because these guys were basically talking the same shit ALL of the time. That is why I love "The Good Wife". Each character has so many complex layers of black and white and grey.

  2. I think.. that those guys just call them wolowitz and koothrapali because they got used to calling them by their last names because of some things we don't get to see (behind the scenes).

  3. How is using the last name dehumanizing? It may be less personal, but most people are referred to by their last names on a daily basis at work, at school etc.. Also, it is not unusual to call people you personally know by their last names, for example when two of your friends have the same first name.

    There could be many reasons why the writers go with Rajesh's and Howard's last names. Maybe they used the part of the name they came up with first. Maybe they thought that Wolowitz and Koothrappali were funnier names, while Hofstadter and Cooper are rather average names.
    Or maybe they're inconsistent and it depends on the writer. The writer in the piece you showed us used both Howard and Wolowitz, for example. Maybe it even reflects the character's history with each other: Sheldon and Leonard met when Leonard applied as Sheldons roommate; a situation in which first name basis is common. Leonard met the others in the university, as i recall, where, at least during a seminar or conference, last name basis would be more common. There's a lot of good reasons that have nothing to do with dehumanization!

  4. I'm answering to your post by saying that 'real life' is more or less a social game that we all have to play. Using last names sometimes makes that game easier for us to play - including when we talk to our friends.

    But real life and writing are two different things. When you write, you become those characters that you write about. Those characters aren't your friends or your colleagues. Those characters are you - and I wouldn't think that you'd like to talk about yourself using your last name.