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Lexi Wernick Molly D ENC1145 May 2013 The Big Bang Theory Does Gossip

The Big Bang Theory is a television series that tells the story of a group of friends going about their daily lives. They go to work and engage in social interactions with not only each other but with the world around them. The audience watches as Sheldon, a self absorbed nerd who lives with his roommate and best friend Leonard, tries to get a long with their neighbor and typical “girl next door” Penny. Sheldon possess extreme neurosis and intelligence causing his inability to touch anyone of the opposite sex. The show displays comic relief when seeing Sheldon interact with his neighbor. She is the opposite of Sheldon having social skills and common sense. Leonard and Sheldon’s best friends Rajesh and Howard whom they work with are also seen throughout the series. These men do not engage in regular activities of adults playing multiple video and computer games, and often only discussing topics such as science. In this essay, I will analyze the rhetorical aspects of what the writers were thinking, how the characters are acting, and how it appeals to the audience. The three terms examined along the way will be ethos



meaning creditability, pathos, which describes emotional aspects of the audience and characters, and logos which helps achieve the purpose. In this episode, Sheldon and his girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler experiment with how gossip floods through their group of friends. At the beginning of the episode, Amy is intrigued by what she heard of Bernadette (Penny’s friend) and Howard’s relationship. She wants to tell Sheldon but he claims to be disappointed that she is gossiping. Amy declares that participating in gossip helps society survive and not break down. Sheldon is then convinced and listens to the gossip. Ironically, Sheldon ends up telling Leonard the rumor. It spreads to each person in the group leading to another rumor forming. The audience learns Penny started the rumor and claims she only told Amy in confidence. When the rumor ends up not being true, Sheldon and Amy decide to make up rumors that are beyond anything that would happen. Thus, Amy tells Penny that her and Sheldon had “intercourse.” This displays the comedic part of the series because Sheldon and Amy have never kissed let alone touched each other. The rumor spreads vastly throughout the characters proving to the couple that their friends will believe anything. The title of the episode, “The Herb Garden Germination,” was definitely chosen wisely by the writers. When Amy spread rumors that, “Sheldon and [her] engaged in sexual intercourse and other news [she’s] thinking of starting an herb garden,” Penny only picks up on that fact that she had sex, disregarding the fact that she wants to start an herb garden (Cendrowski, Mark 2007). The authors did this to make a point to the audience that people only hear what they want to hear. Penny focuses on the more



exciting, more shocking news. The more enthralling something is, the more people care, thus society is more interested in information that is personal rather than information that is important. The authors’ purpose was to teach the audience to listen to everything people are saying and not just what you want to hear. Maybe if Penny would of paid attention to everything Amy said, she could have realized that this information was not true. Moreover, the authors chose this title to display irony. Germination means growth and it was used to explain the growth of gossip and how quickly something can spread whether the seeds of an herb garden or the secret someone tells their friend. Within this episode, the writers use ethos, logos and pathos to convey how they see gossip. Ethos is used throughout the entire episode. When someone hears gossip, they have the ability to choose whether or not to believe it. What makes someone think that what he or she hears is true depends on how well they know the person who told them, or whether the information seems logical. Trusting someone for a while allows you to believe what he or she is telling you is truthful. You know the character of the person and can believe what they say. In the Big Bang Theory, information about two different couples in the series is passed throughout their group of friends. First, gossip about whether or not Bernadette is going to break up with Howard spreads quickly throughout: Leonard: “Did you hear about Howard and Bernadette?” Penny: “Of course I heard bout it, how you hear bout it?” Leonard: “I heard about it from Sheldon, he got it from Amy.” Penny: “Dammit! I told Amy that in the strictest confidence.” (25 Cendrowski, Mark 2007)



Not one-person questions whether it is true or even asks Bernadette. They trust what their friends tell them displaying the ethos of the gossip. The writers of the series illustrate that society will believe anything they hear without knowing the truth because they trust the source. Furthermore, gossip can change as it is passed throughout yet most people do not try to find out what is true. The audience not only can see the irony that Penny portrays but can also relate. The format of this conversation is common amongst society thus allowing the audience to feel a connection with the characters. The connection between the audience and characters ties the episodes ethos and logos together. Also, Sheldon and Amy make up a rumor that they had sex. When Amy tells Penny, she instantly believes her. However, this information is not credible because everyone knows that the couple has never kissed before due to Sheldon’s fear of human contact. Through Amy tricking Penny by telling her two events in her life, she is using the rhetorical term of logos. Amy wanted to see what information is more important to Penny. It helps Amy achieve her goal of getting the rumor to begin spreading. When writing an episode, the first thing authors most likely think about is the logos of the episode and what they want to portray to their audience. The authors Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, and Steven Molaro play with three themes in this episode regarding gossip. First, society stereotypes that “nerds� do not engage in gossip. However, the audience watches as the entire cast gossips about each other. The authors use irony while Sheldon says he is above gossip but participates in it anyways. Just because someone likes science and other topics, does not mean that he or she cannot sink to the low level of gossip. Their purpose was to show the audience that everyone gossips.



Secondly, the authors tied in scientific knowledge into learning about gossip. Sheldon and Amy discuss gossip with scientific terms, which makes them believe they are not completely engaging in the act of gossip. They make the activity seem harmless and that it will not hurt anyone because through their eyes, they are gossiping for scientific data. Unfortunately, gossip usually hurts someone in the end, which the audience experiences when Rajesh sees Howard propose to Bernadette. Additionally, Sheldon and Amy’s experiment proves that society needs gossip to survive and that it creates a bond between social groups. They are testing the effects that it has on people and how it spreads through social groups. The experiment furthers the episodes purpose of the connection between gossip and the world. Lastly, the authors demonstrate that the gender norm of only women gossiping is false. While at work, the four boys are sitting around their lunch table pretending they haven’t heard any gossip. However, they all know what is going on and even learn more gossip. This scene recreates a typical high school environment of gossiping at lunch. They are acting like thirteen-year-old girls, being sneaky and keeping secrets from their friends, which is a gender stereotype. The authors are trying to go against the gender stereotyping of men and women. They display this to the audience by not separating the genders while they gossip. The boys do not only gossip to each other but with their girlfriends as well. Leonard and Penny gossip to each other while Penny and Rajesh do the same. Also, Leonard spread the rumor that Rajesh liked Bernadette providing the audience knowledge that men do indeed gossip. Especially coming from three male authors, crushing the



gender stereotype may have been a major factor when writing the episode. Therefore, the authors had many purposes that they wanted to come across in this episode which were portrayed successfully. The emotions the audience experience while watching a television show or movie is the reason why they keep watching it. If an event appeals to someone, they will keep watching to feel those same emotions again. This is known as pathos. The pathos that is depicted in this episode and throughout the series is comedic relief. Even though gossip can be a very serious topic, the comedy throughout the episode lightens the intensity of the subject. For example, Sheldon implies that his experience with gossip was unusual. It gives the audience a comedic outlook on the topic because gossip is something that is so common and easy to engage in. People are often unaware they are even participating in gossip. Also, the writers do a wonderful job depicting Sheldon’s character when writing an episode on this subject. They show that he finds gossip unusual until it is intertwined with science. Furthermore, by Amy and Sheldon starting rumors about them having sexual intercourse provides comic relief to the audience. This rumor is completely illogical because human contact is something Sheldon will never engage. Therefore, giving the audience the ability to laugh while watching the two start rumors. This illogical rumor provides evidence that the gossiper being Amy is not a credible source. The author moreover, allows Amy and Sheldon to make fun of the fact that they have not had sex by using puns and talking about sex in a naïve way. Throughout the



episode the audience fills with laughter while thinking about how gossip works in their own world. The gossipers in the episode furthermore use pathos. Amy and Sheldon knew that their group of friends would quickly tell everyone that they had sexual intercourse because of how shocking it was. They knew that in order for their “experiment” to work, they needed to say something that would appeal to their friend group. This statement demonstrates the fact that gossip is everywhere. Gossip is anything that interests someone that they would want to talk about again. In the television series, The Big Bang Theory, ethos, logos, and pathos contribute to the formation of the episode “The Herb Garden Germination.” The episode engulfs all three of these words, which is why the episode was so successful in portraying gossip. Gossip is a universal activity thus when discussing it in a popular television series, the authors need to be logical about how they are going to write it and what they want to describe. This episode tied in every aspect of gossip from stereotypes to false information. While being an enjoyable episode to watch through comedic relief, it can also be an episode that is eye opening to the audience about gossip. [WORD COUNT:1866]

Wernick Works Cited The Big Bang Theory. Dir. Cendrowski, Mark. Prod. Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, and Steven Molaro. Perf. Johnny Galecki, et al. Sitcom. Warner Bros., 2007.


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