Posts from January, 2009

Big Lie Theory

Jan 31

I think it goes without saying that I am a big fan of Chuck and Big Bang Theory. In the last 6 months, several people have come up to me and said I saw this show last night and it so reminded me of you, and then proceeded to try to explain Sheldon.

Juxtapose: I’ve now seen a couple of episodes of Lie To Me. I can’t figure out if Lie To Me is the exact same as or the exact opposite of the other two.

In Big Bang Theory and Chuck, we’ve got Sheldon and Morgan, and to a lesser extent Chuck and Leonard, whose characters are tweaked to be extremely socially inept. In this way, the writers of the shows are saying look, these guys are really strange and you can’t quite understand them, but they’re not bad guys. That is, they both set geek culture apart from society by magnifying and warping it so much, but at the same time they make that same geek culture more approachable by normal people by making the geeks that they do know a pale shadow compared to the geeks they see on television.

So, in a sense, both shows are at the same time beneficial and harmful to geek culture. I’d argue that they are far more beneficial, but YMMV.

Lie To Me is different. It’s very explicitly not about geek culture. It’s presented as a crime drama, in the vein of CSI, where while the characters may be quirky, none of them are really geeks. The one exception to this being the Loker character who chooses to be a geek in how he acts, always telling the truth.

But here’s the catch:

In Lie To Me, you the viewer are the socially inept geek.

Yeah, that’s right. While the debate rages about the correlation between geeks and Asperger syndrome, the writers of Lie To Me have gone ahead and given the entire audience Asperger syndrome—struggling to understand social cues and facial expressions. The main characters are now the ones that are normal, it’s you the viewer that can’t keep up.

So I’m back to not knowing if that makes the show the same or different. On the one hand, making the general populace aware of the extraordinary effort that it takes some people to decode social cues and facial expressions could be a good thing. On the other hand, since they are going about it in such an understated and non-explicit way, does it really help?

The writers of Lie To Me have a rare opportunity to explicitly talk about Asperger syndrome and show exactly what it means … but will they?