ridicuLIST: Deaf People Are Gold Diggers (Big Bang Theory)

Posted by: Staff Writer on June 25, 2014

What’s the flip side of the stereotype that all deaf people are poor and abuse government assistance? That while deaf people can’t hear the Ka-ching of a cash register, they can see status symbols … and that they date or marry out of motivation to attain wealth or score a “good provider”.

This is the notion loosely explored in fifth season of the popular TV show Big Bang Theory."The Wiggly Finger Catalyst" episode began with eternal bachelor Raj grousing once again about his love life (or lack thereof). Perpetually tongue-tied around women (except when he’s drunk), Raj seems to have found his match made in heaven when Penny introduces him to a beautiful Deaf girl named Emily.

Because Emily (portrayed by Switched at Birth’s Katie Leclerc) uses sign language instead of speaking, Raj for the first time ever doesn't need to down a Grasshopper cocktail to communicate with her. What he does need is for Howard Wolowitz to join their first date as an ad hoc interpreter. 

(Note: As an aerospace scientist, Wolowitz has zero credentials as a sign language interpreter)

The posse soon discovers that Raj is has been buying tons of gifts (like a ruby necklace) for Emily, as well as paying off her credit cards. They – and Raj’s wealthy parents – stage an intervention. Emily shows her true gold-digging colors when Raj informs her he must take back the gifts because he has chosen love over money. Once again, Raj has his heart broken.

When the top-rated TV comedy perpetuates a stereotype, it can be hard to erase from public memory. Big Bang Theory won a slew of Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG awards for the past decade. While the entertainment industry tends to portray deaf people as vulnerable/abused (think: “The Signs in the Silence” episode on Bones),”or abused-becomes-abuser (think: Troy Kotsur in Criminal Minds), the “Wiggly Finger Catalyst" perhaps unintentionally flouts yet another stereotype that hits a bit close to home.

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