Netflix has recently found itself in hot water due to a legal complaint regarding a controversial joke featured in the popular TV show “The Big Bang Theory.” The episode in question is Season 2, Episode 1, titled “The Bad Fish Paradigm,” where the character Raj, portrayed by Kunal Nayyar, makes a derogatory comment about two prominent Bollywood actors. Specifically, he refers to Aishwarya Rai as a “goddess” and labels Madhuri Dixit as a “leprous prostitute” by comparison. This offensive remark has prompted social activist and author Mithun Vijay Kumar to take legal action by sending a notice to Netflix, demanding the immediate removal of the episode from its platform.
While “The Big Bang Theory” is known for its edgy humor, Kumar strongly believes that jokes of this nature should not be tolerated, given their broader societal impact, particularly concerning women. In the legal notice, Kumar not only condemns Raj’s joke for “insulting the modesty” of Madhuri Dixit but also characterizes it as “highly derogatory” to both Indian culture and women. He argues that such comments perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination against women while promoting sexism and misogyny. Furthermore, he suggests that the episode violates Indian laws and regulations pertaining to the portrayal of women and the promotion of gender equality, making it potentially subject to legal consequences. Netflix has yet to confirm whether it will comply with the terms of the notice.
This legal complaint adds to a history of disputes related to the portrayal of women in “The Big Bang Theory.” In the show’s earlier seasons, the character Penny, played by Kaley Cuoco, faced criticism for her overly sexualized wardrobe. Cuoco later addressed this issue, explaining that Penny’s transition from wearing “booty shorts and Juicy Couture zip-ups” to more conservative clothing was a deliberate choice to illustrate her transformation from “the cute girl next door” to a more complex and well-rounded character. Penny, initially introduced as an aspiring Hollywood star, ultimately decides to pursue a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative and settles into a stable marriage with Johnny Galecki’s character, Leonard.
The character Howard, in the early versions of “The Big Bang Theory,” also drew criticism from viewers for his inappropriate behavior towards women. Actor Simon Helberg, who portrayed Howard, acknowledged the audience’s concerns and expressed agreement with the critiques. He stated that people were unhappy with some of Howard’s actions and comments and emphasized that he shared those sentiments. Although Helberg did not advocate for removing the character from the show, he noted that he found it more enjoyable to portray Howard as his character evolved, shedding some of his sleazy characteristics as his heart grew bigger.