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Jim Parsons as the geeky Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. (SONJA FLEMMING/AP)
Jim Parsons as the geeky Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. (SONJA FLEMMING/AP)

JOHN DOYLE

Forget Jen and Anne. I want to talk about silly men Add to ...

Last week, in the aftermath of the Oscars, the most extraordinary topic took off as a media phenomenon. Anne Hathaway or Jennifer Lawrence? Of the two, who’s cool, who’s nice and who is very annoying?

This debate, such as it was, generated a gazillion (rough estimate) comments and slightly less than a gazillion (rough estimate) news stories, online posts and suchlike. Days after the Academy Awards, the issue continued to be talked about, with the monotony of a pneumatic drill hitting concrete.

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Who would care? Both are irritating. As is Seth MacFarlane, whose attempt at hosting the Oscars was largely forgotten 24 hours later.

Late last week came reports that ABC, which broadcasts the Academy Awards, is already pushing for Jimmy Kimmel, who has a talk show on ABC, to host next year. This is just business. All about branding and promoting the network.

What’s interesting, maybe, is that Kimmel is not actually irritating. He’s cutting and agile in his sarcasm aimed at the entertainment racket. But he is outrageously adolescent. MacFarlane is kind of geeky too, and indeed famous as the creator of the sort of television that appeals to callow, childish men.

And what’s truly interesting, maybe, is television’s elevation of immature, geeky, boy-men figures to stardom. Something is being nourished here – now the geekiest guys are presented to us as the coolest guys on TV. Enough with Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence. Enough with the ladies. Let’s talk about some guys.

As an important for instance, take Jim Parsons, who plays the narcissistic, childish, uber-geek on Big Bang Theory. The magazine GQ, devoted to manliness, and photos of large-breasted actresses in their undergarments, features Parsons in its new issue. He gets a GQ makeover and presents a guide to loafers. The shoes, that is, not guys who loaf around devoted to not growing up. It seems he favours $420 loafers by Emporio Armani.

But check out the description of Parsons – “With his giant eyes, vulnerable face, and noodle-thin body, Jim Parsons at first looks harmless playing scientist Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Then, on the show, he will say something like: ‘My father used to say a woman is like an egg-salad sandwich on a warm Texas day – full of eggs and only appealing for a short time.’ ”

Excuse me? Sheldon is a comic trope. That paragraph reads like a mash note to a teen idol.

As another for instance, I point to the character Schmidt on New Girl, who is by far the most interesting thing on the show. It is the ridiculousness of Schmidt (Max Greenfield) that makes the show watchable. (By the way, Schmidt and Sheldon/Jim Parsons seem to share a shoe thing. Schmidt has been known to declare, “Damn it! I can’t find my driving moccasins anywhere!” He also famously remarked, “Can someone please get my towel? It’s in my room next to my Irish walking cape.”) Last week’s episode of New Girl was actually an orgy of comic celebration of utterly hopeless men.

Schmidt decided to throw a party to celebrate 10 years of having the eternally depressed Nick (Jake Johnson) as a roommate. He went to elaborate lengths, staging a swanky party and at one point was unavailable for chatter because he was sending an angry e-mail to his florist.

It was very, very funny. But done with enormous affection for impossible men.

Both Sheldon and Schmidt are fascinating characters, and I really don’t know what’s going on with the elevation of such characters to the level they now occupy. Sheldon is the creation of two men – Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, who co-created Big Bang Theory. Schmidt is the creation of Liz Meriwether, who dreamed up New Girl. So it’s not a matter of such men being the emanations of a male or female imagination. It doesn’t matter, apparently.

Figuring this out is a lot more fun than squawking about Anne Hathaway being horrid or Jennifer Lawrence being nice. And in the meantime, I need to buy some shoes. Which I really shouldn’t do. You see, recently I happened upon a certain store in my neighbourhood and noticed it was clearing out the men’s shoe department. So I went in and bought six pairs. Yes, six. What fun that was.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

 

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