All three Jeopardy contestants guessed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn correctly, but were told it was wrong because they couldn't pronounce the name properly.
These days, Mayim Bialik just keeps getting bad news. We recently learned that her Fox sitcom Call Me Kat was getting canceled after three seasons, and she continues to face backlash from many Jeopardy! fans who want Bialik to permanently step down so Ken Jennings can become the primary host. And as HuffPost reports, that backlash intensified after a recent episode in which all three contestants gave the correct answer (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) and were told it was wrong because of how they pronounced the Russian writer’s name. Watch for yourself below.
In this particular Jeopardy! episode, the contestants were answering questions in the category “The Quotable Alex.” The clue given by Bialik was “An author and former prisoner: ‘Socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit.’” When everyone gave the correct answer and got it wrong due to their pronunciation, the internet erupted into major backlash.
This Twitter use and Jeopardy! fan cuts right to the chase. If the show is relying on a question that everyone is likely to get wrong due to their pronunciation, it would seem the show is the “problem” and not the contestants. And it really makes Bialik look bad, too, since this doesn’t seem to happen with Jennings or even with guest hosts such as Star Trek star LeVar Burton.
As for this Twitter user, they indirectly echoed something that Mayim Bialik herself said. After each of the contestants lost out due to the pronunciation technicality, the host told them that it was “a tricky one to pronounce.” This user agrees that it’s a “mouthful” as well as a “dreaded name” (anyone else having flashbacks to getting a historical figure’s name wrong during a high school presentation?).
Here we have another Twitter user that gets right to it: this whole thing just seems very mean-spirited on the part of Jeopardy! producers. For both the contestants and the viewers, the whole fun of the game is testing how many obscure facts we have rattling inside our brains. But in this case, everyone was effectively punished for their knowledge because, like many of us, they had only read this tough-to-pronounce name before and never heard it spoken out loud.
While more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, this Twitter user helps to highlight how Draconian this bit of punishment from Jeopardy! producers really is. Implicitly, it seems that knowing the name and knowing how to say the name are two different skills, and this user (along with plenty of others) thinks knowing the name should be sufficient. We do have one question for this user, though: do losing contestants get to hang out with David Harbour from Stranger Things after Bialik ships them off to the Russian gulag?
Ultimately, this is just the latest controversy generated by Jeopardy!, a show that nobody watches for the drama. As we noted before, many of her haters are hoping that as these incidents keep piling up, producers will cave in to fan pressure and remove Mayim Bialik as host, and she recently removed herself due to the WGA strike. If she yelled out anything cool like “sic semper tyrannis” on her way out, though, we hope someone was there to tell her if she pronounced one of the words incorrectly.