The Big Bang Theory’s Biggest Problem Is One That Most People Completely Overlook

There are lots of issues with “The Big Bang Theory” that, frankly, feel pretty obvious. There’s the fact that it depicts nerds as some sort of freakish “other” when, realistically, most people like superhero movies now. There’s the fact that pretty much every one of the actors is terrible at eating on screen. There’s the laugh track and the awkward pauses that come with it. There’s the casual racism, the “adorkable misogyny,” the fatphobia, and other aspects from sitcoms of its era that haven’t aged well in recent years (though those things certainly aren’t unique to “TBBT”).

There’s another problem, though, and it’s probably the biggest one: “The Big Bang Theory” treats women like absolute crap.

“But wait!” we hear you saying. “Just a minute here! The ladies of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ are way cool and strong and hashtag girl bosses! They’re vital to the show and just as important as the men!” Nice try, but no dice — that’s exactly what the show wants you to think. Starting off with street-smart, book-dumb Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who doesn’t have a last name until she gets married, the issues start to become clear — such as how the show pretends that, in her own way, Penny is just as smart as the boys, while also repeatedly indicating that she isn’t. Adding in Amy Farrah-Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) was a nice attempt to level the playing field, but did it work? No, it did not, and here’s why.

Adding Amy and Bernadette to TBBT was a welcome shot in the arm
After the sausage fest (plus Penny) that was the first few seasons of “The Big Bang Theory,” Chuck Lorre and his cohorts saw fit to add in some romantic interests for the men, unless that man’s name happened to be Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). Enter Amy and Bernadette, two whip-smart women at the tops of their respective fields — neuroscience for Amy, and microbiology for Bernadette. Amy eventually pairs up with Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Bernadette with Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), creating a sextet with Penny and her on-again, off-again paramour Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki). Also, Raj is … there.

In many ways, adding these two characters to “TBBT” was exactly the shot in the arm the show needed, forcing Howard (a wannabe womanizer with some seriously creepy tendencies) and Sheldon (a frankly selfish and cruel human being) to grow up a little, or at least pretend to try to grow up a little. Not only that, but it was nice to see Penny make friends with two women who, though they’re very different from her, can relate to her more than any of the guys really can. Bernadette even gets Penny a job in pharmaceutical sales eventually. Yeah, girl power! Right?

TBBT ultimately wasted its female characters in favor of the men
It was very nice of Chuck Lorre and company to throw the girl viewers of “TBBT” a bone by adding Amy and Bernadette, but their characters are, ultimately, there for only one reason — character development of their respective boyfriends.


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