It’s always a fun pastime to draw parallels between your favourite series or movies. It is easier to compare two shows in the same genre, but when it comes to series with different genres such as ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’, the similarities are not so direct.
A striking resemblance between these famous series is established in terms of how the shows portray their female characters. Both these shows begin with a conformist portrayal of young women and involve sexist behaviour by their male counterparts. ‘The Big Bang Theory ‘and ‘Mad Men‘ share a few cast members, like Ryan Cartwright. Yet this is not the only common angle that they share. Both the series also amassed viewers from almost every demographic. One aspect that goes unnoticed is the resemblance in the treatment of female characters that both these shows display.
- Which characters are the worst in their treatment of women?
- Instance where sexism can be observed!
- What does it say about the treatment of women in the current society?
In both these series, subtle misogyny in terms of unequal pay, casual sexism, and sexism at the workplace can be observed in various instances.
Which characters are the worst in their treatment of women?
In the series ‘Mad Men’, there is a lot of drama and betrayal with various characters that treat women like objects, but Don Draper is one of the worst characters in terms of the mistreatment of women. The man showcases unfaithfulness during numerous encounters with women at his workplace. Don Draper is also shown as an egoistic man who is threatened by the success of women. In the episode “Don’s glass ceiling”, when Meghan excitedly tells Don that she needs to go to Boston for her performance, Don turns it down by exclaiming “absolutely not!”It seems that he is threatened by her success.
In ‘The Big Bang Theory’, Howard’s character is no better at treating women. He can be seen materializing and/or sexualizing women while throwing flirtatiously creepy daggers at them. His disrespectful behaviour towards women is obnoxious. After he met Bernadette, he first started treating her like a housewife, and when she stated that it felt like it wasn’t her house, he answered, “Of course, it’s your house”. And asked her why else would she be cleaning it.
Of course, other characters in the show also seem to not have much understanding of gender equality and are often trapped in the misogynistic and patriarchal outlook propagated by societal norms.
Instance where sexism can be especially observed
There are quite a few instances where the two series Big Bang Theory and Mad Men highlight how men manipulate women to get their work done. For instance, Bert Cooper can be seen lecturing his female colleagues frequently but changes his approach whenever he needs a favour from them. Likewise, in ‘The Big Bang Theory’, viewers see Sheldon manipulate his girlfriend to drive him to work. He also tries to sabotage her career by trying to pull her off her research project to assist him.
The unequal pay of women at the workplace is another similar subject that comes to the fore in both the shows. Peggy, who works as Sterling Cooper’s only female copywriter in ‘Mad Men’, is made to work far more than the pompous stoner but is paid lesser. Even though she brings it up and tells them that it is illegal, no action is taken. In a similar context, Howard Wolowitz feels jealous when he comes to know that Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz not only got a postgraduate degree (while he only has a Masters’s degree)but was also earns far more than him.
Male characters like Sheldon Cooper in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and can also be seen downplaying the accomplishments of their female counterparts like Amy on several occasions.
What does it say about the treatment of women in the current society?
Is it just a coincidence or is it that society today is still entertained by such portrayal of women? The jokes centered around portraying women as weak or as “bimbos” are frequently used. However, one cannot entirely blame these shows for bringing out what is really deeply embedded in society and how it perceives women even today. Both the shows have shown the growth of their female characters from side roles to more independent ones. In both the series, though towards the beginning women like Peggy, Joan, or Amy are seen as romantic accessories for the use of men, towards the end, they develop individual plots and stories with their own challenges and triumphs.
The development of these female characters indicates that the audience is no longer accepting the “damsel in distress” narrative.
Jokes involving casual sexism needs to be addressed more sternly. Even if it is used only to add humour to the story, a more sensitive approach could go a long way. What do you think, is such sexist humour acceptable? Share your views with us in the comments section below.