We might love ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and its nerds, but we cannot deny that the show repeatedly prompted sexism. They didn’t just use stereotypical devices to dictate and defy the sitcom’s female characters, but the male characters as well.
Watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’ might feel comforting and homely to you, but there’s only so much you can ignore. Created by Chuck Lorre, the CBS sitcom heavily relies on sexist and misogynistic humour, along with a canned laughter track. Take both away from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and you might begin to understand the massive abomination the show is. Hailed as one of the best comedies ever, the sitcom revolves around four nerdy minds: Sheldon, Howard, Leonard, and Raj. The sitcom’s titular characters are geniuses, much like the humour one would expect from a show of its stature. But the writing is lazy, the jokes aren’t funny, and the sitcom’s faults shine brighter than its efforts.
- The sitcom’s treatment of Penny as the stereotypical, ditzy blonde never changed
- CBS’ The Big Bang Theory promoted sexism by making it humorous
- The sitcom’s women were written to be romantically attached to the men
TBBT has its share of female characters: Penny, Amy and Bernadette, each of whom have their own set of beliefs. However, instead of empowering them, making them seen and heard, the sitcom makes a mockery out of them. It’s the same for the four male characters, whose problematic, disrespectful and obsessively creepy behavioural traits are deemed hilarious.
Keep reading as we uncover The Big Bang Theory characters and instances where the show promoted sexism and we turned a blind eye to it.
The sitcom’s treatment of Penny as the stereotypical, ditzy blonde never changed
Penny played by Kaley Cuoco has always been true to herself and is the most real character in the series. The sitcom did their best to fit her into the scatterbrained, blonde, hot neighbour and girl next door-ish archetype. To add to all of that, they made sure she dropped out of college and was laughed at for it. She was given unrealistic career aspirations, that of an actress in LA, but had to eventually settle as a waitress.
Initially, Penny is regarded as the hot neighbour that Leonard is, to an extent, obsessed with. Leonard barely knows her, but he feels comfortable announcing that their children will be “smart and beautiful”. The nerds often stated that Penny was a free-loader because of her good looks, which was quite arrogant and inappropriate. To the boys, it’s a miracle that Penny goes to comic book stores (because she’s a woman). And remember the Wonder Woman costume?
To make matters worse, the pregnancy stint in the final season sealed the answer to whether TBBT promoted sexism. Penny repeatedly told Leonard that she didn’t want to get pregnant and start a family, but it happens anyway. She’s seen accepting it as a mistake and seems happy to move forward with it. In hindsight, Penny getting pregnant seems to be a ploy to bring her romance with Leonard full-circle. What her character wished for is unimportant and everything needs to fit a convenient narrative.
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TBBT promoted sexism by making it humorous, through its lead characters
We’re not saying that ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is a massive feminist disaster. It did, however, feature some unacceptable, old-fashioned, sexist ideas that didn’t deserve a platform as big as the sitcom had. Let’s talk about the problems with Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Leonard’s characters.
Howard’s character arc ended with him being a caring husband and paternal figure, but we can’t forget the early days. Initially, Howard’s defining character trait was his creepy demeanour towards the women around him. His unbelievable, blinding confidence disguising his personal insecurities as he womanised his way around. Howard embodies Jewish stereotypes even though he pokes fun at it, and is never remorseful about improperly flirting with Penny.
Sheldon, Raj, and Leonard are just as flawed as the Beatles-style haircut donning Howard. They have treated women unprofessionally several times and hinted that they’re less intelligent than they are, because of their gender. Remember when Leonard met the FBI Agent to vouch for Howard, but he behaved awfully and sabotaged the professional interview?
Raj is kind and honest, but two drinks later, he’s a pervert stripping in front of a woman without her consent. Sheldon happily puts his interests first and often belittles Penny and Amy, and even Howard, for his lack of a PhD degree. This dysfunctional quintet represents the ‘nerd community’, but regularly stereotypes them and treats them unfairly. Apparently, you’re not masculine enough if you like both science and comic-books.
The sitcom’s women were written to be romantically attached to the men
TBBT promoted sexism through its plotlines, its characters, and everything else that made the show a global success. The sitcom never dives deeper into the dreams and aspirations of the female characters. Their existence on the show feels as if they were written to be the nerds’ romantic-interests, and nothing more.
Howard is a terrible person but is rewarded with the beautiful, kind-hearted Bernadette. Leonard and Penny, an unrealistic couple are brought together to fit the ideal that nerds can find love too. Sheldon and Amy had a weird relationship dynamic and were both one-dimensional characters, with not much going on.
The CBS series paraded itself as a highly-intellectual sitcom about intelligent people but, unfortunately, it’s somewhat of a facade. TBBT promoted sexism more than it made us laugh, and the series really needs to be held accountable for that.
Do you think TBBT promoted sexism knowingly? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.