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.

As previously mentioned, Amy and Bernadette, along with Penny, challenge their partners to grow, evolve, and change, despite Sheldon, Howard, and Leonard's best efforts to stay exactly the same for the rest of their nerdy, nerdy lives. Whenever Sheldon or Howard or Leonard makes progress as a person — and more often than not, they kind of don't bother! — it's by using their partners as stepping stones. In the end, Amy and Bernadette, more so than Penny, only exist to prop up their respective men and make them into ever-so-slightly better people. As for Penny, her purpose changed from "being hot" to "propping up her man and making him into an ever-so-slightly better person," although she at least got slightly more character growth than the other two.

That said, her character growth involves, well ... giving up on her dream of becoming an actress, taking a job she doesn't totally love, and changing her mind about wanting a baby because her husband Leonard wants one. And she gets a new hairstyle, sure. 

Every guy on TBBT is a horrible, horrible romantic partner

The bottom line is that Amy, Bernadette, and Penny should all pack their bags and leave these men, because they are terrible partners. A truly weird amount of "TBBT" episodes end with one or more of the central couples in the middle of a huge argument, at which point the episode concludes and nobody ever brings the problem up again.

This, incredibly, happens twice in Season 7's "The Workplace Proximity," where Sheldon spends the entire episode insulting Amy and her character (even in his "apology") and Howard tells Bernadette, his wife, that they could never work together because they'd be around each other too much. Both couples are fighting, and neither ever resolve it. That's healthy.

The men of "TBBT" also really look down upon their partners in truly unsettling ways. Sheldon, an elitist to the core, constantly regards his work and even his hobbies as more important than anything Amy could ever do or say. In the Season 5 episode "The Weekend Vortex," he puts playing a game with his buddies above meeting his girlfriend's family and never apologizes to her.

In the Season 6 episode "The Extract Obliteration," Penny enrolls in community college, and Leonard rewrites her term paper by sneaking onto her laptop (a violation of her privacy!) because he thinks she's too stupid to do it herself. How sweet! Oh, also, for all of this stuff, Raj is also there. He ends the series alone and without a girlfriend.

Sheldon and Amy are the most toxic relationship on the series

The crown jewel of bad relationships on "The Big Bang Theory," though, is definitely the "relationship" between Amy and Sheldon.

Beyond everything we already mentioned, Sheldon is uniformly awful to Amy. He belittles her constantly, sets every single parameter within the relationship, and is pretty much never willing to give any mind to what she might want.

The worst example of this by far is their issues involving physical intimacy. When Amy and Sheldon first start dating, she seems just as uninterested in getting physical as Sheldon, but then, the writers make the weird, baffling decision to make her, uh, very interested in getting physical. What ends up happening is that Amy's attempts to seduce her own boyfriend are the butt of the joke, and Sheldon, for his part, treats Amy like she is completely disgusting.

When they get married, they agree to, per Sheldon's terms, "engage in coitus" once a year, which is definitely not Amy's choice. In any case, watching the show treat a woman's normal physical urges like a giant joke is ... pretty gross, actually.

The bottom line is that on "The Big Bang Theory," the men are allowed to be absolute trash bags to their girlfriends, because when they do crappy things, there's a laugh track right after. You don't have to watch that closely to see that the way "TBBT" treats women is an enormous problem, and you can't unsee it once you notice it.

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