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Big Bang Theory

Dear Big Bang Theory,

There is so much I love about you, but also? We need to talk.

Don’t get that look on your face. Sit down — I’ve got a hot beverage and we can sing “Soft Kitty” later if that helps. But either way, we’re talking.

You do so many awesome things. You mock geek culture in a way that I can dig because I see so much of myself in that culture and these characters. So backwards and dear and earnest and smart and clever even if no one ever knows. Trying to fit into a world that they see in a vastly different way than 95% of the population. And once I started playing Magic the Gathering and realized exactly what you were doing with Mystic Warlords of Ka’a? Just…yes.

But there is a constant strange undercurrent to your show, too. It’s the one that disrespects women.

That’s even hard to write, because how could it be true, given all the wonderful things you do? But it is.

We’re in season seven, so why doesn’t Penny have a last name? All the boys do. We even know middle names. We know parent names and pet names and sibling names. But Penny? She’s just Penny — the smallest coin in anyone’s pocket — apparently the only character who gets one tiny name. Even Stuart has a last name. I suppose we should be happy that Amy and Bernadette have full names… But what about Penny? Isn’t she as complete a character as anyone else on the show? She’s been there since episode one.

What about Howard’s mom? I suppose it was creepy to start — how we never saw her (how like Maris Crane!), and how we only knew her voice. How we had only what Howard said to go on. And we get it. She’s terrible, and loud, and rude, and fat. She’s the smothering Jewish mother who nearly kidnaps Raj because she misses her son. Really? Could we pack anymore stereotypes into an unseen character? No — I shouldn’t ask, because I’m sure you could.

This year’s Christmas episode was equal parts adorable and horrifying. Toss the gang into a situation where they’re mostly without Sheldon and allow them to ponder the lives they would have had without him. Awesome, without anyone pondering suicide! But the reason Sheldon is away is because his sister is having a baby (this seems out of left field, but okay!). Surely we could have put some humor in that situation without denigrating childbirth and vaginas.

Women seem to fill two roles on BBT: a woman is either an object of sexual desire or revulsion. If the guys think you are hot, you have value. If not, you’re unseen. Penny and Amy each seem to encompass the idea that you can be pretty OR smart, but never both. If you’re not attractive, you’re clearly a smart girl. If you are attractive, you’re too stupid to even clean your own apartment.

Oh, look — someone has said a lot of this more wisely than I can.

The last few episodes have shown us a new side of Penny — she quit her waitressing job to focus on her acting. Will you actually allow her to achieve ANY successes in this realm? You gave her a commercial a few years back — for hemorrhoid cream. She got a bit part on NCIS this season (but you had her incapable of remembering the name of the tv show she was hired to be on — unlikely.), and you’ve used that as a launching point for her present arc. I hope this one doesn’t end in flames — you got close when she drunk-proposed to Leonard, though, because gosh, if she’s got no job and no future and no name, why not try to get a husband?

You do so many things right. I look forward to you being more awesome when it comes to the ladies on this show.


[Note: in searching for images for this post (search: “penny big bang theory”) the following categories for Penny and Kaley Cuoco come up: “hot,” “ass,” “fat,” and “sexy.” GOOD JOB, WORLD.]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • A.C. Wise January 23, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I feel like the show has gotten steadily worse in its treatment of female characters, to the point I would almost suspect them of satire/irony if they showed even the slightest glimmer of doing it consciously. It’s frustrating, because there are a lot of things to like about the show, and they still have occasionally brilliant moments, but over all, they seem to be sliding into general hatred for all their characters, but especially the women.

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