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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Why Geek Girls Are Tired of ‘Big Bang’ Bullshit

Why Geek Girls Are Tired of ‘Big Bang’ Bullshit

| On 05, Jul 2013

There are three things that are unavoidable in life: death, taxes, and The Big Bang Theory re-runs. Somehow, this C.B.S. show has had 6 seasons and about 19 million dedicated viewers, which is almost enough to make me wish that television had never been invented.

While The New York Times claims that “20 million nerds can’t be wrong,” I’m not the first person to have seen the show and been appalled by the sexism that seems to be ingrained into its D.N.A. Criticism of the show’s sexist undercurrents has been buried beneath mounds of praise and awards like the show’s Emmys, Golden Globes, Satellite Awards, SAG nominations, and Critics Choice Awards, to name only a few. It’s gotten to the point where The Big Bang Theory is simply an amplification of the sexism that reigns over today’s media trying to justify itself as comedy.

As a female geek myself, with more than a fair amount of female geek friends, The Big Bang Theory contributes to a problem that makes enthusiastic women like me afraid to openly express their love for geek-culture. Even if I could list every companion of every Doctor by order of height and favorite food, or alphabetically rattle off every episode of Star Trek in Romulan while creating a functional teleportation beam, there would still be people accusing me of being a “fake geek girl“. Apparently, if you’re a woman, simply liking a show isn’t enough. We can’t just enjoy something, we have to be a verifiable encyclopedia just to avoid being chased down the street by pitchfork wielding villagers dressed like the Justice League.

Fake Geek girls” are accused of being man-seekers looking for an excuse to wear revealing clothing by a vocal group of  men (that tends to overshadow the perfectly non-sexist men in geekdom) whose only argument is “You are a girl and therefore do not love this as much as I do, you must be in it only to try to attract a man.”

The Big Bang Theory accepts the idea that only men can be “geeks” with open arms. Although this as seen throughout the course of the show, it’s highlighted in the season six episode “The Bakersfield Expedition.” When three women, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette, walk into a comic book store, the men act as if they’ve seen a unicorn tap dancing in Macy’s. In fact, the show jokes that such hardcore “geeks” never see women, implying that there’s no way women could partake in comic book reading, science fiction conventions, or other “geeky” past times where they could come into contact with the comic book store’s clientele. By perpetuating the stereotype that women aren’t participating in “geeky” activities, The Big Bang Theory is providing a justification for the men who like to think that it is their sacred duty to keep women out of geekdom through demeaning and insulting confrontations.

the-big-bang-theory-girls-in-a-comic-shopLater in the episode, the owner of the comic book store, Stuart, tries to show Penny the merits of the comic book Fables by lauding its sophisticated stories and lack of objectification of women. Penny responds by completely ignoring him and choosing a Thor comic because Thor is “hot.” Not only does this facilitate the show’s determination to make Penny seem like one of the most stereotypical “dumb blondes” ever to grace our television screens, which is enough of a problem itself, it also presents the wildly inaccurate idea that women could only appreciate comics for their attractive male characters, vacantly ignoring any literary merit. This once again reduces women to the position of sex-seekers, instead of fully-formed people who are perfectly capable of appreciating both Thor’s abs and Thor’s interesting plotlines.

Women are seen purely as sexual objects within the Big Bang Theory universe. Nearly all new female characters are introduced as potential sexual partners for the male characters, furthering the show’s implications that women are only valuable to men as sexual conquests. This isn’t entirely surprising, seeing as The Big Bang Theory was created by Chuck Lorre, the same chauvinist that created Two and a Half Men. Lorre has a history of perpetuating stereotypes in his shows that could be insulting to men as well as women, constantly reducing women to nothing more than sex-providers and men to predatory creeps.

the big bang theoryIn the season two episode “The Panty Pinata Polarization,” Howard and Raj use NORAD satellites to locate the contestants of America’s Next Top Model. They stalk these women, show up at their door, and then pretend to be the satellite repair men in order to gain access to the house and gawk at the women wearing bathing suits. That is not funny. That is not clever. That is downright creepy, and even when this is pointed out to the characters, they don’t care. You get the sense that they feel entitled to these women, like it’s their right as men to go try to seduce and ogle them, even if it requires illegally using military spy aircraft.

This is not the only occasion in The Big Bang Theory where Howard has proved himself a sexist creep.  Just to name a few, in “The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization” he chases Penny with a remote control car that has a camera attached to it in order to look up her skirt, and in “The Terminator Decoupling” he predatorily hits on Summer Glau, obviously making her uncomfortable, while the other guys watch in amusement. These “jokes” add insult to injury by being unfunny clichés to begin with; the fact that they are emphasizing Howard’s unhealthy attitude towards women, often even condoning it, makes unfunny humor into an unfunny problem.

pennyAdding the icing on this extraordinarily unfortunate cake is the poor characterization of The Big Bang Theory’s female characters, especially Penny. Just “Penny”: the writers still haven’t bothered to give her a last name, despite being six seasons into the show. Kaley Cuoco plays another “popular blonde” stereotype, although past forays into the archetype (like in the lovable sitcom 8 Simple Rules) show that the actress is capable of giving the role more heart and humanity than the writers of The Big Bang Theory have allowed. Penny is an attractive airhead, serving only as a foil to the “nerds” across the hall and as the object of Leonard’s desire.

When shown together with the intelligent-but-frumpy character Amy, Penny is a display of the profoundly insulting idea that women can either be attractive or intelligent; the two are shown as mutually exclusive. Even the cute scientist Bernadette severely downplays her intelligence, showing that most of the female characters on the show (exempting Priya) have to choose whether they are going to be portrayed as smart or sexy, not both.

Penny’s tendency to demean other women simply because she views them as a threat, personally or professionally, also gives the character sexist undertones. In the second season episode “The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition” (yikes, even the episode titles are cringe-worthy), Penny is jealous of an actress who has moved into the building, calling her a “dead whore on TV, live one in real life.” Judging women based on their sexual activity is apparently funny to The Big Bang Theory writers; the show has a history of using slut shaming as humor.

Penny isn’t the only poorly characterized female in The Big Bang Theory. The studious Amy Farrah Fowler goes from being portrayed as the female counterpart to the asexual Sheldon to another female character fixated on “coitus.” Even the female characters who are introduced as something other than the show’s normal, sex-centered characterization eventually become the subject of the same objectification as the rest of The Big Bang Theory’s female characters. Unlike some of the female characters on the show, Amy is portrayed as having little to no control over her physical relationship with Sheldon. The “sexually unattractive” character is shown as having to work very hard to have her needs met, effectively mocking her decision to focus on things other than her appeal to men, such as science and career-advancement.

After four or five episodes of this, I couldn’t take it anymore. Some sources claim that the show is making great leaps in its portrayal of female characters, but the majority of the episodes that I watched were from the most recent season and it seems like the show’s attitude towards women is just as demeaning as it always has been, despite the addition of more female characters throughout the past few seasons. It saddens me to see a show that treats women, and many other  demographics as well, so poorly be praised in the media and in the entertainment industry so often. I’m going to go re-watch all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to remind myself that there is some good in the world.

Written by Kristy Pirone
Follow her on Twitter, here!

  • AK

    Thank you for writing this!!! Much needed!!

  • diello kane

    Aw maaaan.I had given none of this any deep consideration. Now, just like the lad mags did after I read some Nat Walter and Kat Banyard this show will have to go. Enlightenment is proving costly.

  • CJ

    At first I enjoyed watching The Big Bang Theory – it wasn’t always the funniest show but it was nice seeing some “intelligent” (read: not jersey shore) characters interacting with one another on the tv for once.

    It wasn’t long before I started to get this sense of dissatisfaction when I was watching it though, and I realised after a couple of seasons of casual viewing that actually these characters weren’t that relatable at all. Once I figured out it was the frequent sexism and lack of any non-love-interest, interesting, real-feeling female characters that was putting me off, I just couldn’t watch it anymore.

    A shame, this was a real missed opportunity to show off the best of ‘geek’ culture and I had high hopes for a post-graduate-academia setting for a sitcom but it totally failed in my opinion.

  • Genie Shewwy

    Speak for yourself Kristy Pirone. Not all ‘geek’ girls have such an all consuming hatred for a tv show. I, in fact, love The Big Bang Theory but that is because I accept it for what it is. A television sitcom, flaws and all.

    • Eleanor Tan

      See the thing is, SHE IS SPEAKING FOR HERSELF. This is an opinion piece, ffs.

      • Alison Kennedy

        When I speak for myself, I don’t assume that I am speaking for every other geek girl on the planet.

      • Ada

        Ignoring the unnecessary and disrespectful “ffs” and focusing instead on the title of this opinion piece, which is “Why Geek Girls…”, not “Why This Geek girl…”

      • Yanina Ayala-Herrera

        no, she isn’t. The title of the article is “why geek girls are tired of The Big Bang Theory”, as if she was speaking for all of us. Which she is not, unless there was a voting and I wasn’t informed.

        • Eleanor Tan

          see the comment by Brent, just below yours.

    • Brent

      News/blogging/editorial pieces often have generalising titles to spark a potential reader’s interest.
      I’m sure the author knows that not EVERY “geek” girl hates the show.

  • Sara Locke

    You obviously take entertainment far too seriously. the funny part about this show is how it obviously portrays stereotypes. It’s literally the entire point. The dumb but secy girls, the frump smart girls, the geeky guys who are either far too confidant or just shy enough to be cute, the foreigner who can’t talk to women. It’s the entire reason it IS funny, because its so obviously over the top. I think you need to stop over thinking things because if you do that, you will never find anything to your liking. While Chuck Lorre did create Two and Half Men, I applaud him for this show, at least the humor is intelligent. And it is getting people to look up words and physics to see if the show got it right (at least people in my world). Your article here is doing the same thing you accuse the show of doing. You are putting labels on people. You can’t write a scathing article about how rude this show is because it labels people and then do the same thing, stating that “real geek girls” (such as myself) are offended by this show because of one thing or another. It’s just a show. And you are looping myself, and my friends into a group of women that we don’t agree with, ultimately doing the same thing that you accuse the show of doing.

    • Eleanor Tan

      Wow, that’s very close-minded. I don’t understand why people think that entertainment should be exempt from critical analysis. And just because you criticise a show doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it either. Maybe you need to stop under-thinking things?

      While you’re right about stereotypes being part of the humor & appeal of the show, it’s very lazily done for a show that claims to be ‘intelligent’. The writers could have chosen to do something new and different by subverting these stereotypes, but they chose to play into them instead. And frankly it’s harmful for a show with such a large audience to be perpetuating these stupid, sexist stereotypes.

      It’s also interesting to me how they’ve managed to fool people into thinking the humor on the show is ‘intelligent’, merely by throwing around a couple of nerdy/geeky references. Great if it gets people to look up science and stuff, but let’s be real, few people do this. Certainly not anyone I know. And frankly, if you’re looking for intelligent, insightful comedy, you’re much better off watching 30 Rock.

      Your comment on the author ‘putting labels on people’ is absurd and not in the least bit what she has done. She is not speaking for you and your friends, she’s stating her opinion and analysis of the show and it’s flaws. You are free to disagree.

      • Snowy

        When you are discussing intelligence- I believe these “nerd” references as y’all put it are much higher level than the comedy evident in Modern Family. Also, we cannot entirely blame these issues on the writers. The writers develop a plot that is approved by the network executives for ratings. This show’s purpose and many other shows like it is for entertainment and profit. The reason why they use stereotypes is because it works. 19 million people watch it for a reason, and the continuation of the stereotypes reflects the cyclic economic cycle of ratings & profits.

        • Eleanor Tan

          Well, for one thing, Modern Family isn’t supposed to be an ‘intelligent’ comedy. And no, I don’t think the jokes on BBT are at a ‘higher level’. Intelligent comedy is supposed to be subtle and insightful (I still think Community and 30 Rock does smart ‘geek’ comedy better than BBT does). The jokes on BBT are basically just in-jokes for science/nerd/geek culture, spoon-fed to the viewer. They make you FEEL smart because ‘regular people’ don’t get the joke or reference but you do.

          And yes, I understand how ratings and profit work, and there’s a lot to be said about how viewers aren’t critical enough of the media they consume, and how networks have a social responsibility for the shows they put out there, but I’m not getting into it here.

          • Cam

            Ya but I think the average viewer is aware that the plot and character relations are ‘sarcastic’ in nature. So it serves not to fuel sexism but discourage it. Also, I’ve seen plenty of episodes that go against the typical behavior of the characters so it’s not providing only one viewpoint.

      • Spam

        30 Rock has its own sexism issues.

        Yes, Tina Fey.

        • Eleanor Tan

          I’m well aware that 30 rock has it’s own issues, including but not limited to sexism, racism, and transphobia. Not to mention the fact that Tina Fey has said some stupid, ignorant shit outside of the show as well.

          Nonetheless, it’s still a whole lot more progressive and insightful than BBT.

          • kyle

            30 rock is pure satire, get over yourself.

    • brian j

      I couldn’t agree more. I am a bit of nerd myself and it isn’t all wrong. I have a degree in physics myself – and the senior year had 2, (as in TWO) women in classes. It turned out one was doing a Master’s in Chemistry and the other was doing a PhD in engineering. There were no (as in ZERO) women in graduating class.

      Does the show use stereotypes? To be sure. Are they all wrong? No! Do they use beautiful people for actors. Yes, just like every other show.

      It’s a cute show. Why find fault with that when there are so many real problems?

      Women are not portrayed badly. Look at Amy and Bernadette. Penny is not university educated but it was the contrast of the attraction (of Leonard to Penny based on her looks AND personality) against the differences of their situations which was the basis of the SITUATION COMEDY.

      People these days seem too sensitive about every little thing.

  • Vivid Sammy

    This could be the reason why I lost interest in the Big Bang theory… In the first season they had some science related jokes (like the doppler effect suit) but I think I stopped watching around the 4th season. To bad, the show sounded so cool and I was so happy when Amy came around and soon disappointed again. I love the rewatching Buffy plan!

  • X

    . How will we cope? People who aren’t as intelligent as me will think sitcoms are real. Less sexism and racism isn’t good enough I want everybody to have the same correct values as me. Oh why oh why isn’t the world perfect? #ffs

  • Lucy

    I think this article is fantastic! Very well written and I respect your opinion of the show. You articulate very well why you don’t like the show. You have great potential and I personally cannot wait for your next articles! Lovely!

  • two cents

    It’s a trap. Truly PC people shoot their TVs (wait, I mean they properly dispose of them via licensed and environmentally conscious electronics recycling services).

  • Veronica

    Exactly! I am the biggest geek! I am so tired that not one of the females is into comics or anything that is held by the men as interest. It is so frustrating that they think Star Trek, comics, D&D, or anything nerdy is only loved by the guys and the girls just step back and get makeovers!

    • James

      When I was a kid running DOS in the 90′s and getting on BBS’s and hanging out, it was a sausage fest. My computer science classes were largely the same. In countries like India, almost 50% of the software devs are women, it’s clear women are more than capable. The USA still has to work on this.

      Consider that the reason some guys view some of these things as being male-oriented is because the women either appear to be uninterested or are afraid to jump in. It seems like it’s a vicious circle, one where we shouldn’t really cast blame on anyone.

      There are geek-type events targeted at women, where they can allegedly learn without the stress of gender/sexual issues interfering with the process. For instance, Portland has a meetup for women interested in learning Python:

      The challenge is that these women can’t hide forever in their women-only groups. They must be the ones to come out and assert themselves as smart, intelligent women. Otherwise, us men don’t see them, and the stereotypes are reinforced. Getting angry at the writers of a TV comedy show for overlooking the name of one female character isn’t going to do it.

      Working as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory instead of as a Doctorate holder at a University, perhaps the writers just didn’t have the opportunity to use a last name in an environment where first names are prevalent. Just try to think about the last waiter and waitress who served you at a restaurant. Can you recall the last name?

      • Eleanor Tan

        So, why is the onus on women to “stop hiding”? No one’s trying to hide- women-only groups only exist because these women aren’t being accepted by their male counterparts.These areas are so heavily dominated by men, it’s their responsibility to be less exclusionary and to make the environment and culture less hostile towards women.

        • James

          I don’t mean to make it sound like the responsibility lies solely upon women, but to some extent if a person wants to improve his or her situation, that person must take action. Perhaps one technique would be for members of the Portland Ladies Python group to come out en masse to a coed Python group every so often. If the male to female ratio is 50/50 then it may not seem as awkward as when the ratio is 5 to 1 or 10 to 1.

          But point taken, the responsibility doesn’t solely fall upon women as men do need to change their thinking. I hope it’s clear that I was mostly trying to provide an explanation as to why some men may think the way they do about women in technology. Understanding the reasons is the first step towards making changes. Hope this helps! :)

          • Spam

            Thanks for being open to hearing Eleanor’s point.

      • ruis2002

        Why should being seen by “you men” be a big priority for us? Why shouldn’t providing a more welcoming atmosphere for women be *your* priority? Women hold the majority of college degrees in this country. If you are unable to see women as “smart” and “intelligent” it is your blindness that is at fault. It’s not our job to fix your screw ups.

        • kyle

          Degrees in what?

  • Carrie

    I appreciate that this article goes into the fact that the entertainment industry takes sexism to lightly and that it is not ok. This is more than just geek girls and it shows truth into the sexist ways of TV and movie shows. Great job Kristy! Can’t wait to read more from you.

  • Patricia Schwarz

    I loathe this idiot show. There are lots of very attractive and sociable women in string theory and relativity. Someone should do a show about them. But nobody in Hollywood would have the balls to face these women because the kind of cowards who write this idiot dreck only feel emotionally safe if the smart women are all ugly and the hot women are all dumb. Pathetic.

    • James

      Amy and Bernadette are hot. And they aren’t dumb. Penny’s not dumb either; she just chose not to apply herself.

      • Eleanor Tan

        No, Penny’s not dumb. She’s just characterised as a ditz 95% of the time, and a good half of the jokes on the show are about what a dumb girl she is. Nothing inherently wrong with the character, I actually really like Penny. It’s the shitty, lazy, sexist writing I can’t stand.

        • Mandy

          I think Kaley Cuoco’s acting is really what makes me like the character so much despite the often horrible sexist writing/stereotypes. She just brings she heart to the role IMO. There is only so much an actor can do with a meh script but I think she is bring it.

        • Alicia

          Penny is not dumb, the guys are super intelligent. I don’t consider myself stupid, but I don’t have a PHD. Sometimes Sheldon doesn’t understand the things that Penny say.

        • Amelia B

          Penny isn’t book smart, but she’s street smart. She is the smart one when it comes to anything social related which makes for such a cute relationship between Sheldon, the book smart, and her, the social butterfly. It’s what makes them so funny together and good friends at heart.

        • Berzerk2600

          Go back to china, won’t you?

  • The Afictionado

    Great post–I make a conscious effort to avoid TBBT for all the reasons you articulately listed. And mostly it’s just… not funny.

  • binky

    Geek/engineer/law student girl here. BBT is still one of my favorite shows.

  • wonderdude

    “I blame society.”

  • Saspist

    Relax. The satirising of stereotypes is self-evidently tongue-in-cheek. Penny is far from a dumb blonde and often used to show the social naivity, if not social inadequacy and ignorance of the male characters. I preferred the show before it became so focused on their romantic relationships, but it remains intelligent and witty comedy that celebrates the geek.

  • Kiana

    I realize the faults of Big Bang Theory and while parts of it makes me cringe, I do enjoy watching it with my dad. It can have witty humor that just isn’t found on many sitcoms today. I never even realized that Penny doesn’t have a last name in the show…that’s incredibly stupid. There are SO many ways they could bring up her name, but they just didn’t bother? Interesting. As for Two and a Half Men, I absolutely HATE that show. Abhor it. Its not funny, its not interesting, and the plot just keeps going in the same circle.

    • James

      Two and a Half Men was funnier with Charlie Sheen. Now it’s a dead show.

  • Emilio Schendel

    The nerds I know (comedy nerds) all detest this show because it’s simply not funny. The fact that anyone who considers him or herself “intelligent” would enjoy this show simply proves that they may be smart, but they have no taste in comedy. 20 million viewers CAN be wrong: McDonald’s is the best selling food in the world, does that mean it’s delicious?

    This show is pablum, plain and simple, and its sexist undertones are secondary to its rote jokes and stupid plot lines. (Although, to be fair, this wasn’t a bad article.)

    • Rich.

      I’m a mathematician, engineer and probably considered a “nerd” and I find this show very funny.

    • Jon

      I agree with Rich. I’m a wrestling, comicbook, and kpop geek and I love this show. Yes there are flaws to it but I enjoy it. I understand that there are real geek girls out there and the not all geek guys are like the lead actors. It’s just a show and sometimes you just have to stop overanalyzing and enjoy it.

    • prd

      Yes, McDonald’s is selling well -because- it is delicious in addition to being modestly priced. Their food is full of fats, sugars and salts, which send signals to your brain which tell you that’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted. If McDonald’s isn’t delicious to you, what is?

      Your assessment of the show is extremely selective.
      I do consider myself sort of intelligent (though I have a long way to go) although I definitely have a taste in comedy, beginning with Monty Python, Hugh and Laurie, to contemporary tandems like Mitchell and Webb. All of British humor, film and TV alike, is great. I also enjoy great standup acts like Carlin, Seinfeld, Louie C.K. and new ones, among which Steve Hughes, Ricky Gervais, Mitch Hedberg, and many many others.

      The Big Bang is funny. It’s well written and it has some sexism at the beginning, but it isn’t nearly as much as this article claims.
      Just watch it with less negative people around you and don’t make up your mind before you’ve even seen it, and you may like it too.

      • kyle

        The only stand up comedians you know are the ones who’ve had high profile sitcoms. Get over yourself.

        • kyleisagirlsname

          Translation: the things you like aren’t obscure enough to be cool in my eyes, and are therefore not cool. Anything popular is lame, and anything you haven’t heard of is cool.

          • kyle

            Dude, I just like stand up comedy, and I love the show seinfeld, and I love the show “louie”, but neither of those guys are good at stand up in my opinion. I don’t really know any obscure comedians, just the ones I’ve seen on tv.
            Is Kyle a girls name? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not! Have you ever met a girl named kyle? No you haven’t! Is that some kind of insult? Is being a girl a bad thing? you’re on a feminist website I don’t think they’d like that :) !!!

          • kyle

            And the whole “britt com” think is exactly what you’re talking about, you should be on my side.

  • Lydia

    I think it’s ok to enjoy the show for what it is, just as long as you are aware of the flaws that this article points out. If people are more aware, it is more likely that they will not be sucked into the mindset that “woman are objects to be conquered,” “women can either be smart or sexy” etc. That is why I applaud articles like these. It makes people think rather than just blindly accept.

    • CD

      sexism will always exist in some form in human interaction at large scale. Women are inherently different and it causes different reactions, biologically. I am of the opinion that our biological differences are insurmountable when it comes to be anything ever anything more than separate but equal. Women have all the boobs ffs….men are really useless in modern times. Could probably store enough sperm and have enough doctors to artificially inseminate enough humans to only have females for many years. Think about that. What are men gonna do lol we’re useless. Women are more gorgeous and communicate better, what benefit does throwing rocks harder have? Oops, is this entire post sexist?

      • kyle

        Who shoveled all of that snow off of your driveway?
        Who is designing, inspecting, and maintaining the power grid? I could go on but why bother. Oh gosh men are just soooooo useless, why do we even have them around??

  • Rafael Pereira

    You could complain about the jokes about the indian guy, it could racist, isn’t it ? But i didn’t see it.

    • larry longmore

      one thing at a time. A person can be concerned about many things but chose to only speak on one at a time. COncern for one problem does not mean acceptance of others

      • Rafael Pereira

        There are much more important issues than a tv program. Women are raped, sexually/psychologically harassed, they earn less money, they suffer domestic violence and so on. At the same type in this tv program the men who study natural sciences (physics, engineers, and so on,…) are stereotyped as nerds with no social skills, that have no interest on women and sex, and on and on… And everybody laughs.. Me inclusive… And i am a nerd too.

  • Justin Parr

    It would be nice to see some comic/SciFi nerdy girls on it too. Frumpy ones not the can pass as wonder woman types.

  • Ada

    Interesting article. The episode where the girls go into the shop, to my mind, they were implying that male geeks are all a bit Aspie, lack the social skills to talk to girls and as a result are flummoxed when presented with girls. When Penny chose the Thor comic over the other one based on how the character looked, well, it’s a graphic novel, if you have no knowledge of that novel you are going to literally judge the book by it’s cover, and that’s acceptable IMO, I have and still do reject graphic novels if I don’t like/enjoy the animation style. The America’s Top Model episode, well, yes it was creepy, but again, I think that was the point, Howard’s character WAS over the top creepy, he’s since developed due to his relationship with Bernadette – I actually used that episode to chat to my 11 year old son about how guys like him sadly do exist, that he is an over the top caricature of that guy and I pointed out that the other characters generally don’t condone his attitude. Keeping it in context, it is a situation comedy and good situation comedy revolves around outlandish scenarios that don’t reflect real life.

  • Mark McClenny

    I have been a geek for over 30 years before EXTREME Trek! and The Avengers brought geek culture into the mainstream, so I feel qualified to address this. Despite weekly visits to my FLGS (any real geek should know what that means btw), I can tell you that women were, in fact, rare visitors. They were not stared at to the extent that the ladies are in BBT, I believe this is a technique known as ‘comic exaggeration’. Doesn’t seem out of place on a comedy show. But I can tell you from experience that many patrons stared at my wife, who is not a geek btw, with just such surprise. This behavior is really not a stereotype. It makes me doubt your geek girl credentials as you would not find this odd if you had spent lots of time in your FLGS. Further, as a geeky woman you probably can’t understand just how devastating it is for a geeky male to be ridiculed by any woman, attractive or not, for our geeky interests (which happened painfully often), so yes, our knee-jerk reaction to a woman in an FLGS or other geek-sanctum is suspicion and hostility. By your own admission you are dismissing the show after only a few episodes. So I have to call foul on many of your snap judgements. Amy has been interested in coitus almost since her introduction. It stems from her conservative upbringing and the fact that men are threatened by her vast intellect. She is socially awkward because she has channeled all her time and energy into her education and work. She has very little experience in dating or sex. She has merely had the misfortune to fall in love with a highly unusual man who is asexual and unlikely to physically consummate their relationship. And I don’t think the ‘attractive or intelligent’ argument holds water. Penny is not too bright but an attractive struggling actress who is very materialistic. She has however become aware of this and makes effort to escape the dumb blonde stereotype. Amy is very intelligent but frumpy, she is well aware of this and is also making efforts to escape the stereotype. Bernadette has found a balance between the two. I guess you haven’t seen Dr. Leslie Winkle or Dr. Stephanie Barnett or real geek girl Alice or Missy Cooper or Special Agent Paige though you have Priya. The show has shown several attractive, brilliant confident women. As for Howard’s creepy behavior? Yes it was, but Howard has turned 180 degrees in the past seasons and why? Because he met and fell in love with a beautiful intelligent, strong willed woman and she made him want to be a better man. I also take issue your claim that Penny’s demeaning of women she is personally or professionally threatened by is a sexist stereotype. Again, from my own experience, I’ve seen many women belittle others they feel threatened by. This behavior may not be the norm, but I just can’t in good conscience label it a sexist stereotype. So, I think that you may be a geek girl but I find it highly unlikely. Your determination to pick out only the negative aspects of this show based on a tiny sample lead me to believe you value feminism far more than geek-ism.

    • Eleanor Tan

      are you seriously trying to play the ‘fake geek girl’ card? ‘geek girl credentials’ jesus christ how embarassing. it says a lot about you, and about geek culture, when the first thing you do when you disagree with a woman is to justify dismissing any valid points she had made by questioning her ‘geek girl credentials’.

      also here’s some big news for you: you can be both a huge feminist and a huge geek. believe it or not, it’s not one or the other. being a geek and enjoying geek culture doesn’t mean that you can’t criticise or dislike some aspects of it.

      • Mark McClenny

        Um, no, if you had actually read my post you’d see that I stated only that I had my doubts she is a geek girl. I never flat out accused her of being a poser. And why would I be embarassed even if I had flatly stated it? Why would I feel remorse for doubting the author simply because she told me I might not believe her claims? The author never gives a single bit of evidence that she is in fact a geek other than self proclaiming it. She claims the comic book store scene is unrealistic. If she’d spent any time in one she would know that women coming into comic stores was an unusual occurrence and customers did tend to stare. I also never claimed it was because she didn’t know every facet of the show. I claimed that she was making assumptions about characters on the show based on seeing only 4 or 5 episodes. I didn’t just dismiss any of her points. I explained why I thought they weren’t valid. And you surely can criticize and dislike some aspect of geek culture. I despise the Star Trek reboots for example. But I didn’t watch 15 minutes of each and decide I knew everything that was wrong with them either. So, to sum up, The author may well be a geek girl, it is hard to tell without meeting her in person and talking to her for awhile. Based on her opinions here, I have doubts that she is however. I also think her analysis of the Big Bang theory is flawed due to viewing only a tiny sample of it. Particularly her instant judgement on all the characters.

        • Eleanor Tan

          Why would she even have to give evidence? Why does she have to prove to you that she IS a geek girl? Hey, I just read an opinion piece about cats on Catster, written by a self-proclaimed cat expert and cat owner, do you think I should go ask them for proof of their credentials? There are thousands of articles out there written by self-proclaimed male geeks, and no one’s asking them for proof. No one’s doubting that they’re ‘geek guys’ based on their opinions (unless they’re getting things factually wrong, I suppose, but the writer of this article hasn’t). It’s dumb and sexist.

          The level of condescension in your reply is astounding. If she ‘spent any time’ in a comic book store? Seriously? I frequent two comic book stores in my city and there are always MANY women there. In fact, my first visit to one of the stores was with a large group of girls, 12 of us in fact, who were also huge geeks and regulars at the store (and this store is run by a woman, btw). And no, no one stares at women at these stores like we’re some kind of circus attraction. So maybe YOUR local comic book store is full of neckbeards who’ve forgotten what real-life women look like, but don’t speak as if it’s the absolute truth that women are a rarity in comic book stores because that’s just ridiculous and false.

          Obviously, you’re entitled to feel whatever you want about this article and about BBT, but I’ve watched about 5 seasons of the show, and started out as a huge fan, and I agree with her points entirely. But then again, I might be a ‘fake geek girl’ who doesn’t actually know what she’s talking about.

          • nnguy2

            Eleanor Tan you are very hostile.

            When debating any issue, there is implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. It’s the fundamental concept of argument! I follow the “Trust but verify” philosophy and it has served me well.

            You do realize your personal sample size of one doesn’t make it the norm? “Well it’s always happened to me SOOOO it must be true”. Have you ever thought that your example is the exception that proves the rule?

          • Spam

            Well, we know one thing for sure: nnguy2 isn’t a debate geek. And is a comedian himself.

            > Eleanor Tan you are very hostile.

            Irrelevant and, hilariously, a classic derailing technique.

            > When debating any issue, there is implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim.

            Incorrect and, hilariously, the basis of several logical fallacies.

            > Have you ever thought that your example is the exception that proves the rule?

            There is no such thing. Which makes your previously attempted erudite tone vis a vis sample size highly suspect. Delightfully ironic.

          • TheRioter

            I love you Eleanor. <3
            Feminist geek girls unite.

        • TheRioter

          Why does she need to value “geekism” over feminism? What kind of fucked statement is that?! Do you seriously think that feminist geek MEN do not exist? Why does feeling that TBBT is sexist make her not geeky, anyway? It really isn’t too much to ask to be accurately represented. >:/

    • Nick

      So to sum up, you are doing the very thing the article brings up and accusing her of being a fake geek girl because she doesn’t know every facet of the show. Wow.

    • Ana

      Wow, I didn’t know you HAD to be a gamer to be considered a geek (replying to your FLGS comment). I consider myself a geek, have been called so many times and said to be hanging out with other geeky people but I was never really into gaming. It’s not that I dislike playing video games, I enjoy it (I don’t like RPG though – even though I love the fantasy genre), but it’s not something that creates a long term passion in me. I can pass several months without playing and feel just fine.

      It’s not because what you dig is not as popular for women (maybe because it’s too overly marketed at guys) that we, women geeks, are not there. I have been in geeky fandoms that were predominantly female and where when a guy replied, it was like “wow, a guy!” because it was so rare. I think that girls interested in anime and manga are not uncommon at all so maybe if you want to see geeky girls, you should go check there.

      • Mark McClenny

        Ah, no, to clear that up a little, my FLGS is also the town’s biggest comic store. One stop shop for manga, anime, comics, games, graphic novels and tabletop games.

        • wishitwasfriday

          How is she supposed to know about your FLGS? Way to assume everyone’s experience is the same as yours.

    • Spam

      “As a man, I am qualified to tell women what their experiences are.”

      - Sexist man

      “All geeks have the same experiences as me.”

      - Privileged man

      “The default geek experience is defined by men.”

      - Sexist, privileged man

      I’ve been a female geek probably since I was diapers, and I don’t and never have regularly hung around comic book stores, game stores, or conventions. Why? Well, first and foremost, I had no money. Second, I’m not a comic book or gaming geek. Third, I don’t like public places.

  • librtee_dot_com

    I’ve never heard of it…

  • pizzainacup

    Really? This is what you’re focused about. A petty tv show that no one is forcing you to watch. If people like it then let them watch. How about you be an actual feminist and focus on something that matters like genital cutting or voting rights instead of this bullshit?

    • Mandy

      How about you realize that the media we are surrounded with and watch every day effects us? Everything from tv shows, movie, magazines, advertisments, billboards effects us. It’s EVERYWHERE these days. Critiquing it, discussing the good and the bad, is a part of feminsm. Feminst can focus on critiquing problematic media they watch AND focus on matters like voting rights and genital cutting.

  • larry longmore

    The creator of the show has a history of some of the worst sexism on TV so its not exactly surprising. It would be polite to assume that he is just going for the obvious cheap jokes playing to stereotype in a fish out of water scenario. But that hardly makes it OK.

    Early on I felt like they actually saw to it that the Howard character was humiliated and exposed as a creep but since the introduction of his girlfriend, now wife, that has gotten less play. I initially was sucked in by the Lenard character as I feel some companionship with a geek who understands he is socially inept and tries to overcome that.

  • shoshana

    As a feminist who enjoys comics and “nerdy” things, I’ve got to say that I love the Big Bang Theory. I enjoy Amy’s sexual agency, Penny’s real world skills and bravery, (can’t believe the article didn’t mention the portrayal of Penny as the protector of Sheldon and Leonard) and Bernadette’s deviousness. I find the jokes funny, and I learn new things when I watch it. Of course, sense of humor is very particular to each person, but I just thought I’d kick in that someone on this thread thinks it’s pee your pants funny.

    Also, when I walk into comic book stores/card shops, I get stared at to the point where it makes me uncomfortable and I have to leave. Can we talk about changing the inherently male oriented world of geekdom instead of bashing a show that, in my book, has some pretty nuanced and and decent portrayals of women?

    • jmort253

      For the comic book problem, would it help to create a Meetup group where 10 or so women get together and all go to the comic book store as a group?

      Part of the problem is desensitization. If people get used to seeing more women in places where it appears unexpected to see women, this could have an impact on perception.

      There’s power in groups, and the Internet helps like-minded people connect, so maybe this is a way to take advantage via making an impact in numbers. Hope this helps! :)


    • Jon

      As one of the guys who would probably stare at you … I apologize. I don’t know if what I’m thinking is applicable for all guys but I stare not only because you’re probably pretty but also because just the fact that you’re in a comic book store increases your desirability points by a lot in my book. I know this comment seems like a dumb one to make because it’s so … sexist? cliche? whatever … in any case it’s true. And chances are it might seem like I’m just staring but in reality I’m imagining of ways I could pick up the courage to talk to you ;)

    • kyle

      Maybe they wouldn’t stare if you frequented more regularly. Get over yourself.

      • kyletheass

        Kyle, shut the **** up. Seriously.

        • kyle

          What’s your name? Are you too bitch boi to use your name?

  • tobiaspunk

    Oh great another feminist on a fucking rant. It’s a sitcom not a documentary, if you don’t like it then don’t watch it. You go girl!

    • TheRioter

      If you have an issue with a “feminist on a rant” then why the fuck are you on a feminist space to bitch? Don’t read her article, then. You go, misogynistic man!

  • Andre4000

    What a pathetic-sounding show; glad I never watched it.

  • Charles Herold

    I really enjoy BBT, but I think you make a tremendous number of good points here. It’s a shame we don’t have a network sitcom as geek-girl friendly as The Guild.

    But I do want to disagree with your take on Howard. I feel at his most sexist he was very clearly shown in the show to be a creep whose behavior made him a pariah with women.

    I would also say that Bernadette has been established as intelligent, and is cute, but she is less of a geek than the guys.

    Lastly, I’d also like to point out a different way to look at Penny’s intelligence. If you accept Howard Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences, then she is the smartest person on the show in terms of interpersonal relationships, and is only dumb in terms of logical-mathematical. Of course, for many people, and most especially geeks, logical-mathematical intelligence *is* intelligence. And by that criteria you really can’t argue that Penny isn’t dumb. But within the show itself certainly Penny is shown as the one person who really understands how interpersonal relationships work (and thus has the most “real world” intelligence), and much of the humor revolves around the incredible stupidity of the geekier characters is this arena.

  • Jess

    This is a very good show with many followers, if you are not a fan of the show then why spread the hate? just because you don’t like it does not mean that nobody should like it. since you dont like the show then just dont watch it, there is no need to insult the talented people who work very hard on it.

  • Ris

    I watched the first season. Got into the second season and it all went downhill. Penny’s “dumb blonde” moments are horrible.

    The characters nerdy qualities are the BUTT of the joke. It’s all bad jokes about smart people. Really bad jokes.

    (and for people saying “it’s just a show”… yeah, it’s a show. people watch the show. they take in what’s being said on the show. socialization through media perception isn’t new).

  • Llama

    I find it interesting how, while we’ve noticed the same flags, we see them differently. From my perspective, scenes like the one in the comic book shop laugh at how socially isolated the male regulars are rather than make negative jibes at the girls. What’s more, Penny is often portrayed as the smartest one of the group, she’s just knowledgable about things other than TV shows or films. She’s the one who has to explain basic social rules to Sheldon or Leonard or Amy, who has to literally point and explain things that a child would find obvious. That she blanks out when someone rattles out a long and complicated science term does not mean she’s thick, it means she has no knowledge in that particular field. That you seem to find this equal to her being stupid is, in my opinion, much more insulting than any obviously sexist joke the show has ever made – you really don’t need to be a geek to be smart. Also, I’ve not noticed Bernadette ever playing down her intelligence, she just doesn’t make a show of it like the men do – which, coincidentally, is what many women are like in real life. We often don’t feel the need to blow our own trumpets, we just get along with whatever it is that we’re doing, which often leads to us not doing as well as men in the workplace. But that is another problem altogether.

  • anon

    it’s a friggen sitcom; they’re made to get laughs from crude humor and stereotypes. it’s not that big of a deal. you don’t find it funny? don’t watch it then.

  • Leslie

    I don’t think this is a
    fair criticism. The show is funny precisely because it is a caricature,
    and would be a lot less comedic were it to become an accurate
    documentary of nerd culture. Additionally, I believe it is true that
    females are less *likely* to be interested in comics and video games in
    the way guys are. This isn’t a statement on the female psyche, but
    rather the way they are marketed. The best example would be of course
    female armor in fantasy games. In this regard, males are equally
    “reduced to sex-seekers” in the show, particularly in the case of
    Howard. Sadly, this is also very common with male nerds in real life,
    which is most likely why they retreat to fantasy girls with melon sized
    boobies and non-functional armor in the first place.

  • GT Patterson

    Thank you!

  • Liselotte

    It’s the Hipster problem. Years ago got bullied, when you wear these fat rimmed glasses, but now you are so cool and edgy and indepedent.
    The same problem with this show. I’m german, in love with batman and video games since i was a kid, but i’m watching it. But now this show is sooooo cool and it is cool to play Mario and to name your pet Link or Zelda or what ever. But that’s okay.
    The point is, it is awful, that girls, like me, get the mark: “oh you like DCComics, just because of Sheldon Cooper blabla.” And if we start to argue, nobody is listening to us, because we are jut like the other “Geek-Girls” in the room, who wants to be so damn cool in front of the boys.

  • Phil Johnson

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike the show. This being one of the more prominent ones. It’s got lazy sitcom writing all over that just does nothing for me.

  • Lindsey Weedston

    I would also point out that Priya, the one sexy and intelligent and ambitious character, is portrayed as a controlling “bitch” type character who ultimately cheats on Leonard, reinforcing the apparent fear that drives the fake geek girl myth – intelligent and attractive women are out to take advantage of men and will toss them aside when they’re no longer convenient.

    • TheRioter

      Ah, you beat me too it. I was going to mention that. I hate that so much I can’t even put it into words.

  • Katie Carroll

    its not TBBT’s job to try and represent ALL geeks; boys and girls alike. they have taken the stereotyped route and made it theirs. if people are learning “geek culture” through this show, then that it on them. this is just a specific experience that is not necessarily true across the board.

    glee decided early on that it was “its job” to educate people in how to deal with real life situations like being gay, or school shootings, dealing with suicide, etc. and because they had so many fingers in different pots trying to cover all their bases, the show really lost a lot of the unique quality and humour that made the show initially great. but TBBT decided to stick the stereotype “boys are nerd, girls are clueless and just like sex”, and its working for them. is it accurate to geek culture in every way absolutely not. is it even mostly accurate? NO! but thats ok, because its a TV show and is for entertainment not education or accurate representation of a group of people.

  • Spam

    I couldn’t stand it from the first season. It’s a normal sitcom with all the tired old sitcom jokes and stereotypes dressed up in geek clothes. And, yes, it’s sexist as hell.

    Is there some humor still to be wrung from some of these generalizations? Sure, maybe. But not when you haven’t examined them and they comprise 100% of your material.

  • Kait

    It always amazes me that the writers of this show use the most intelligent-sounding words they can think of to make astoundingly lowbrow jokes.

  • Sarah Harding-Roberts

    I never get stared at in any of the comic shops in my city; there are three. One is a big chain (Forbidden Planet) which is probably the most popular, where the staff are cool and the people in there are too. The other is a friend’s shop and the third is an acquaintance’s store.
    I don’t feel uncomfortable in any of them, because why should I? Besides, nobody stares anyway because perhaps the men (and women) who are there aren’t as narrow minded as this terrible show likes to make out?

    Or maybe it’s different in the UK.

  • GT Patterson

    Where did you get the impression that I was a man? Also, it’s not racist to assume that English isn’t someone’s first language, or even that they might have a learning disability. That is the opposite of racist (or ablist.) You’re the one pretending to be a woman and going out and being an asshole on message boards so…Ya…(FYI, following someone to another message board to make an angry accusatory comment is stupid and assholish behavior.)

  • GT Patterson

    Why would I talk about my identity or private life online when super ignorant and angry people can follow me around on message board systems? And don’t pretend you understand or know what racism or ablism is, plz. Your simultaneous hatred for women + pretensions at social consciousness/justice are creepy. If you’re going to continue to pretend to be a woman (MRA BOT – I AM CALLING YOUR SHIT OUT, AGAIN) then comment on more than 2 articles and say something aside from woman-hating, bitter drivel. Peace out, stalker.

    *I’m also actually foreign and multilingual. Your bullshit is racist and gross, hopefully you only say this shit anonymously (or in the company of other racists.)

  • originalteabag

    It’s just a tv show, there’s no underlying message about girls not being avid comic book readers and all that, it’s JUST a tv show. stop reading too much into it and get over it.

  • Quark

    I still adore Leslie as a TBBT character. She was intelligent, wasn’t simply used as a romantic partner for a character (she was an arch nemesis to Sheldon, and instead of being a sexual tool for the male characters, she used them as sexual tools to further her own enjoyment, as capitalized on the fact when she informed Leonard, “Well, the only difference between us and the rat is that you can’t stick an electrode in our hypothalamus. That’s where you come in” regarding her use of him for sexual relations.

    Now I won’t deny that Ms. Winkle uses childish name calling, but she is intelligent in her own right, and will always be my favourite character from the show.
    Read more tv spoilers at:

  • Sara

    YES! I really hate what they did to the Amy character

  • Bob

    Yawn, yea this would be an issue if they men weren’t depicted as the (social) idiots, while the girls ( see what I did there) are much better balanced except for some cattiness which only a fool would blame on the men.

  • Phlox

    Duh. You know, anything can be seen as sexist when you look hard enough. Whether it’s a show or a real-life situation.
    When there is a strong, independent, intelligent female character who is attractive , youcall it sexist because, obviously, it is demeaning because the writer thinks this character needs to be pretty in addition to her other qualities to be interesting to the audience.
    When there is a strong, independent, intelligent female character who is NOT attractive, it is demeaning because, obviously, the writer seems to think that intelligent and pretty are mutually exclusive.

  • Suni Esseminuscola

    I feel like you think you’re the only sentient person who watched the show and understood “this is no good, kids, you can’t stalk women and no, not all blondes are like Penny.” I want to reassure you: you are not. We are not all dumb idiots who’ll watch TBBT and absorbe the contents like they were The Truth.
    I onestly think you miss the meaning of words like “comedy”, “ironic”, “narrative sterotypes” and “take it easy”. I’m a girl, I am blonde, I like comics, I’m sort of a geek, and I don’t feel like I’m victim of sexism in this context. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Also, I enjoyed TBBT a lot (especially the first seasons) for what it is: a funny show with no particular meaning and not excelling fot its intelligence or subtility. You know, entertainment.

  • Mya

    Yes, yes, a million times yes!

    As you mentioned, all of the characters on the show are problematic, but I guess we tend to have our personal least favorites.
    For me Howard’s creepy behavior doesn’t bother me nearly as much a Sheldon’s casual sexism. I think because with Howard they acknowledge that it’s creepy, although, even then the message tends to be that yeah, it’s creepy but that’s just how undersexed, geeky guys are going to act because they can’t help themselves because they have penises!

    This show definitely also portrays the ways that patriarchal culture is damaging to men as well, though they may not realize they’re doing so.

    With Sheldon, however, his sexist remarks tend to be passed off as ‘that’s not sexist, he’s insulting to everyone and he just doesn’t know better.’

    However, a character who constantly makes comments like “who made the greatest contribution to their field [sic] hint, Madame Curie had her husband to help her”, “you’re proving my dad’s point that women are like egg salad, full of eggs and desirable for a short time”, and “you’re becoming a hysterical woman [due to the influence of xenoestrogens in soy milk]” is just enraging.

    There’s plenty of computer chair psychologists who are willing to rush to his defense and say that people of high IQs are usually socially awkward (I’m a PhD student, I know plenty of people with high IQs. Yes, some are socially awkward, but none act like Sheldon Cooper), and/or that he’s on the autism spectrum, which there might be a case for, but even so…NO!

    1. ASDs do not inevitably make one sexist.

    2. The argument “he can’t help it” doesn’t fly because he isn’t a real person, he’s a character. He’s not that way because he’s intellectually disabled and doesn’t know any better blah, blah, blah, kiss my ass…he’s that way because he’s portrayed that way by writers and producers who perpetuate misogyny under the excuse of ‘it’s comedy.’

  • Yep.

    What you’re failing to realize is that the “creepy predator” characters aren’t being lauded for their actions; they are consistently mocked and portrayed as undesirable, and it is for this reason they can’t even attract the females they desire throughout the series. Their actions are vilified and exaggerated to highlight the their disgusting nature and are in no way condoned.

    Every character (with the seeming exception of Sheldon), male or female, desires a sexual relationship at some point in the series and the humour is in watching them try to figure out how to obtain one with the desired partner. Would you rather that all of the women were completely chaste? That none of the men had sex drives? That every character knew exactly how to go about respectfully and successfully attracting a mate, instead of showing how some characters are completely clueless and accurately proving how they fail in their attempts?

    You accuse the writers of slut-shaming when it comes to female sexuality, but more conservative types feel that the characters are a glorification of casual sexuality. I think it is far more apparent that the completely natural way the female sex drive is dealt with is an example of feminine empowerment and recognition as a sexual being; after all, Penny, who has had multiple sexual partners, is continually represented as the most “normal” and desirable character on the show, and her sexuality doesn’t hurt her image whatsoever.

    But beyond that, you don’t offer any solutions to the imagined problem you’ve illustrated here, and that bothers me.

    Coming from a woman who happens to have been an ugly kid, a significantly more attractive grown-up, a closet geek in her youth, an outed geek in her adulthood, and a few personality crises along the way trying to figure out where she fit into the spectrum…I have been every type of woman written on this show in some fashion or another, and I have dated most of the male characters portrayed as well.

    You will never be happy if you constantly go into entertainment media with your radar set to ultra-sensitive. You fail to mention how the writers could have made the characters more to your liking, which is especially illustrated in your accidentally making the point that every woman on the show is diverse and different.

    Penny: the naive, attractive blonde with heart; girl next door, former high-school cheerleader who is learning she can’t just get by in the world on looks anymore

    Bernadette: the quirky, super-smart scientist whose intellect and accomplishments are lauded AND who also gets to be sexy and silly and slightly off-the-wall

    Amy: the awkward, frumpy, high-IQ brunette whose circumstances have left her socially bereft and curious about the “other life” and what it’s like to be popular

    Priya: the smart, sexy, driven “straight girl” of the series who is allowed both intelligence and attractiveness

    Leslie: the intelligent smartass who cares little for popular social conventions and who is more concerned with pragmatism than the dating game

    Alice: hot, blatantly nerdy girl in the comic shop who is shown to be socially aware, funny, and talented

    Will you give me an example of females you’d rather see portrayed on this show? Because I think the writers of BBT are doing a pretty damn good job. I can relate to every single on of them, and a good portion of the men as well.

  • MaeganB

    I feel like we’re not all watching the same show.

    While the stereotypes are absolutely in place…it’s very obvious to me that often the “smart” people on the show totally and completely miss the common sense aspect of many of their problems…leaving the dumb blonde to fix things.

    Penny has outsmarted the boys on several occasions or fixed a problem they couldn’t find an answer to. (Just one example – when Raj is going to be deported for not working, Penny is the only one to make the suggestion that he find another job…everyone else gave suggestions that were implausible.)

    Amy’s frumpy nature may come off as unatractive, but we have seen her get gussied up & show that with brains, she can also be physically attractive.

    Bernadette is cute & smart – she does often downplay her genius, but it’s also possible this is simply to fit in. It’s usually around the males that she is less smart – but with the other women, she is given a chance to show her mind.

    Definitely a lot of sexism in roles & stereotypes…but also some pretty interesting encounters that let you know those ladies have brains.

  • Yanina Ayala-Herrera

    And articles like this are the the reason why this geek girl is tired of other geek girls trying to tell her that she shouldn’t like this show.

    It is interesing though that a large chunk of the criticism is based on the episode about the girls going to the comic book, and about Penny focusing on Thor’s hotness, but ignoring that 1) Stuart also said that Thor is hot, and most importantly, that they spent the rest of the episode arguing about the difference between THor’s hammer and Harry Potter’s wand, and later arguing about the Hulk and whether he was worthy or not to carry Mjolnir.

    I also don’t think that the fact that the character of Penny doesn’t have a last name sexist. It is an in-joke of the show and has been established that they are never going to reveal it, and it has nothing to do with the show being sexist or not. It’s a nod to Cosmo Kramer’s character, which on Seinfeld didn’t get a first name until the mid-end of the show.

    And yes, Howard’s character has been extremely creepy but that is the point. They had a whole episode on S5 on how he changed and talked to Bernadette about it before they were married. How he understood that such beahaviour was wrong and how he realized that that wasn’t the way to be.

    I won’t even get into other stuff in this article like the claim that the “dead whore on TV, live one in real life.” means that that girl was judged on her sexual like, while Penny said that because Alicia was playing a hooker who gets killed in NCIS. THAT being the reason for that line and not the implication that the author makes it to be, and I could go around for hours proving how Penny is NOT the “dumb” foil for Sheldon and Leonard and how Amy is not a sex-starved frumpy girl, and how the writer of the article ignores the character of Bernadette, who is nerdy-intelligent, extremely attractive and makes much more money than the male characters. But I won’t because this has turned too long.

    I do like that they writer recognized that she didn’t watch all the episodes. It makes sense, because that is totally the wrong reading of the show, from the standpoint of someone who already went in pre-programmed to think it is a sexist show from the get-go.

  • ash429

    I watch the show but I admit that it has a lot of issues that, at times, make me cringe. I only need one episode to provide you with examples of some major ones that occur in many episodes (or similar variations of them) and that I find especially bad. It’s the S2 Christmas episode, described below:
    -The episode in which a conventionally good looking male physicist visits the University (David Underhill), and Penny meets him and doesn’t believe he’s a physicist because of the way he looks, implying one of two things, both problematic: 1) that good looking guys aren’t smart enough to be physicists or 2) that good looking guys don’t go into “nerdy” fields like science. Or both. All three are wrong.
    This is by far not the only problematic thing about the episode.
    Then Penny proceeds to get involved with David Underhill, and we see “nice guy syndrome” with Leonard (one of many episodes in which we see this…for those who don’t know what this is, it’s when a guy bitches about a woman ignoring him despite the fact that he’s a “nice guy”, and acts like she owes him a relationship & if she doesn’t get involved with him she’s a heartless chick who only likes jerks and ignores the poor “nice guys” of the world like him.). Leonard reacts badly to her getting with this guy, and it’s not just jealousy that he keeps to himself, which is understandable and I would be fine with…no, he actually goes over to Penny’s apartment and yells at her about how she said she broke it off with him because he was too smart for her but David Underhill is way smarter than him….he implies she’s shallow because she’s only into David b/c he’s good looking,and what’s worse is that we are supposed to feel sorry for Leonard here and see Penny as the bitch who won’t give poor nice guy Leonard the time of day b/c he’s not good looking. But why does Penny owe him an explanation? Why is she NOT allowed to not be physically attracted to Leonard? This show portrays the situation in a way that perpetuates “nice guy syndrome” and makes Leonard the victim of Penny refusing to see the nice guy and only date jerks. But why does Penny owe Leonard a relationship b/c he’s a “nice guy”? This show implies she does, that her being just friends with him is somehow a failure on her part.
    We also have a scene in a bath and body works type store, in which we see Howard and his usual dose of sexism…he refers to gifts of lotions, bath salts, etc. as the “estrogen hat trick.” It’s not Howard’s creepiness that bothers me, because I agree with the others that say the show is portraying it as creepy. No, what bothers me is the sexism and sometimes racism Howard displays….and this is not something that goes away as time goes on, unlike the creep factor. And yes, I get that this is part of the joke of his character and the fact that he’s the only son of a Jewish mother, but it’s still gross and overused and constant, nonetheless, and the sexism isn’t called out by his friends, it’s accepted.

  • Garrett Gregor-Splaver

    I lost interest in the show a while back, although… I’m not sure how the fact that the main feminine character is stupid somehow makes it more scary to embrace geek culture as a woman. In fact, one would think it would do the exact opposite, so as to show that it is indeed wrong, and sexist.

    Just because something is wrong, and liked on T.V., doesn’t mean it needs to be that way in real life. The problem is people thinking they can’t beat stereotypical odds, and hence never trying. If enough people stopped using them as an excuse to be honest and open with themselves, plenty more than already have would be permanently banished.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Not Sure

    The show is funny. Comedy offends people: get over it.

  • suffragette

    Why do people bother themselves with this? Its a TV programme… Just switch over or turn the TV off if you dont like the message you perceive just like you dont have to criticise the teachings of other religions? Wasted such valuable time

  • unclesamonmars

    It’s television. Did you expect Shakespeare? Life is full of effed up things. If you let yourself become obsessed with the effed up things in a television program, you are going to have a long, tortured life.I’m almost 57. Trust me when I tell you there is not a single television program worth this much of your time. Use your time to enjoy the company of your friends or rescuing animals.Sexist behavior existed long before this show and your intellect is better spent on something that matters.A show with realistic views won’t change the world nor will the silliness in this show sustain it.

  • ruis2002

    The author fails to note that the characters’ mothers are also portrayed extremely negatively, and in terms of only the worst negative female stereotypes. I don’t know whose mom gets the worst treatment – Sheldon’s, Howard’s or Leonard’s – but I think Raj’s mother as a mere talking head on his Skype account is probably the least offensive, but still not positive.

  • Bird Of Prey

    Well…I’m a girl, a scientist, I read comic books and at 27 still spend my weekends watching superhero cartoons and Star Trek. I like the Big Bang Theory. I think it has opened up a lot of these things to the rest of the world and cultivated a little more understanding and tolerance.

    No one is perfect, and I think you’ll find this has a lot to do with why the characters have their flaws. You seem to have focused a lot on feminism/sexism issues…but I think really it’s the guys that are being made fun of because of their own inadequacies and lack of sexual confidence. It seems to me that feminists look for issues at every turn, regardless of what they’re looking at.

    To me, the bigger issue has always been that Penny is treated like a sexy hero by many of the fans who watch the show, despite the fact that she continually belittles, mocks, and manipulates the other characters for their interests, tastes, and intellect. In Leonard’s case, she uses sex as a manipulative power by making him choose between her and himself. To me, she seems to be quite empowered. She also is a perfect representation a much bigger problem in today’s society – bullying of intelligent, different people by the social elite.

    I think if you are honestly trying to say that there isn’t a huge amount of realistic portrayal of how things are in the real world, you’re not looking with open eyes. Every time I walk into a comic book store, I get stared at…because like it or not, traditionally speaking this is a past time that has typically attracted more guys than girls. No one is saying that’s wrong or that women don’t partake in this activity, but even now…more guys do it. Deal with it. Lots of chick use sex to manipulate men…deal with it. Lots of intelligent chicks are a bit eccentric and tend not to dress in the conventionally attractive (…well, I’d call it skanky) style,…deal with it. And yes, even nerdy guys tend to look at such women and turn up their nose for the pretty, dumb blonde in hot pants…deal with it, we sure do.

    It’s not ideal, sure, and maybe you shouldn’t have to deal with these things. But I think you’re blaming the wrong source and taking something light hearted way too seriously. From a scientists perspective, I am glad that a mainstream television show has entered prime time and re-ignited an interest in the sciences…not just in men, but in a lot of girls too. To me, that makes any other flaw that frankly only noticed and begrudged by uptight feminists, forgivable.

  • ElizabethGStone

    The upcoming episode will OF COURSE have only the guys going to Comic-Con while the girls have a more “grownup” afternoon. Typical stereotypes.

  • Nerdybteam

    If I had my way, I’d change the couples. I’d keep Amy on the side as the girl who is a friend but not a girlfriend because her relationship with Sheldon, while amusing at times, is ultimately doomed. Bernadette can do better than a small man-child who obviously needs his mama’s teat more than he needs a healthy and functioning marriage. Raj was at his best when he dated Lucy because he showed a sweet and sensitive side. Leonard should be alone to work on his extremely horrifying mother issues (and that’s saying a lot given he’s friends with Wolowitz), while Penny deserves a good guy who cares about her. Sheldon is happiest by himself immersed in his work – much like another celebrated neurotic brainiac – and should find new friends (though he should keep Amy and Penny around). I still am angry with how Leonard, Raj, and Howard never received the comeuppance they deserved after screwing with his work in the Artic. He gets his life’s work crapped on while Leonard gets the hot blond next door. How’s that fair or sane in any world?

    This show is funny – especially in earlier seasons – but it changed for the worse when the writers mistook sex for love and tried to sell us on the couples we’re presented with each week. Of all the relationships, the only one that has solid core is the one between Penny and Sheldon. They’re always truthful with one another, fight cleanly (meaning, keeping comments above the belt) and support one another in crises and in peace. Though it was played for laughs, the ep when Penny told Sheldon she loved him and he responded in kind, was meaningful (it stands to reason Penny is still the first person outside of his family he’s hugged and to date the only one he’s actually professed clear-cut feelings for). She tries to understand him and he supports her both financially and emotionally to the best extent he can. That’s one relationship that isn’t tainted by everything else – she doesn’t exist for him to use as a sexual aide and self-esteem validation, while he actually listens to her and tries to counsel her on how to improve her life (I was so so angry when Penny’s passion in life was her friends and boyfriend while Leonard’s was work and hobbies).

    I still watch it, though not with the same love and excitement, but more nostalgia for what was and could’ve been.

  • Gil G

    I’m hoping upon hoping the TBBT is holding a mirror to real-life geek guys and informing them that this is their attitude and how they view woman in a way that real-life geeks might engage in positive change. After all, geek culture is has always had the same basic sexist views that TBBT has (and wonder why women don’t like geeks).

  • TaimaChan

    Errm, as a nerdy girl who cosplays, games, reads and attends conventions more than my computer geek boyfriend can take sometimes… We love the show. It’s funny because it literate these caricatures that have a basis in reality but are so caricatured you see the point they are trying to make. We joke that we are Leonard and Penny (we watched the episode where they slept together for the first time right after we did, watching that moment where they were discussing whether it was awkward or not in bed… Whilst we were in bed pondering the same. I was the hot pinup girl of the Internet forum we met on and he was the shy virgin) are fictionalised versions of Us, despite me having an IQ of 142

    There are plenty of shallow predatory blonde women out there but if YOU can look past the stereotype Penny redeems herself as genuinely thoughtful and caring where it matters. She makes the effort to understand Leonard’s passions to the point she becomes addicted to an MMORPG. Also, importantly, viewers learn to become comfortable wirh the fact the blonde bombshell likes to scratch her butt, walk around with her hair tied up or in sweatpants, she likes her food, is not afraid to speak up for herself but does, humanly, have some insecurities as even the most attractive women do, and shares these with Leonard who tries hard to be supportive of her. What I like about them is it shows that yes the Nice Guy Geek can ‘get’ the girl, but simply through being genuine, not through the creepiness and manipulative behaviour of Howard. Yes, he does get married, but Bernadette DOES NOT stand for anyone’s bullshit. Despite being depicted as a little bit psycho she is ultimately sweet, and the sensible one. Sheldon’s sexist attitude towards his assistant and female colleagues is regularly highlighted. Alex is exceptionally attractive but also highly intelligent. Amy is not conventionally attractive but rather than being reprimanded for being starved of sex, Sheldon is criticised for not giving it to her. Amy challenges viewers to treat her as a complete human being without her sex appeal or lack thereof blinding them. Bernadette is also blonde, attractive, but stands alone on her own merit and points out the faults in Howard encouraging to be a better man. Raj often highlights how ridiculous racist stereotypes can be, and although he has to be intoxicated to talk to women, he only looks ridiculous trying to use ‘macho’ pickup lines and is generally best recieved being his sweet self and after meeting an equally insecure but cute girl he begins to realise that women are not scary and emboldens himself through speaking to and encouraging her (sober). He realises how unfounded his anxieties are by relieving her ones. The sexism in the comic book store is an unfortunate reflection of real life, but do exaggerated I hope people see how silly it is. Women seem to seen as sex objects or treated with contempt (for not being the sex object designated to the man who feels like he deserves her, or a girl upset him this one time in high school)

    Trust me I HATE misogyny and how acceptable people think it is. But what worries me more is the covert or subtle, deep-rooted woman-hatred. BBT’s humor relies upon contexual jokes, set up over a long period of time or full episode that encourage the viewer to pick up on details and see where they are going with a particular message or theme. Most of it is just a running joke. So I hope people will understand why that racist or sexist joke was so uncomfortably funny, because we realise from the context set up, and general caricatured nature of the show just how stupid the persistent bigoted beliefs we hold are.

    At least that’s what I pick up from it. I have Aspergers Syndrome, young (21) black, female and part of geek culture, so particularly set up to be marginalised in just about every aspect of society. I spend all my time ttrying to understand why people act the way they do, the impact in media, the normalisation of things things like sexism and racism in culture, even how the color and shape of things exploit or are shaped by human psychology (semiotic theory in design) I tend to over analyse everything, and usually the first person to yell MISOGYNY! But on this one I think the overall message is the mythology surrounding geek culture and women are silly, and BBT facilitates an acceptance of geek culture, even if the cast are all subjected to ridicule at one time or another.

  • Natalie24

    The comments on the female characters in the show are kind of true. But the male characters seem to be getting more critisism than they should. Firstly it is suppose to be a known fact that most men are very sex orientated, so I don’t think geeky guys should be excluded from that (Sheldon obviously doesn’t count). The Howard character is pretty downright creepy and gross, but he isn’t suppose to be so much funny in a typical way, it’s more of a cringy tongue in cheek humour. But I agree the episode where he and Raj were stalking the Americas next top models was just downright creepy and not funny. Just as the stupidity of Howard using the Mars Rover to impress a woman and crashing it, wasn’t funny (just pathetic and stupid). The four nerdy characters are given a sense of being fun and endearing despite their flaws. And that there is more to them than the premise of them being geeks. Leonard in particular is shown to be more repesctful, loyal and understanding than most guys would be.
    The part in the article about Penny’s comment about Thor, is pretty pathetic- to me. But alot of woman are very sleazy and looks obsessed that way. I would much rather a character in a comic have a great personality, etc, than a great body, but you only have to watch shows with woman, whether it’s a sitcom or a reality show, to know that woman can be almost as sleazy as men. Also the way Penny gets of on Leonard following her around like a puppy dog, and stringing him along and having very little respect for him, means that I loose a lot of respect for her, as I find this shameful.
    The fact about the change in Amy is something I have always pondered as well. The whole idea was that she was the “female version of Sheldon” and they were distinctly matched for each other. But now she’s obsessed with sex and men. In some ways some of the changes the writers have made to Amy, make her less like a second rate female version of Sheldon and more of her own person, but in other ways like I mentioned before it just diminishes the character and dumbs her down in a way. Bernadette is one of my least favourite charaters and one of the most boring, in my opinion. She has grew on me over the seasons and lost some of her annoying personality traits. She does’t act as dumb as she used to, despite apparently being very intelligent. But she has also become bossy and clingy.
    Sheldon for me is the most written well played and well written character, and to me the funniest. But the show as a whole to me is very well written and it’s use of “nerdy humour” is something that I appreciate. Although I do think there should find a way to boost the credibility of the female characters, although alot of the time when they try to incorporate the female character into a storyline with the male characters I just find it annoying, as if they are in the way. If they found a way for the woman to have a storyline of their own (that isn’t sitting drinking and gossiping that is) then that would make them into more forceful and respect worthy characters. The show may have it’s fault (as all shows do), but I still maintain that is one of the smartest and most originial shows on tv. The characters may be flawed (and they don’t pretend not to be), but the show does a good job of trying to give reasons for some of these flaws, in particular the episode where Howard has a meltdown because Penny insults him, he later talks about how he was treated in High School and it explains at least partly why he has cause to act the way he does. But then at the end of the episode the diminish this but having the character hit on Penny, as he feels that she might feel pity for him. It would have been so much nicer and given much more respect to the character if it had been left with him being sypathised for or with a hug between him and Penny. But despite these flaws the characters have good qualities to them as well and are smart and interesting characters, most of the time.

  • kyle

    You are a fake geek. It has nothing to do with gender, you are a fake geek if you claim to like star trek. I mean are you kidding me? 10 years ago nobody(outside of losers) liked star trek. Now it’s vogue. I mean, I’ll give you, the original series is a great show. But please, Give me a break, it isn’t that important to you, stop pretending to be a nerd to be cool.

  • Dale Harries

    I think it’s gotten better in recent seasons. If you compare older episodes some of the sexism was crazy and references as subtle as a brick to the face. They seemed to want to crow bar some reference to Physics into every scene. I’m not sure what’s so funny about understanding string theory thb.

    If you skip seasons 1 and 2, starting with 3 you should be able to skip the ‘Penny is a dumb blond’ bit. They also tone down all the references and only use them when actually funny which helps.

  • Kagura Chan

    I agree that the show is funny. But when you have people claiming to be a nerd (because that’s the fashionable thing to do these days…) and using TBBT as proof, that is utter rubbish!

  • Kate

    I miss the days of Leslie Winkle. Yes, she was only in the plot to sleep with Leonard, but she was brilliant, beautiful, had self-esteem, and was in full control of her sexuality.