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The show The Big Bang
Theory is based upon cultural and gender stereotypes in many ways and given the
sci-fi/fantasy genre a lot of these stereotypes are common. We live in a world
in which historically the men are the heroes and the women are helpless. All
four of the main characters have made clear that sex is often the main goal in
a relationship. The women of the show are constantly sexualized, which is an ongoing
issue in sci-fi and fantasy world. In the earlier seasons, Penny was portrayed
as the “helpless hot blonde” needing to be saved from her life by our intelligent
lead characters. For a long period of time her character consisted of just
being hot and academically inclined when compared to all the of scientists on
the show.  Viewers were annoyed by the
Penny character, a waitress/actress next door that the show treated as pretty
much a trophy to be earned and was supposed to be opposite of the smart guys insinuating
attractive people are typically dumb. Nonetheless at the end of season three,
things had changed; two female STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Math) characters joined the core cast. Neuroscientist
Amy Farrah Fowler played by real-life neuroscientist Mayim Bialik and
microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz played by Melissa Rauch.1 Amy comes closest to the common
sexist stereotype of female scientists, she is dressed unfashionably, blunt,
cold and masculine whereas, Bernadette’s character went in the opposite
direction, as the cute tiny blonde whose smarts are undercut by her squeaky
voice. Not being taken seriously for being girly is something that affects not
just STEM women’s credibility, but any woman in higher-paid professions. In more
recent seasons, the show was not just about the bonds between Leonard, Sheldon,
Raj and Howard, but about how the women interact with and support each other
outside their intimate relationships.
          The men in The Big Bang Theory
have master degrees while Penny is a community college dropout working as a
waitress then pharmaceutical rep. The difference in education allows her to fit
into the stereotypical dumb blonde next to smart men. Due to her lack of
intelligence Penny is unable to comprehend or engage in conversations the men
have reducing her to just an object to look at. When her character does
contribute to conversations they tend to be about partying, dating or sex thus
solidifying the ideology in media that women are intellectually subordinate to
men.  Penny is the epitome of the stereotype
that women can either be pretty or smart never both. The character is social
whereas the men are awkward, because of the stereotype she represents she is
usually seen wearing reveling outfits which highlight her femininity and adhere
to why her neighbors view her as a sexualized foreign object. Although the show
uses this stereotype as comic relief Penny’s character sends a harmful message
to society. The way her character is portrayed adds to how women are
objectified in the media. To have such a popular show have its main female
character this stereotypical shows the ideological scheme at play by the
creators and perpetuates an inaccurate view of women.
           Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler was
originally introduced at the end of the third season as a romantic interest for
Sheldon Cooper. The joke was that she was the female version of him. Despite
her unappealing traits, she had been successful in her field, and the character
has been allowed to explore her need for intimacy and sex without having to
give up her professional interests. It is clear Sheldon likes Amy for her intellect
mind, but he has a long way to go when it comes to accepting women as
intellectual equals; there are countless examples of him insulting Amy’s work,
or downplaying her accomplishments. While Sheldon treats his male colleagues almost
the same way, his view of her is flushed by sexism.  Although this is fiction, it is not uncommon
for the male-dominated “hard” sciences to insult the more gender-balanced
“soft” sciences in the real world.
     Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz
also started her role on the show as a romantic interest. Bernadette started
off as a grad student waitressing at the Cheesecake Factory on the side. She
does not meet the boring, unattractive female scientist stereotype that Amy
does, she must go out of her way to prove that she’s not dumb due to the fact
that she’s small and feminine.  Howard’s
status as a Jet Propulsion Lab engineer and future-astronaut gave him the power
in their relationship but then, Bernadette got her doctorate and a job at a
pharmaceutical company that pays very well. Bernadette’s degree and new job
marks a huge shift in the power dynamics: Howard only has a master’s degree and
he’s making far less money than Bernadette. Different fields in STEM can be
more profitable than others, but also millennial women can now expect to make
more money than their male partners. When Howard realizes Bernadette makes more
than him, Howard is initially upset which is an issue couples deal with in real
life.

                

1 Whitney, A. (2014, June 18). How
“The Big Bang Theory” Represents Women in Science. Retrieved December
12, 2017, from
https://www.bitchmedia.org/post/how-the-big-bang-theory-got-good-women-in-science-stem

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