The show The Big BangTheory is based upon cultural and gender stereotypes in many ways and given thesci-fi/fantasy genre a lot of these stereotypes are common. We live in a worldin which historically the men are the heroes and the women are helpless. Allfour of the main characters have made clear that sex is often the main goal ina relationship. The women of the show are constantly sexualized, which is an ongoingissue in sci-fi and fantasy world.
In the earlier seasons, Penny was portrayedas the “helpless hot blonde” needing to be saved from her life by our intelligentlead characters. For a long period of time her character consisted of justbeing hot and academically inclined when compared to all the of scientists onthe show. Viewers were annoyed by thePenny character, a waitress/actress next door that the show treated as prettymuch a trophy to be earned and was supposed to be opposite of the smart guys insinuatingattractive 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. NeuroscientistAmy Farrah Fowler played by real-life neuroscientist Mayim Bialik andmicrobiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz played by Melissa Rauch.1 Amy comes closest to the commonsexist stereotype of female scientists, she is dressed unfashionably, blunt,cold and masculine whereas, Bernadette’s character went in the oppositedirection, as the cute tiny blonde whose smarts are undercut by her squeakyvoice. Not being taken seriously for being girly is something that affects notjust STEM women’s credibility, but any woman in higher-paid professions.
In morerecent 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 otheroutside their intimate relationships. The men in The Big Bang Theoryhave master degrees while Penny is a community college dropout working as awaitress then pharmaceutical rep. The difference in education allows her to fitinto the stereotypical dumb blonde next to smart men. Due to her lack ofintelligence Penny is unable to comprehend or engage in conversations the menhave reducing her to just an object to look at.
When her character doescontribute to conversations they tend to be about partying, dating or sex thussolidifying the ideology in media that women are intellectually subordinate tomen. Penny is the epitome of the stereotypethat women can either be pretty or smart never both. The character is socialwhereas the men are awkward, because of the stereotype she represents she isusually seen wearing reveling outfits which highlight her femininity and adhereto why her neighbors view her as a sexualized foreign object. Although the showuses this stereotype as comic relief Penny’s character sends a harmful messageto society.
The way her character is portrayed adds to how women areobjectified in the media. To have such a popular show have its main femalecharacter this stereotypical shows the ideological scheme at play by thecreators and perpetuates an inaccurate view of women. Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler wasoriginally introduced at the end of the third season as a romantic interest forSheldon Cooper. The joke was that she was the female version of him. Despiteher unappealing traits, she had been successful in her field, and the characterhas been allowed to explore her need for intimacy and sex without having togive up her professional interests. It is clear Sheldon likes Amy for her intellectmind, but he has a long way to go when it comes to accepting women asintellectual equals; there are countless examples of him insulting Amy’s work,or downplaying her accomplishments.
While Sheldon treats his male colleagues almostthe same way, his view of her is flushed by sexism. Although this is fiction, it is not uncommonfor the male-dominated “hard” sciences to insult the more gender-balanced”soft” sciences in the real world. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitzalso started her role on the show as a romantic interest. Bernadette startedoff as a grad student waitressing at the Cheesecake Factory on the side. Shedoes not meet the boring, unattractive female scientist stereotype that Amydoes, she must go out of her way to prove that she’s not dumb due to the factthat she’s small and feminine.
Howard’sstatus as a Jet Propulsion Lab engineer and future-astronaut gave him the powerin their relationship but then, Bernadette got her doctorate and a job at apharmaceutical company that pays very well. Bernadette’s degree and new jobmarks a huge shift in the power dynamics: Howard only has a master’s degree andhe’s making far less money than Bernadette. Different fields in STEM can bemore profitable than others, but also millennial women can now expect to makemore money than their male partners. When Howard realizes Bernadette makes morethan him, Howard is initially upset which is an issue couples deal with in reallife.
1 Whitney, A. (2014, June 18). How”The Big Bang Theory” Represents Women in Science. Retrieved December12, 2017, fromhttps://www.bitchmedia.org/post/how-the-big-bang-theory-got-good-women-in-science-stem