Even TBBT Cast & Crew Agree: Penny's Arc Went Wrong... Twice

Even TBBT Cast & Crew Agree: Penny's Arc Went Wrong... Twice
Image credit: CBS

The Big Bang Theory seems to have a bit of an issue.


  • While The Big Bang Theory is the favorite sitcom for millions of viewers, it has had its share of criticism.
  • Often you can see the opinion that the show's portrayal of women is flawed.
  • This is partly confirmed by the way Penny's arc has been done dirty twice in the course of the show.

Even though it will soon be 5 years since its finale aired, The Big Bang Theory remains the ultimate go-to sitcom for millions of viewers. The beloved show follows a group of Pasadena-based scientists along with their colleagues, friends and families, serving up a generous dose of quirky characters, geeky humor and hysterically bizarre scenarios.

But amidst the uproarious laughter and witty banter, there's a lingering concern that some viewers can't shake: the show's questionable treatment of its female characters.

This is especially evident in the arc of Penny, who has been a mainstay since day one, yet has been done dirty twice, according to both the creator and the actress herself.

The Initial Mistake

Penny was the only female lead in the early seasons of The Big Bang Theory. However, she was painted in broad strokes, fitting the stereotype of the one-dimensional pretty blonde next door, introduced for the sole purpose of stirring things up for the male characters.

Kaley Cuoco, the talented actress behind Penny, once shared her reservations about how the character was initially portrayed, with the heavy emphasis on her looks above all else.

'I started Big Bang at 21 years old. It was the cute girl-next-door to the nerds, right?' Cuoco told W Magazine. 'It was all about booty shorts and Juicy Couture zip-ups and all these crazy [outfits].'

Even TBBT Cast & Crew Agree: Penny's Arc Went Wrong... Twice - image 1

Reflecting on the show's early days in Jessica Radloff's book about the series, creator Chuck Lorre also acknowledged that Penny was somewhat neglected in terms of character development. He admitted that the writing team missed the mark, pigeonholing Penny as merely the attractive neighbor without exploring her potential depth.

'One of the most underwritten characters in the show early on was Penny,' Lorre said. 'It was really obvious immediately that we hadn't developed the character beyond the pretty girl next door, and Kaley was certainly capable of doing a great deal more than what was asked of her.'

Luckily, everyone realized that early on and thanks to Cuoco's influence, Penny underwent a significant transformation, adding layers of complexity and depth to her character. While she didn't suddenly become a genius like her scientist pals, her street smarts and intuitive grasp of human behavior quickly made her a fan favorite.

However, as the series was wrapping up, Penny's character was suddenly thrown back under the bus.

The Final Slip

In The Big Bang Theory's final twelfth season, the main conflict in Penny's arc was her disagreement with Leonard about having children. While her husband embraced the idea of parenthood, it was never part of Penny's plan.

However, in a twist that came out of the blue, the character discovered she was pregnant in the finale. After some consideration, she accepted and embraced her new role as a mother-to-be, which caused mixed feelings among fans.

Even TBBT Cast & Crew Agree: Penny's Arc Went Wrong... Twice - image 2

Some thought it was a fitting ending for the Leonard/Penny couple, while others felt it sent a very questionable message.

Kaley Cuoco echoed the sentiments of the second group, saying she wouldn't have pushed her character into parenthood against her will if it were up to her.

'I actually wished that they did not [make Penny pregnant], because I loved that message [of Penny not wanting kids] so much,' Cuoco said. 'It was cute how the writers did it at the end with Penny's surprise pregnancy, and all in all I'm glad, but I was actually voting for her not to [get pregnant].'

Well, it certainly seems like there is some truth to the criticism of The Big Bang Theory. The creators may have warmed up to the show's leading lady, but even after a dozen years, the male protagonists still took center stage in the end.

Sources: W Magazine, The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series.

Did you love the pregnancy twist in the TBBT finale?