The finale of The Big Bang Theory, which is the longest running sitcom of the last decade, aired on Friday and received a whopping viewership of 18 million viewers people, live. What remains after The Big Bang Theory‘s finale are important questions of the female representation and narratives regarding them.
The first one in consideration is that of Amy’s makeover when she is thrown into the spotlight after winning the Nobel prize along with Sheldon.
Writer-Producer Steve Holland confessed that Amy’s makeover was very likely to be received within controversies. However, this concern for appearance in her character has been developed through the course of the series. We have often seen her getting excited about makeovers and tiaras and conventionally feminine things. Her adoration for Penny stems from her idealisation of the latter as the ultimate feminine goddess and in their relationship, one can find many parallels to the homoeroticism existing between Raj and Howard, that is, unfortunately, a recurring joke on the show.
Amy’s speech is a call to the upcoming generation of female scientists. She cannot and does not afford the choice to be apolitical in a series which has constantly been criticised for being a black hole for political issues.
When the news of her winning the Nobel prize breaks, she is overwhelmed by the pressure to cater to the scopophilic needs of the society which requires successful, celebrated women to always look the part. She had suffered from a similar moment of panic and anxiety in the previous episode where she is haunted by the thought of letting down a generation of female scientists and women and girls who aspire to be one someday if she does not win the Nobel Prize. In contrast to Sheldon who is struggling with the changes in his personal life, Amy’s struggle is more political than personal. The same is reflected in their respective speeches. While Sheldon’s speech is concerned with his personal struggle to shred off his self-centred attitude in order to celebrate the felicity of his social group, Amy’s speech is a call to the upcoming generation of female scientists. She cannot and does not afford the choice to be apolitical in a series which has constantly been criticised for being a black hole for political issues.
The show on its finale ended up tumbling into the pit of politics, however reluctantly or unintentionally with the announcement of Penny’s pregnancy.
Unlike Leonard who announced on the day they met that their kids will be “both smart and beautiful”, Penny has always been conflicted about motherhood. In “The Procreation Calculation”, when Leonard considers sperm donation as an option for alternative fatherhood which disturbs Penny because the adoptive father would be her ex, Zack, and even Penny’s father Wyatt intervenes and warns her that by not having kids, she might miss out on a wonderful opportunity, Penny although sceptical that her decision. The entire episode which solidifies a narrative of choice of motherhood is washed over when in the last episode, Penny gets pregnant because of a drunk accident.
Without any conversation around the matter, her decision to keep the child is thrown at the audience as the completion of her character arc and a happy ending to the Leonard-Penny storyline.
In the realm of the show, her decision to have the child, like her pregnancy, is a “happy accident”. Without any conversation around the matter, her decision to keep the child is thrown at the audience as the completion of her character arc and a happy ending to the Leonard-Penny storyline. What is all the more disturbing is the conversation about the events that led to the pregnancy. Told with a humorous tone and the audience’s laughter playing in the background, it recounts how Penny came home drunk and asked Leonard “You wanna?”, in response to which he ends up having sex with her, without protection. Sugar-coated with laughter and jokes is the horrid account of statutory sexual assault.
While Leonard and Penny’s father, Wyatt, do not coerce Penny to have a baby and promise to side with her decision, this event clearly indicates how she is cornered into motherhood, not only by the seemingly harmless “adorkable” husband but by the seemingly apolitical writers of the show. Ironically, although it would have been impossible for the writers of the show to have foreseen this, but the airing of the clashed with the waves of anti-abortion legislation being passed across the states of the U.S. In the wake of such laws which aim to abolish women’s reproductive rights such a narrative comes out as apathetic, to say the least.
Also read: Eight TV Shows For The Feminist In You
Casual, light-hearted misogyny and blatant homophobia have always been lurking in the form of harmless jokes in the show. For a show which derives its very language from popular culture, it has consistently remained oblivious to the realities of the world outside, rarely reflecting on the issues of the current times. As prominent an issue as Sheldon’s inability to understand social cues and language as an emotive medium is never dissected or even named but conveniently laughed off as quirks. The shows approach issues which would otherwise have been matters of deep probing is superficial. Although this is most obviously a tact to remain apolitical, it often ends up at the problematic side of the discussion, something best exemplified in its finale.
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