The Big Bang Theory failed some of its female characters, especially Amy, whose stereotypical characterization was a running gag.
When it comes to The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik’s Amy Farrah Fowler is both brilliant and disappointing. Bialik’s acting is exceptional, her comedic timing is on point and her personification of Amy is, undoubtedly, hilarious. But as far as women representation on the show goes, The Big Bang Theory always did Amy a disservice by proudly continuing stereotypical tropes.
Amy’s characterization had majorly based on the sexist stereotype of how women in science must be like — badly dressed, deliberately masculine (because they had “encroaching” on a man’s land), blunt and cold. While the latter attributes of her character had swiftly done away with as the show progressed, the prominent themes — her sexuality and looks — are ever-present as plot devices to elicit laughter.
Bialik’s character was introduced in Season 3 as a potential date for Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons). The moment she fell for him, she deteriorated into a ditzy non-blonde stereotype of a girl desperately in love with a man like Sheldon. She was practically begging to have sex with him because, as she herself said, he’s the best she’ll ever get and was happy with a mostly one-sided relationship, hinging on the barest minimum her partner felt like contributing.
Despite being depicted as a successful neurobiologist, Amy had added to the show to supplement its male lead. Her character description had the said career qualifications. To make her suitable for Sheldon, who would only date someone matching his intelligence. However, her brilliance had not the focus either, as it had only been used not to let her boyfriend get bored with her. But to also to his attention from shifting.
Amy’s profession and career endeavours had also foddered for developing their relationship. In Season 7, Episode 5 “The Workplace Proximity,” she gets a big career break. When she had invited to consult on a project at Caltech. But instead, the focus is on Sheldon’s reaction to the news and its possible impact on their relationship. After she joins Caltech, not only does Sheldon embarrass her in front of influential and established scientists. But he also waves off her work as “goofing off.” thus belittling her scientific research and making it seem unimportant. Amy appeared in the last ten seasons of the show. And Sheldon undermining her work was a plot point that was unashamedly and repeatedly overused.
In Season 12, Episode 5 “The Planetarium Collison,” Sheldon found Amy’s solo research too. “Dull” in comparison to the super-asymmetry project they were working on. Irritated by her not spending more time on their project. He went to the university’s president and got her lab reassigned. She is fuming mad at him but by the end of the episode, she confesses that she wasn’t angry. Because Sheldon assumed he had the right to remove her from a project. She had been working on for years. Instead. she lost her temper because she was afraid of “losing herself in the relationship” by only working with Sheldon.
The Big Bang Theory brought its problematic portrayal of Amy full circle in its last episodes where her “happy ending” was not finally winning a Nobel Prize — it was getting a makeover. When she sees the news of her Nobel win accompanied by her pictures, she is horrified and embarrassed. She suddenly realizes that her appearance doesn’t abide by society’s beauty ideals. She asks Raj, “Am I really that frumpy?” His solution to her major vanity attack is a makeover. Getting her a haircut, red lipstick and an outfit change.
This decidedly superficial detour completely undermined the fact. That she had achieved a major career milestone. Making her appearance more important than her merits and self-worth. After all her accomplishments, her story ended as a woman. Who was more governed by how she looks than the achievements she earned.