I was recently watching one of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, and I began to realize how much both comic books and gender roles are involved. For those who do not know, The Big Bang Theory is a comedy series about a group of friends composed of four nerdy and socially unaware guys and an aspiring actress who lives across the hall. The guys of the show are very knowledgeable about comic books and spend much of their free time at a local comic book store. Penny, on the other hand, knows nothing about comics and is interested in much more stereotypical “girlish” things that do not involve fighting and violence. This often creates conflicts on the show that are portrayed as comical and set up the episodes.
In two particular episodes, I noticed that gender roles are particularly stereotyped and used for satire. In one of these, Penny accompanies her friends to the comic book store for the first time. The show portrays this type of store as only available for men and somewhere that Penny should feel out of place. She wanders around not knowing anything about comics and has to ask for help from her male friends who are searching through the racks for something they do not already own. Penny is even objectified in a way when the other customers stare at her and the owner of the comic book store hits on her. This episode creates a dynamic that suggests that comic books are meant for males, not for females. You can watch a scene from this episode here.
In another episode of The Big Bang Theory, the group decides to dress up as the Justice League for a costume contest. They need a woman to dress as Wonder Woman, so Penny is assigned the role. Sheldon, one of the male characters, says to Penny that he thinks she probably feels uncomfortable in her outfit because she thinks it “makes her look fat”. This implies that this is a typical insecurity of women that can prevent them from dressing how they want, while her male friends can wear spandex without worrying. The outfit is very revealing and it would be understandable if she feels objectified, but the insecurity of her weight was assumed based on stereotypes. Click here to see a scene from this episode.
When watching these episodes through the lens of this class, I came to notice that the portrayals of gender roles are somewhat stereotyped. I am a female and had never been in a comic book before this class, but I would not assume that all females do not go to comic book stores. I also think it is unfair to give women the portrayal of being insecure about their bodies and always concerned with their looks. It takes away from the heroic actions that characters like Wonder Woman represent. The show is done with the goal of comedy, but it seems that it is sometimes at the expense of realistic gender roles.