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How The Big Bang Theory’s Penny Pregnancy Betrayed Her Story

The Big Bang Theory’s finale missed their chance of nailing Penny’s story arc by retracting her earlier decision and revealing her pregnancy.

In an earlier episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny (Kaley Cuoco) firmly expressed her decision not to have children of her own, but in the show’s finale, she was revealed to be pregnant. The Big Bang Theory focused on the everyday lives of four geeky and socially awkward scientists Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar). Joining their gang was Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lived across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard. After nine seasons of will-they-won’t-they, Penny and Leonard finally tied the knot. Three years into their marriage, Penny revealed that she did not want to have kids.

Instead of her husband Leonard and her best friends Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) respecting and supporting her decision, Penny was subjected to a series of invalidating comments. Although later on, Leonard told Penny that he accepted her choice not to have kids, he was still heartbroken knowing that his dream of being a father would never happen. As a result, he threw her under the bus and told her father, who was also disappointed. Meanwhile, Bernadette weighed in on the issue by saying that not wanting kids is crazy and wrong. Amy also expressed her concern that she and Penny were supposed to be pregnancy buddies and their kids friends.

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Throughout the sitcom’s final season, Penny hammered it home: she did not want to be pregnant, and she did not want to have kids. Then in The Big Bang Theory’s final episode, the audience learned that Penny was already two months pregnant. The show’s finale did Penny a disservice by ending her story as an expecting mother, as she repeatedly told her friends that she did not need kids to be fulfilled. While it’s totally possible that, along the way, Penny changed her mind and finally agreed to motherhood, she was robbed of the opportunity to choose that path herself.

Unlike Bernadette who has her pregnancy revealed in the show twice, Penny’s pregnancy is shown as a settled event. She learns that she is expecting in the commercial break between the two-part finale, and there is no chance for her and Leonard to discuss it. For something that was emphasized over and over again, Penny changing her mind and agreeing to have kids seems instantaneous. In fact, the show’s decision to let Penny become pregnant and have kids with Leonard feels like a wrap-up on his story, and not hers. As she tells her friends that the pregnancy was an accident, they are, at first, puzzled if Penny has already changed her mind, and concerned about not knowing her secret earlier. It then arguably feels like the ending of her story is just a full-circle moment to Leonard’s hopeless quip in the sitcom’s pilot episode – when he and Penny first meet, he declares that their “babies will be smart and beautiful,” which was then echoed in Sheldon’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with women not wanting to have kids and then, later on, changing their minds, The Big Bang Theory missed its chance to establish a child-free character with a successful career and happy marriage or, alternatively, a depiction of such a character changing their mind and desires. If it was only shown on-screen that Penny had fully accepted her pregnancy, then the finale might not have risked her story devolving, with her becoming like Leonard’s mother, and she would have had the finale she deserved.

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