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Big Bang Theory Fans Had One Problem With Penny & Bernadette In The Finale

"The Big Bang Theory" may have ended back in 2019, but fans are still weighing in about the finale — and why they think two characters got the short end of the stick. (And no, we're not talking about the lonely ending given to hopeless romantic Raj Koothrappali, played by Kunal Nayyar.)

Two of the show's female characters — Penny Hofstadter (Kaley Cuoco) and Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (Melissa Rauch) ended the series as mothers, technically; it's revealed in the finale, titled "The Stockholm Syndrome," that Penny is newly pregnant, while Bernadette and her husband Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) already have two children. So why is this notable? Both characters spoke pretty extensively about how they didn't want children through the show ... especially Penny, who frequently tells her husband Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) that she doesn't think she wants to be a parent.

On a Reddit thread discussing this very topic, u/childfree asked if Penny's total pivot on the issue of children turned any other fans off. "I mean here was a female main character on a popular tv show outright saying she never wanted kids," they wrote. "This made me feel so validated. I was like 'see! Not every woman wants kids. It's on a tv show now it's official!' And then they changed her mind! WTF!" In response, u/Nikkorkat employed a sarcastic tone and agreed with the original poster, even pointing out that Penny wasn't the only character who faced a sudden change of heart: "Bernadette caved, why not Penny, too [...] It was the last episode, so why bother with character development?"

Were Bernadette and Penny wronged on The Big Bang Theory?

As fans of "The Big Bang Theory" know — and as several Redditors note on this thread — Penny's total acceptance of her pregnancy was an extremely shocking move in the series finale, but Bernadette faced the same fate long before her on-screen bestie. In fact, Bernadette initially tells Howard that she doesn't even like children, explaining that her mother once ran a questionable daycare out of their home and made Bernadette do a lot of the work involved. (At another point, the story changes slightly, with Bernadette saying she was the main caretaker of her younger siblings.) In any case, when Bernadette gets pregnant — twice — it all works out fine, and Penny, who was adamant about not wanting children despite Leonard's desire to have a family, changes her mind quite easily when all is said and done.

On a different thread, though, u/AngryDuck222 put forward the idea that, in the case of Penny, she did want children, but changed her mind a few times (which, it should go without saying, is her right). After pointing out that, in later seasons, it's Bernadette that puts Penny on edge by telling her she'll be a great mother — which, in Penny's mind, is pressuring her— they write, "Point is, Penny changed her mind about kids twice. So it shouldn't be perceived as the writers just made her pregnant for "reasons" and seen as she wanted kids all along, but wanted to do other things before she reached that point. Much like how she saw Leonard the whole time they were dating as a good choice for a long term relationship, but in their early days she just wasn't ready for that kind of commitment."

The lead female characters on The Big Bang Theory basically get shafted no matter what

To be absolutely honest, Penny and Bernadette's ambivalency towards becoming mothers is just one issue in a whole laundry list of sins committed against the female characters on "The Big Bang Theory." Penny and Bernadette's husbands, Leonard and Howard, come off mostly as sweet and well-meaning, but they also mistreat their wives. In Leonard's case, he often treats Penny as if she's not very intelligent — which she is, but not in the same way that he is — and he can be extraordinarily condescending and demeaning towards Penny without hesitating. Howard, who was raised by his mother Debbie Wolowitz — who's never seen on screen but was voiced by Carol Ann Susi until her death — is utterly spoiled and frequently treats Bernadette like a maid and not an equal partner.

Bernadette and Penny's third cohort Amy Farrah Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, doesn't fare much better. Amy is introduced as a love interest for the show's eccentric lead Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), and to say Sheldon is disrespectful of and dismissive to Amy is a severe understatement. The men on "The Big Bang Theory" just aren't particularly nice to their female counterparts in general, and it's a distressing problem throughout the show; unfortunately, we can probably chalk Penny and Bernadette's sudden desires for motherhood up to that.

"The Big Bang Theory" is streaming in its entirety on Max now.