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The Big Bang Theory Fans Agree This Character Had The Most Tragic Backstory

From 2007 to 2019, the CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory" focused on the daily lives of a band of so-called "misfit" scientists. Throughout the show's run, writers worked to familiarize viewers with the various quirks and idiosyncrasies of its central characters. On occasion, it accomplished this by digging into the backstories that led these characters to become the nonconformists they are in adulthood. 

For example, the signature low self-esteem and severe inferiority complex of Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) turn out to be a result of a rather harsh upbringing, largely thanks to his hyperattentive mother, Beverly (Christine Baranski). Similarly, the show casually throws in minor and major tidbits from the upbringing of almost every major character on the show, and as it turns out, some had it rougher than others. Other examples include: Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), whose father abandoned their family when he was only 11; Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik), whose mother disciplined her to the point of torture; and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), whose fish-out-of-water upbringing is chronicled in "Young Sheldon."

Interestingly, there appears to be little debate among fans on Reddit about which character had the most tragic backstory.

Sadly, Leonard takes the most traumatic backstory award

In a post on the r/BigBangTheory subreddit, u/Logical_Department62 started a discussion thread titled, "Which of the characters have the saddest backstories?" Quite foreseeably, most of the fans gravitated toward Leonard. One comment by u/kmkmrod, in particular, won the most upvotes: "For the others, their torment stopped. Leonard's mother continued experimenting on him well into adulthood." 

Other fans who replied to the comment appeared to widely agree with it. For example, u/DiscombobulatedLuck8 drew attention to the fact that Leonard builds a hug machine in his childhood to make up for the lack of affection and warmth he receives from his family. During his childhood, Leonard's mother, a leading psychiatrist, treats her son as a lab rat, leaving him on the receiving end of numerous psychological and neurological experiments. 

In fact, in Season 12, Episode 17 ("The Conference Valuation"), she even confesses to adult Leonard that the experiments have not yet ended. Her many experiments and her constant disapproval of her son's numerous accomplishments directly lead to Leonard's lack of confidence and a slew of other issues that plague the scientist well into his adulthood.

Leonard finally gets closure with his mother at the end of the series

However, toward the end of the show's run, Leonard finally gets the closure he has always wanted from his mother, following a rather emotional confrontation in Season 12, Episode 22 ("The Maternal Conclusion"). Although he originally intends to approach his mother with an outburst of complaints, Leonard eventually comes to realize that she will probably never change. Once he comes to this conclusion, he simply decides to forgive her for everything. In response, Beverly says, "I have to admit, it does feel good... You forgiving me," after which they hug each other.

In an interview with Nichelle Turner of Entertainment Tonight released just prior to the episode's airdate, both Johnny Galecki and Christine Baranski talked separately about the scene. Galecki said, "Yeah, it was a long time coming ... for Leonard to stand up for himself." Baranski added, "They wrote a final scene that is so quintessential between the mother and the son and [Leonard] says what he's always wanted to say." Although Leonard proves himself to be the bigger man in the end, there can be little doubt about the fact that he endured a difficult childhood.