‘The Big Bang Theory’: Was Penny Actually the Meanest Character on the Show?

When people look back on The Big Bang Theory, they usually think of Kaley Cuoco’s Penny as being a sweet, sunny character who was the ‘normal” foil to a life full of geeks.

However, she sometimes crossed the line into meanness. Screen Rant put together a piece recapping 10 instances in which Penny did things that were out of character and/or beneath her. Sticking out like a sore thumb as she purposefully did on the show, she was bound to have a few failings.

Penny was sometimes a bully on ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Kaley Cuoco visits "Extra" at Universal Studios Hollywood.
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The stereotype goes that if a “babe” or “princess” type mixes up with a group of nerds, the babe will condescend to them or at the very least go off with their nose in the air. And sometimes Penny fell into that trap. 

These days, “bullying” has become a hot-button issue, and people who do it are often rightly shamed. One of Penny’s faults is that she was a bully in high school. In the episode “Jimmy Speckerman,” when the subject of bullying comes up, Penny admits she was guilty of it, and Amy and Bernadette make her right those wrongs. 

Penny’s greatest “sin” may be that she’s a looker and she knows it, sometimes unfairly using it to her advantage, particularly when it comes to Johnny Galecki’s Leonard. Rightly or wrongly, society says that a 10 like Penny isn’t supposed to fall for someone like Leonard.

Sometimes Penny would take advantage of this. In “The Boyfriend Complexity,” Penny and Leonard had broken up, yet she needed Leonard to pretend to be her boyfriend again to impress her dad. That’s manipulative, at best, and cruel at worst. 

Penny was only human

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Screen Rant’s list, taken all together, can make Penny sound pretty terrible on the whole. Among her other failings are that she doesn’t return favors when people do nice things for her.

But that’s what happens when you have an outgoing personality and you look like you could be on the cover of a magazine. People attracted to such a person will curry favor to get on his or her good side. 

Few people have accused The Big Bang Theory of being “realistic.” If it were, a real-life Penny might have never given a real-like Sheldon or Leonard the time of day. But if Penny ignored them in the show, it probably wouldn’t have lasted past one season. That they mix and have a culture clash is the whole idea of The Big Bang Theory. It’s not all geeks all the time. 

In a way, Penny serves the same function as the late Cory Monteith’s Finn did on Glee. Both were the “normal” people that served as entry points for the audience. They were the “everymen’ that got involved with people they never thought they would be involved with and found themselves the better for it. In the end, Penny became a wife and a mom-to-be. 

What is Kaley Cuoco up to these days?

When The Big Bang Theory was coming to an end after 12 seasons, Cuoco seemed to take it harder than anyone else, regularly breaking down when she realized the end was drawing near. She seemed to be the social butterfly of the group, taking Polaroids of the cast members and having some of them do an impromptu dance to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.’ 

That said, Cuoco made peace with the end and has moved on to her next project. She will change modes and try her hand at drama with a new series called The Flight Attendant, which is expected to debut on Warner’s new streaming service HBO Max, That service debuts next year. 

“I love that Warner Bros. is my home away from home, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue this incredibly collaborative and gratifying relationship,” Cuoco said. “They’re stuck with me now!”