If appearances are to be believed, Bernadette Rostenkowski is the sweetest, most tenderhearted character on The Big Bang Theory. Between her cute floral-dress-and-cardigan combo, the glasses, and that voice like a bluebird in a Disney movie, how could we think anything different?
Foolish humans. That's like mistaking Freddy Krueger for Snow White. While Bernadette can display a soft side, those occasions are blue moon-level infrequent. Most of the time, her husband and friends are faced with Krueger-Bernadette, who (emotionally) picks everybody off one by one, using verbal evisceration instead of a razor-blade glove. Don't believe this theory? Let Bernadette's rap sheet speak for itself.
Anyone who can stay friends with Sheldon Cooper should be in the running for sainthood. He basically treats his pals like servants, ordering them to chauffeur him around and pander to his idiosyncrasies. In order for the gang not to murder him, they have to find mitigating Sheldon factors where they can. For instance, Bernadette takes advantage of his cleanliness obsession.
When Amy and Howard are logging late hours in the lab together, Sheldon grows jealous and turns to Bernadette for support. She tells Sheldon that the best way to stick it to Howard is to perform all his housework. Sheldon takes the bait, setting off to change the batteries in the smoke alarm. Bernadette's behavior is hardly villainous, but it speaks to the fact that she doesn't view the gang as her friends; to her, they're a bunch of pawns.
Leonard can't believe his luck when he's paired with Bernadette on Raj's scavenger hunt. With her intelligence and chipper demeanor, not only do they have a real shot at winning, but a pleasant afternoon is sure to be in store.
Meanwhile, Howard is thrilled not to be on a team with his wife. He describes playing games with her as akin to entering a "steel cage with a wolverine". Indeed, Leonard finds himself subjected to a barrage of verbal abuse, including name-calling and demeaning comments about his slow driving. Okay, so Bernadette gets a little hot under the collar in a competition. But she really puts the cherry on top of her cruelty sundae by lying to Leonard. In an effort to light a fire under him, Bernadette tells Leonard that Penny mocked him for his lack of manliness. But hey, a hurt Leonard and a potentially broken relationship are just the price to pay for something as monumental as winning a scavenger hunt.
Why limit yourself to only being a monster in your personal life? The workplace is the perfect battleground to wage a war on happiness. Really, isn't that what co-workers and bosses are for?
Bernadette's colleagues are so terrified of her mean streak, they trip over themselves in attempts to avoid her wrath. These include paying for her coffee and repurposing the handicapped washroom as Bernadette's private lavatory. When Penny gets fed up with the office's obsequiousness, she tells Bernadette that everyone is afraid of her. This actually appears to be a light bulb moment. Bernadette breaks down into tears, seemingly feeling awful that everyone thinks of her as such a bully. Before everyone's eyes, Bernadette becomes the adorable pixie you'd expect her to be. Her boss Dan feels so guilty about making her cry, he offers to get her an espresso machine. Bernadette learns you don't have to be a bully in the office—being a guilt-tripper works even better.
Of the entire gang, Raj is the least lucky in love. He can be his own worst enemy and frequently desires unavailable women. So when he gets engaged, seemingly out of the blue, Bernadette and Penny have their suspicions. They conspire to investigate his new fiancée, Anu.
Anu instantly wins them over by scoring the ladies a table at an exclusive restaurant. Bernadette wonders aloud why a woman with so much pull would ever choose to marry Raj. This is the jumping-off point for an entire evening devoted to jokes and revelations at Raj's expense. True, Bernadette wasn't alone; she had a partner in crime in Penny. But Bernadette spends way more time with Raj and should be extra-sensitive to his desire to marry Anu. Howard and Raj's bromance is a frequent source of frustration for Bernadette, so wouldn't she jump at the opportunity to get Raj out of her hair? Not if it costs her her favorite pastime—meanness.
Everyone knows that Amy is chomping at the bit to consummate her relationship with Sheldon, while he couldn't be less interested in making "the coitus". The poor girl waits for him to be ready for years. No matter how ticked anyone may be at Amy, teasing her about this sensitive subject is just hitting below the belt.
But Bernadette lives to hit below the belt. When she and Amy engage in a heated tête-à-tête, comparing their partners' contributions to science, Bernadette can't resist hitting this nerve. Even though it was Amy who started the quarrel, Bernadette could have chosen not to engage. But why be the bigger person when you have the opportunity to make your friend feel small?
Any woman who says she doesn't want kids prepares herself for the inevitable onslaught of family, friends, and perfect strangers telling her that she'll change her mind. This is bad enough, but with Bernadette, bad enough is never good enough.
Penny confides in her that she doesn't want to have children. Instead of supporting her decision, Bernadette tells Penny she's flat-out wrong not to want them and that it's the only way of finding out what the real meaning of love is. Not only is Bernadette being a terrible friend, but her comments are beyond insulting to women, both mothers and non-mothers alike. Sure, for many people, men and women, having kids is the most fulfilling experience there is. But by citing it as the only way to find happiness, Bernadette sounds like a women's advice column straight from the 1950s.
It's easy to see Bernadette's reservations. Space travel can be extremely dangerous and as Bernadette's father was a cop, she grew up living in constant fear that he might die on the job. It's a testament to how much Bernadette loves Howard that she wants him as safe as possible. She says as much, though way harsher, informing Howard that he isn't going to space.
This should have been the end of it. Bernadette vents her concerns, but ultimately accepts Howard's decision to pursue his dream, right? Not for all the pastel cardigans in the world. Bernadette goes into full-saboteur mode, telling Howard's mother about his space travel plans. Eventually, Bernadette realizes the error of her ways and supports him. But Bernadette requires a whole lotta drama before she can bring herself to be nice.
What is life without hypocrisy? When Sheldon and Amy dress as Howard and Bernadette for Halloween, the latter couple has the audacity to be offended. Firstly, Howard dressed as Sheldon at work and ridiculed him, so he really should shut up. Then there's Bernadette.
The woman treats her friends worse than most people treat their enemies. If they put their heads together, the gang could easily produce a Bernadette Insult-of-the-Day calendar. So if Bernadette's always game to put down her pals, she should be able to take a couple of potshots herself. Not only that, she should commend Amy on her solid impersonation.
The trope of the nagging sitcom wife is more tired than one of Howard's magic tricks. So, naturally, the ultra-competitive Bernadette has to be the worst of the bunch. The only time she takes a break from insulting Howard is so she can insult someone else. Granted, sometimes Howard needs a kick in the pants when it comes to helping out around the house. But Bernadette really goes for the jugular whenever she's the slightest bit miffed at her husband. She uses her role as breadwinner as a perpetual supply of ammo, taking great fun in pumping round after round into Howard's dignity. Bernadette should be celebrating her success, not using it as a weapon.
Bernadette wasn't always a burn queen. When viewers first meet her, she's bubbly, thoughtful, and a little daffy. But then a switch flipped.
Sometimes this happens. When entering a new relationship, we often want to show what we deem our most appealing self. And when we're new to a whole group of people, we can be much quieter than normal until we get comfortable. Maybe this is what happened here, but fans tend to cite bad writing and inconsistent storytelling for Bernadette's personality 180. By all means, Bernadette has a right to be more assertive, particularly when Howard's being an über-manchild. But it would have made for a much better show had Bernadette not been reduced to just another shrew.