The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom about four male scientists who take geek culture to the extreme. Penny, the attractive blonde neighbor, is meant to be the show's everywoman. She represents the audience, particularly when she can't keep up with the guys' complicated physics theories or obscure fandom conspiracies. Most of the time, Penny succeeds in earning not just an affinity with the viewer, but their sympathy when her intelligence is called into question.
But Penny is known to have a vicious mean streak. She has blatantly insulted or disrespected every member of the gang on a collective and individual basis. It could be argued that this is Penny's defense against the cruel treatment she's received, but if that's the case, why not stop being friends with these people? Could it be that Penny just enjoys being the Queen of Mean? Here is Big Bang Theory: The 10 Worst Things Penny Has Ever Done, Ranked.
Booze has always been a reliable resource for comedy. It lowers characters' inhibitions, making them behave in outrageous ways that would mortify their sober selves. But when a character is depicted drowning their sorrows several times a season, it's less a cause for laughs and more for one of concern. Many viewers have expressed the belief that Penny is an alcoholic.
She makes some truly terrible decisions whilst under the influence, like marrying Zack in Vegas. Really, more than judging Penny for her potential addiction, we just want her to get help. And yet, besides being destructive to herself, she also does some drunken, unsavory things to the people around her. While no angel when sober, Penny lets both wine and insults flow. Her friends just hope they're not in the path of her vitriolic word vomit...or actual vomit.
With her acting career at a stasis, Penny is unemployed and in a rut. Luckily, Bernadette is able to nab Penny an interview as a sales rep at her pharmaceuticals company. Penny blows the interview in epic fashion but ends up the scoring the job anyway. It turns out that her new boss Dan is just as scared of Bernadette as Penny is.
The jokes Penny and Dan share at Bernadette's expense aren't wrong; she is kind of a bully. But she was also a good enough friend to secure Penny the interview, even pumping her up and telling her she'd be perfect for the job. Trash-talking Bernadette to her boss is a pretty crappy way to repay the favor.
Geek culture has been part of the mainstream for most of the 21st century, yet Penny doesn't seem to have received that memo. She consistently pokes fun at Leonard and co. for their interests in video games, superheroes, and popular film franchises. Sure, Penny feels left out of many of her friends' conversations but putting down their interests is just petty and immature.
Fans often wonder why Penny, who has bragged up and down about being popular, seems to have no other friends than the Big Bang Theory gang. Could it be she drove them all away with her snide comments? Why not find some friends who share her interests? Given her lack of success in other areas of her life, maybe Penny likes to have a group of people to feel superior to. Only her world is superior, defined as being up to date on People's Sexiest Man Alive.
One such opportunity for a friend with common interests lies in Alicia, the new neighbor. Like Penny, Alicia is also an actress. You'd think that Penny would be thrilled to befriend somebody whose idea of a fun Friday night doesn't involve Klingon Boggle. But from the get-go, Penny makes it clear that she views Alicia as a threat. She mocks Alicia as soon as she's out of earshot.
The show paints the picture that Alicia's bad news, but what does she do that Penny doesn't? Penny takes advantage of the guys just as much, only she's not as shameless about it. It's sad that Penny would rather exploit the Smurfette Principle with the guys than have a shot at passing the Bechdel test with Alicia.
In her waitress days, Penny doesn't earn a lot of money and what she does, she blows it on shoes. But she finds one way to save herself a bundle — by stealing Leonard and Sheldon's food and WiFi. With Leonard, it's a gray area. It could be argued that Penny takes advantage of Leonard's attraction to her, but Leonard's also a grown man. If he wants to be Penny's 24-hour free restaurant and internet café, that's up to him.
But Sheldon is a different story. Penny's mooching tendencies actually bother him. The password for his used and abused WiFi is always some variation of "Penny is a freeloader." This isn't even a hint, it's an anvil of a message. Sheldon may not always be a peach, but at one point he happily loans Penny a small fortune so she can pay her bills. Maybe it's time she paid him back by getting her own bloody WiFi.
As teenagers, we've all done nasty, stupid things we're not proud of. But Penny was a legit sadist. She gleefully recalls the good old days when she and her popular friends kidnapped and blindfolded a girl in their class, drove her to a field, and left her there. She also recounts another instance of throwing a girl's retainer in the toilet and putting it back in her mouth.
These horrific stories aren't just instances of schoolyard mischief. Penny has a record of straight-up assault. The worst part is that she doesn't even realize the egregiousness of her actions until Amy and Bernadette point it out. Peaking in high school is pathetic in and of itself, but it's a truly miserable commentary that Penny's glory days centered around making someone else's life hell.
Penny doesn't even make it through the pilot episode without her selfishness causing trouble. After meeting Leonard and Sheldon, she convinces them to retrieve her TV from her ex-boyfriend Kurt. Who asks a favor of this magnitude to somebody they just met? For their trouble, Leonard and Sheldon are rewarded by Kurt taking their pants.
They're not hurt, save their pride, but they could have been. Penny makes it up to the guys by buying them dinner but a few weeks later, she invites Kurt to her Halloween party. Does Penny not think that it perhaps might be upsetting for Leonard and Sheldon to attend a party with their attacker? Of course not. That would involve Penny thinking about someone other than herself.
It's natural for us to want to defend our friends against people who hurt them. After Lucy dumps Raj via email, he's heartbroken. Upon seeing Lucy at the Cheesecake Factory, Penny can't resist the opportunity to rip her a new one. Penny's not wrong in her sentiment; breakup etiquette dictates that it should generally be done face to face.
However, what Penny doesn't know is that Lucy lives with extreme social anxiety. She wasn't trying to hurt Raj; Lucy genuinely couldn't bring herself to face him. That's why it's so important to have all the facts before calling someone out. Penny even goes so far as to call Lucy a bad person. She may have stood up for her friend, but Penny also likely scarred Lucy for life.
Sheldon is a rather trying person to be around. He's needy, selfish, and rude. But though never officially diagnosed, Sheldon appears to be on the spectrum of Asperger's syndrome. This makes it incredibly cringey when Penny calls him insensitive names like "Dr. Wackadoodle" and mocks his idiosyncrasies. In later seasons, Sheldon and Penny develop a special bond. This is all the more reason that Penny should show more awareness and consideration for his anxiety.
When Sheldon behaves obnoxiously, what Penny should do is politely inform him that his behavior and comments are hurtful. We get why this doesn't happen — insightful heart-to-hearts rarely make for great comedy. But their offensive, verbal tit-for-tat is hardly a barrel of laughs either.
Even the most ardent fans may not remember this one, largely because it's a throwaway moment played for laughs. Penny, Amy, and Bernadette are psyched to go on a girls' trip to Vegas, but their plans get foiled offscreen when a TSA agent gets handsy with Amy, resulting in Amy breaking her nose. Amy gets put on a no-fly list and the Vegas trip is canceled.
Generally, it's a good rule of thumb not to go around bashing people's faces in — especially TSA agents'. But Amy is one of the most peaceful people on the show. If she felt the need to physically defend herself, it's likely because she felt threatened and violated. This makes it wildly insensitive for Penny to "console" Amy in telling her that getting groped and feeling shame is part of the quintessential Vegas experience. Penny would do well to put "Friend Getting Assaulted" on the no-joke list.