The Big Bang Theory Still Doesn't Think Its Female Lead Needs A Last Name

Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS
The Big Bang Theory made it's season 9 premiere on Monday night, and the show's female lead, Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), still doesn't have a last name. Even though she got married to the lead dork on the show, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), who obviously does have a last name. Even though she's been on this show for nine years, since 2007. Why? Because the show's creators think it's a funny joke for her not to have a last name.

When Vulture asked whether or not the show ever planned to reveal Penny's surname, executive producer Steve Molaro told the site, "You know, I don't think we will [reveal it]. We're kind of a superstitious lot here. We've made it this far without knowing Penny's last name. I think we're good not finding out."

Vulture's Kimberly Potts pressed further, pointing out that Penny is an aspiring actress on the show, and if she were to become well-known in TBBT's alternate universe, wouldn't we want to know her full celebrity name? He suggested the show would have to find a way around that. Then he suggested the way around that would be to keep her too normal to need a name.

"In general, I think what we have so far is a pretty accurate portrayal of a pretty girl who moved to Los Angeles, and took acting classes, and is trying, and is struggling, and is a waitress," Molaro said. "I think for a lot of people, that's the reality. If she starts to get really successful, now we're sort of behind the scenes in Hollywood, and I think that may be not exactly the kind of thing we tend to do on this show. But nothing's ruled out."

Does Molaro think that waitresses, extras, and struggling actresses in real life don't have last names, either, simply because he doesn't bother to learn them? Just wondering.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Molaro explained that Penny does, in fact, have a last name now: her husband's. "She has taken his name, and maybe that's convenient, so we don't have to deal with her maiden name, but she is Penny Hofstadter now," Molaro said.

Oh, okay! So, this character, who has been quite independent and headstrong for nine years, is simply going to take the last name of her husband. Obviously, a lot of thought went into how this was going to play out.

Since Molaro and the crew at TBBT can't seem to puzzle this together themselves, we'll explain: Not giving your leading female character a last name isn't a cute joke. It's dehumanizing. It makes her less of a person than every male character on the show who does have a last name. Have the decency to make the biggest female character on your show an autonomous being, and not the butt of a joke or the source of your weird superstitions. What's the worst that could happen, you might get canceled after nine years as one of TV's top-rated comedies? Clearly, if that happened after her last name came to light, Penny would be to blame.
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