How can we not root for The Big Bang Theory‘s Leonard Hofstadter? He’s a geek with a heart of gold who, against all odds, never gives up on his dreams, whether they’re scientific or romantic. Of his group of friends, Leonard is by far the most down-to-earth, often finding himself in the role of peacekeeper. He’s also the most successful with women, likely because he treats them with the most respect.
But while Leonard may be the coolest cat in his clique, the rest of the world doesn’t see him that way—least of all Leonard himself. He possesses a massive amount of insecurity and it can manifest in unappealing ways, particularly in his relationship with Penny. Do Leonard’s positive qualities outshine his improprieties?
This isn’t that big a deal. Yes, Priya is Raj’s sister, but she’s also an adult with free will. If she wants to date Leonard, her desire supersedes any oppressive “Bro Code” rules. Though Raj’s objections are coming from a good place, he really should back off.
That being said, while Leonard too has every right to date who he wants, it’s somewhat insensitive that he didn’t at least talk to Raj first. Not to ask permission, just to check in. Given the delicacy of the situation, combined with Leonard not having been apart from Penny that long, it might have been a better choice for him to hold off. Dating Priya puts one of Leonard’s closest friendships in jeopardy. Is it really worth it? Given that it ends because both parties are unfaithful to each other, we’d say no.
Reads Penny’s journal
Every TV character should know that reading someone’s journal never ends well. But while it may be unreasonable to expect Leonard to have this kind of meta-foresight, it’s just a crappy thing to do, especially to your girlfriend. We get the temptation. Any burning questions about how our partner really feels about us could all be answered. How many of us have been there and chosen to act in accordance with Leonard?
To his credit, he owns up to his mistake and apologizes right away. He even tries to make it up to Penny via embarrassment by donning her orange lingerie—a reference to a comment he read in the journal. Ultimately, this is forgivable, but it’s still a red flag. There are several other soon-to-be mentioned disturbing incidents of Leonard’s controlling behavior. And they can’t be covered up with a skimpy negligee.
But Leonard adores Penny! He worships the ground she walks on! Yes, and that’s the problem. Putting someone up on a pedestal is still objectifying them. Leonard sees Penny as the pretty prize at the end of a quest. Sure, physical attraction is important, but Leonard initially only likes Penny because of her looks. They have next to nothing in common and Penny even belittles his interests.
When Penny is invited to a comic book convention because of her work in Serial Apeist, Leonard steals her thunder by amassing a group of his own male fans. He proceeds to tell them his tale of how the nerd scored the babe.
It’s worth noting that after they get married, Leonard is not always an ideal husband. He tends to pay more attention to video games than his wife. It looks like Leonard still treats Penny as a trophy, albeit one he forgot on the shelf.
Spends grant money to buy himself a laser
Leonard is nothing if not a people pleaser. This makes him mega-stressed when his boss assigns him the task of allocating extra grant money. However, it turns out to be a blessing in disguise because Leonard learns to become more assertive. It even has the added benefit of turning Penny on.
After some deliberation, Leonard narrows the allocation down to three projects. But at the last minute, he decides to by himself a laser. Umm…why? His colleagues actually planned on spending the money on worthwhile endeavors. But Leonard just wants a laser because…it’s cool? He even has the audacity to get annoyed when Bert and Raj decline to use it for a project. Is it because Leonard feels left out…or because he doesn’t have a justifiable reason for bogarting grant money in the first place?
Makes fun of Zack
When our ex moves on, it’s only natural to compare ourselves to their new love interest. Penny introducing Zack to the group triggers all of Leonard’s insecurities. Zack is tall and classically handsome, totally in Penny’s league on a superficial level. But there’s one silver lining—he’s dumb as a post.
Look, nobody’s perfect. If Leonard wants to bask in Zack’s low IQ, that’s his prerogative. But he should at least do it quietly. Instead, when Zack wants to talk science with the guys, Leonard and friends can’t help themselves as they mercilessly ridicule him. Eventually Zack catches on and storms off, clearly hurt. Penny makes an excellent point that the guys are being jerks, especially because they all know what it’s like to be picked on. Leonard may be a brilliant physicist but socially, he’s got a lot to learn.
Makes low blows at Penny’s expense
Zack isn’t the only target of Leonard’s below-the-belt zingers. He has plenty reserved for his own wife. Though he may not be as guilty as Sheldon, Leonard has been known to mock Penny’s intelligence. While Penny may act tough, one episode has her confiding in Sheldon that she wishes she was smarter. So when the one person who’s supposed to make her feel like a queen hits this nerve, it has to, ahem, smart.
After Leonard and Penny get married, he insists on carrying her across the threshold. Unsurprisingly, he struggles, and later blames it on Penny’s weight. Excuse you? First of all, the issue indisputably boils down to Leonard’s lack of strength. Secondly, even if it was Penny’s weight, bite your tongue, newlywed. Finally, given how Leonard’s pre-wedding revelation nearly cost him his bride, the man should know when to put a sock in it.
Controlling about Penny’s houseguests
Leonard seems to have a real problem with Penny having male visitors. He kicks up a huge fuss after she tells him that she’s letting her friend Justin crash on her couch. While Penny and Justin did go on a couple of dates, he’s not exactly a former paramour she’s still hung up on. We get why Leonard would be uncomfortable, but he really should have confidence in his relationship and let it go.
Yeah, not so much. The Justin issue gets resolved, but this hardly exorcises Leonard’s possessiveness. He also takes issue with Penny inviting handsome classmate Cole over to study. Leonard’s the one who encouraged Penny to go to community college in the first place. Now he has an issue with her making friends and taking school seriously? He even goes so far as to try to scare Cole away. Leonard needs to stop trying to control Penny’s social life and get control over himself.
Jeopardizes Sheldon’s reputation
How Leonard survives the grueling years as Sheldon’s roommate is anyone’s guess. Leonard is clearly a glutton for punishment, because he and the guys decide to accompany Sheldon on a work project to the North Pole. Living in freezing cold close quarters to Sheldon makes Leonard and friends legitimately consider murder. They don’t follow through, but settle for pulling a cruel prank in which they make Sheldon falsely think he’s getting results on his project.
This may have seemed like an amusing distraction—certainly not as bad as homicide—but it has real consequences back home. Sheldon already shared his “results” with everyone at the university and is now a total laughingstock. Howard and Raj may have been the perpetrators, but the whole scheme was Leonard’s idea. More than anyone, Leonard knows there are about a million ways to get under Sheldon’sskin…without destroying his career.
Upset at Penny’s success
As a waitress/actress with a shoe habit, Penny spends many years in a dire financial situation. When she quits the Cheesecake Factory to concentrating on her acting and her car breaks down, Leonard buys her a replacement. This is beyond sweet and wholly shows Leonard’s support for his girlfriend’s creative pursuits.
But Penny later quits acting and gets a job in pharmaceutical sales. For the first time in her life, she achieved financial success. She thrives at her new job and is even given a company car. Thus, she sells her Leonard-bestowed car and pays him back. Leonard should be beside himself with pride. Instead, he gets upset that she sold the car without telling him. Huh? Would he prefer Penny to be a financial dependant and wifi mooch for the rest of her life? Say what you will about the other flawed characters, but nobody else would view Penny’s independence as a negative.
Cheats on Penny
Before we throw Leonard to the wolves, let’s remember that it was a one-time drunken makeout session. But Leonard doesn’t do himself any favors by how he handles it, starting with who he chose to swap spit with. It’d be a lot more forgivable if it was a rando in a bar, but Leonard kissed a co-worker whom he sees every day.
The best course of action would be for Leonard to immediately tell Penny what happened and let her make her own decisions. Alas, that would be too considerate. So Leonard keeps quiet until right before their wedding, and springs the news on Penny. Dude! At this point, odd as it may sound, Leonard should have carried the secret to his grave. Him choosing to ruin his soulmate’s special day just so he can clear his conscience is a selfish move. Talk about a near kiss of death.