Penny may have been the “cool” one on The Big Bang Theory but that didn’t excuse her from having sad and traumatic moments in her life. Just as Sheldon and co. had downfalls in their personal and professional lives doesn’t mean Penny’s excused from it because she’s cute and blonde.
When fans look at Penny’s backstory—and even some of the things that happened to her over 12 seasons—she hasn’t always had it easy. In fact, Penny had to go the extra mile just to prove herself worthy to her colleagues, friends, and even her husband.
Her Dad Wanted Her To Be A Boy
Penny always had funny and uplifting things to say about her family but when Leonard’s mom, Beverly, came into town, viewers found out it wasn’t always magical growing up in Nebraska.
As a psychiatrist, Beverly had a way of allowing others to open up around her. Penny told her she had a wonderful childhood but was soon bawling her way up the stairs because her father never wanted a daughter; he wished Penny was a boy. He would call her “slugger” and buy her sports equipment as presents. Penny loves her dad but it can’t be easy knowing her dad wished she was different.
She Left Her Hometown To Follow Her Dreams And It Never Came True
Penny was in her early 20’s when she moved from Nebraska to California for a life of hopeful stardom. She had a passion for acting and wanted to see it through.
She dreamed of being rich and famous with her name in lights. Sadly, Penny quickly realized that it was a dog-eat-dog-world in Los Angeles. She did hundreds of auditions and only scored a handful of roles. She eventually realized that she “sucked at acting” and quit for a more stable life.
She Was A High School Bully
No, Penny shouldn’t be pitied because she was a high school bully and didn’t know it. What’s sad is that Penny is a very open and loving woman and chose to bully others as a way to validate her own insecurities. For Penny to treat others so cruelly proves how much inner turmoil she was going through.
In the episode where Leonard confronts his bully, Amy and Bernadette help Penny realize that she too is a bully and that she had to turn a new leaf and apologize. Her victims didn’t take her apology well but it’s assumed that she learned a lesson from her past behavior.
She Always Felt Like Owed The Boys Something
Penny borrowed food, money, and WiFi from the boys for years. Even when Penny and Leonard weren’t dating she would still get things for free from them. And while many viewers saw this as selfish, Penny did feel bad over it. She proved this when Sheldon lent her money.
Penny was grateful for the extra help but also felt like she was being judged for needing help. She eventually paid Sheldon back, and she even gave Leonard a wad of cash to pay him back for all the food he’s bought her over the years.
She’s Working A Job She Hates
When Penny quit acting and started working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, she quickly climbed the ladder as one of the best saleswomen in the company. However, in the episode “The Big Bear Precipitation,” Penny revealed to Leonard that she wasn’t happy with her job.
She didn’t feel right flirting with doctors for money but she had no choice. The job paid too well for her to quit and she had to do the “grown-up thing” and see it through. Things got better in season 12 when Penny was promoted but it’s not easy working a job you hate. Especially when all of her friends were doing things they loved.
When Leonard Cheated On Her
The crazy thing about Leonard cheating on Penny is that for years Leonard worried about Penny cheating on him or leaving him for someone cooler. He freaked out whenever Penny had a guy friend over. So, for him to flip the switch and cheat on her (when she never cheated on him) was blasphemy.
The entire reason why Leonard and Penny even got together was that she was sick of dating hot dudes who treated her poorly. Leonard told her to give him a chance, so she did. Poor Penny was bamboozled by the very man who earned her trust.
She Never Felt Smart Enough
Penny fits in great with this group of geniuses. She brings a different side of life to their group that enhanced everyone’s view of the world.
But sadly, no one recognizes this. Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj have all went to Penny for advice but she’s not given the credit she deserves. They constantly view her as the stupid one in the group just because she didn’t go to college. In reality, she has a better grasp of day-to-day life than they do.
Her Parents Were More Wrapped Up In Her Siblings
Penny’s last name has never been mentioned on the show and her family was rarely seen due to them living out of state. There even appears to be a few continuity issues with Penny’s family tree over the years. (Whatever happened to her sister?)
On the day of her and Leonard’s second wedding, it became clear that her mom cared more about Penny’s brother, Randall, and how he’s perceived than about Penny. She focused on Randall the entire weekend and even thanked him while Penny was walking down the aisle. Penny never had the attention of her parents.
Pressured To Bear Children
Over the course of her and Leonard’s relationship, they always said they’d like to have children someday but they weren’t in a rush. When it finally came time for the “are we or aren’t we?” conversation, Penny backtracked and said she didn’t want kids. She loved her life with Leonard and didn’t want to complicate it.
When Leonard was given the opportunity to sell his sperm to Penny’s ex, he thought it would be the only chance to procreate and was considering the offer. But when Penny’s dad came into town and learned that his daughter didn’t want babies, he shamed her. He made her feel bad about not gifting him grandchildren and that she was letting the family down. No woman should be made to feel that way when it’s her choice.
People Don’t Take Her Seriously
At the end of the day, one of the saddest things about Penny is that no one takes her seriously. Her best friend Amy put her through a series of tests to compare her results to a monkey’s. Beverly never accepted her as a daughter-in-law until after a few glasses of wine.
No one wanted to be her partner in the scavenger hunt because they didn’t trust her intelligence. And they even slut-shamed her (even though the guys tried their best to get as many dates as Penny did). Penny isn’t perfect but these sad moments make her human and relatable.