Tonight’s Big Bang Theory tackled a topic that seems to come up a lot lately: what it actually means to support other women. We’ve all read articles about the value of lifting each other up and been told to follow “girl code,” but it’s easy to be there for your peers when things are going well. The real work comes in the hard times—when your colleague bypasses you for a promotion or a friend constantly humblebrags about her many accomplishments, for example.
It’s especially difficult to be supportive when you’re not feeling supported yourself, something Amy and Bernadette faced on tonight’s episode. Amy was already dealing with her fiancé, Sheldon, acting like a jealous child when she confided that she got special lab equipment at work, when a conversation with Bernadette turned into an uncomfortable battle of who’s more successful. Yikes.
But let’s back up and talk about Sheldon and Amy first: As much as we’d like to see them start planning their wedding, they’ve got bigger problems to figure out than what kind of card stock to use. Amy might be used to Sheldon’s childish and obnoxious responses to her success—he was downright awful at her work dinner last week—but we’re not. It’s nice that Amy doesn’t want to brag about her recent funding, knowing that he’s struggling a bit with his own career, but she shouldn’t have to completely hide it from him, either.
But Amy’s not alone in this: Bernadette confides to Amy that she often hides aspects of her success from Howard. (Seriously?!) When she went on a company retreat to Tahiti last year, she told Howard it was to Boise instead. For the sake of a sitcom joke, it was funny, but in the real world it’s frustrating. Bernadette also admits she kept last year’s bonus check a secret from her husband—and here we thought raising two children under two was going to be their biggest issue.
In an attempt to find a temporary solution to their problems, Bernadette and Amy agree to tell each other about their own successes because apparently telling their significant others is out of the question. (Yet in one moment of clarity, Amy notes that “the guys are never shy about bragging.”) With that, the ladies start sharing their achievements, but the whole thing goes off the rails within seconds:
Bernadette: “There’s so much money in pharmaceuticals, we don’t even wash out our old test tubes. We just throw ’em out and get new ones!”
Amy: “I just got a brand new state-of-the-art fMRI machine!”
Bernadette: “Wow, those things are so expensive!”
Amy: “I know! Sometimes I just lie down in there and take a nap. It’s like a million dollar bunk bed!”
Bernadette: “At the office, I have two assistants! I don’t even know their names. I just call them thing 1 and thing 2.”
Amy: “I don’t have assistants.”
Bernadette: “I guess that’s one of the benefits of being in the private sector. That and all the money I make!”
Amy: “Yeah, you’ve got that. I’ve got my integrity. Hard to say which one is better without making you feel bad. I may not be making as much money as you, but at least I’m doing something that I know makes people’s lives better.”
Bernadette: “Hey! My work makes peoples lives better. Especially if you have moderate to severe eczema and don’t mind if you lose teeth.”
Amy: “You’re right. We both do important work. I’m trying to map the structures of the brain and you’re trying to convince people that itchy hair is a real thing.”
Bernadette: “It is a real thing! It happens to be a side effect of our cholesterol drug.”
Amy: “I’m just saying that my research may actually change the world forever.”
Bernadette: “I hope it does. ‘Cause I’m going to see that world from a yacht so big you could land a helicopter on it!”
So…not only do we have two successful women who can’t tell the men in their lives about their accomplishments, but now they can’t even figure out how to be excited for one another without turning it into a game of who’s living their best life? At a time when women really do need to stick together and support each other in life and in work, this was a missed opportunity. Same for their partners, who have turned into mopey, outdated stereotypes of men who can’t handle a woman’s success. Then again, maybe I’m hoping for too much from a bunch of guys who basically got drunk on mouthwash in the same episode.