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Characters / The Big Bang Theory Penny

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Played by: Kaley Cuoco
Voiced by:: Mireya Mendoza (Latin-American Spanish dub)

"You know where I was all afternoon? Auditioning with fifty other blondes for an anti-depressant commercial... They said I was too perky..."

Nebraska-born neighbor of Leonard and Sheldon, moved there in the pilot. She aspires to be an actress, but to pay the bills she works as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. Initially friendly but distant to the guys, she grew to become One of the Boys. She has an average intelligence which is overshadowed by being around these super-geniuses, but displays common sense and social awareness that the others almost completely lack. Her relationship with both Leonard and Sheldon opened her up to the concept of higher thinking and she has found some difficulty going back to keeping "regular" people as company.

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  • Absolute Cleavage: Most of her tops plunge right into this, especially in the earlier seasons. Also of note, her "secret weapon" dress.
  • Action Girl: For the standards of the series. She tends to show the four nerds how issues are solved in Nebraska...
  • The Alcoholic: The hardest drinking member of the cast. Typically manifests with her finishing the bottle while everyone else is on their first glass, it can be inferred that she is accustomed to heavier drinking company and so when with a bunch of recreational drinkers she stands out more.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Has a bad case of this. Notably, she identifies the qualities she likes in men as "macho, handsome, success, money", not necessarily "badness." When hanging out with Leonard as Just Friends, he realized he didn't have to conform to what she wanted and became assertive about their activity leading to some obnoxious behavior. She later admitted that even though things got out of hand, she liked seeing him take charge for once.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: A 20s-30s version with her and the guys in the core group, she was very popular in high school.
  • All Women Love Shoes: She has a large collection of shoes, despite being in a poor financial situation. A season 4 episode justifies that Penny sometimes chooses buying shoes over paying rent.
  • Anti-Hero: She's done a lot of morally questionable things in her past and during the show. She can also be a humongous hardass in situations where she shouldn't be, plus she had no qualms about taking clothes from a donation bin. That said, Penny is a nice enough girl and she's helped out all the core group.
  • The Atoner: The plot point for a Season 5 episode. She attempts to put things right with those she hurt in her high school days. None of them want to listen. In Season 7, she realized that Leonard was always the one to do romantic gestures and the only thing she offered in return was sex. She took the time to plan out a special evening in return.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: With each member of the group:
    • Despite breaking up with him, Penny does truly and sincerely love Leonard and eventually marries him. It's revealed in Season Eleven she only broke up with him due to being insecure over whether she was good enough for him and the potential prospect of marriage.
    • Even though they tease each other, Penny eventually develops a brother-sister dynamic with Sheldon.
    • Becomes good friends with Howard and Raj despite Howard's initially unwanted advances and Raj is Selective Mutism and obnoxious behaviour at times.
    • Forms her own Girl Posse with Bernadette and Amy and officiates the former wedding and becomes the latter's maid of honor.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Zig-Zagged, along with Hollywood Tone-Deaf. We see her in a hemorrhoid commercial and an unreleased movie from before she met the guys and her acting is shown to be pretty stiff and unnatural, but it is meant to reflect on the quality of the product rather than her talents as an actress. But we see her as Blanche in a student production of A Streetcar Named Desire and she performs the role well, and was praised for being very natural and comfortable on Sheldon's web series.
  • Bare Your Midriff: She is sometimes seen in midriff-baring clothing.
  • Batter Up!: It's implied in one episode that her Weapon of Choice is an aluminum bat.
  • The Bartender: She works as a bartender while Waiting for a Break.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: She initially seems to believe this. The scales fall away pretty fast.
  • Better as Friends: She feels that things are easier with Leonard as friends rather than as a couple, though their attraction to each other hasn't ever wavered. They got together early Season 3 and broke up towards the end. Nearly two seasons later, they decided to try experimenting being together again using a beta test, given that they never stopped caring for each other.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While she's quite a nice person in general, she knows how to fight in hand to hand, and in one episode she breaks Howard's nose when he tries to take advantage of her.
  • The Big Gal: She's more capable of handling herself on a physical level than the guys are.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Messing with or hurting one of the boys is a very good way to get an angry Penny after you. Just ask Lucy, or Alicia, or Todd Zarnecki.
  • Big "OMG!": She's prone to say "OMG" or "Oh My God" when shocked, much to Sheldon's annoyance.
  • Book Dumb: Even by normal standards, she's pretty clueless when it comes to anything academic. She doesn't react well of someone implies she's not smart.
  • Boyish Short Hair: As of Season 8, when she switches careers from acting to a pharmaceutical representative, representing her newfound maturity. Sheldon, of course, doesn't care for it. (We later learn nobody of the group cared for it either. Bernadette considered it "brave" but unattractive and Amy was somewhat relieved since she felt Penny's looks finally went down a peg.)
  • Brainless Beauty: Definitely comes across this way for much of the first season, ditzy although very sweet and kindhearted. It's implied the more time she spent with the guys made her embrace her own intelligence, and enjoys picking up on a few bits and pieces of knowledge that comes her way. By the third season she was definitely portrayed as having average intelligence, while a flashback to her in high school shows her acting ditzy again.
  • Broken Ace: She's seen by most as a beautiful fun-loving party girl. However, underneath it she's insecure over her failing acting career and her intelligence which is dwarfed due to the intelligence of all her friends who are super smart academics.
  • Cat Fight: In one instance with Alicia, an Expy of her that was taking advantage of the boys' kindness.
  • Character Development: In the first season, she was friendly with the group but didn't really hang out with them much. By the second season, she started to consider them to be some of her best friends and was even retaining some of the scientific principles the others would explain to her. After getting together with Leonard and later breaking up, she found that she couldn't go back to dating dumb guys again. In later seasons, she slowly starts trying to further her own education. She takes a couple of college classes and moves from a Wish Fulfillment acting career into a more stable job as a pharmaceutical rep (one that requires more studying than she has ever done in her life). She has also accepted that while she'll never know exactly what Leonard does, she appreciates his intelligence and takes the opportunity to write down words to memorize so she can at least ask him how his experiments are going.
  • Characterization Marches On: Penny was a lot dumber initially, the pilot has her claiming her screenplay isn't based on her life because she's from Omaha and not Lincoln. She quickly moved from The Ditz to Women Are Wiser. Some of this is explained that she has gotten smarter from hanging around the guys, a flashback as a teenager shows her celebrating a negative pregnancy test in quite a ditzy manner. She still has occasional bouts of being ditsy or doing something stupid, but no more than anyone else.
  • Closet Geek: Becomes one as the series goes on, to the point of watching Star Trek (2009) before one of the guys and getting into an intense argument with the girls over Thor's hammer. She does deny a lot of her geekiness once assuring Amy there was no difference between Star Trek and Star Wars despite it being clear she knew otherwise. She does openly admit to liking Game of Thrones watching it on her own without Leonard urging her.
    Penny: Nah I like that show. It's got dragons and people doing it.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Shares Sheldon wrangling duty with Leonard. After Sheldon came back from Disneyland, the two of them even looked on affectionately as he slept afterward as though Sheldon were their son.
  • Commitment Issues: Penny has this problem, big time. She and Leonard eventually work through it by Leonard putting the power to propose marriage in Penny's hands, so she won't have the weight of it on her shoulders until she decides she's ready. At the end of Season 7, they mutually agree to get married. though she seems to be in no rush to get married claiming she wants to prove to her mom she's not pregnant.
  • Cool Big Sis: Once she fully integrated into the group, she likes hanging out with guys and they with her. She's later very sisterly to Amy and Bernadette, especially the former. Penny tends to act like Amy's cooler, more mature, more experienced older sister who brings her along to do fun, adult things. Since Amy is, in many ways, still acting like a teenager, she likes this dynamic.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Her more common boyfriends were, according to her dad, "skateboard idiots, white rappers, and sweaty dumbasses with their backwards hat." This makes him very pleased to see her dating Leonard, a Nice Guy who is college-educated, has a steady job, and no felonies on his record. However, the trope is Played With in that when she dates Leonard, it's because she genuinely appreciates him and isn't just doing it as a form of rebellion.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has increasingly evolved into snarking as the show continues, mainly towards Sheldon, more than likely a result of of his verbal abuse.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: In general, she is the character most frequently seen barefoot. She makes an exception for flip-flops. A point is often made about how many shoes she buys, yet she never actually seems to wear them, though could be she enjoys possessing them more than wearing them because the more she wears those shoes, the less glossy and clean they get with all the dirt, filth, dust on the ground.
  • Down on the Farm: Penny's from just outside of Omaha, and has a background living on a farm with animals, even though her personality is still more of a Valley Girl.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Penny does not actually drive badly, she drives like a person who has driven for a very long time and will sometimes bypass 'normal' behavior for a quicker route, such as not slowing down much over speed bumps. Her constant ignoring of the Check Engine light is a running gag, though.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Whenever she has a problem, she usually reaches for the nearest wine bottle. Particularly prominent in "The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition," where in nearly every scene she's in she has a glass of alcohol ready, the episode (and much of the season) implies she regrets breaking up with Leonard and being too scared to share her feelings with him.
  • Dude Magnet: Most of the male characters who appear on the show (main, recurring, or one-shot characters) are or were attracted to Penny, with Sheldon being the only notable exception.
  • Dumb Blonde: In the early episodes, she seemed to be a ditz, but as the series progressed she showed average-level intelligence and a knack for pop culture. She's still dumb if you compare her to the boys, Bernadette, and the resident Brainy Brunettes Amy and Leslie, but given all of those characters are explicitly stated to range from above-average to abnormal intelligence, a straight-up comparison seems unfair. It should also be noted that while her academic intelligence is significantly lower than the boys, her social intelligence/common sense is certainly higher than any of the boys' except possibly Leonard, especially in the earlier seasons.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The few mentions of her siblings indicate she comes from one. Penny's sister shot her own husband while drunk. Penny's brother practices clandestine chemistry, working in a meth lab.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo:
    • Penny has one on her buttock she claims is the Chinese symbol for "Courage". According to Sheldon, it actually means "Soup".
      Sheldon: But I suppose it does take courage to demonstrate that kind of commitment to soup.
    • She apparently got a hidden Cookie Monster tattoo some time in the two years she and Leonard were broken up. When they got back together she told him that his reaction to it must either be nothing or "awesome!" Although another responsible reaction was Leonard inhaling sulfur hexoflouride (the stuff that makes your voice get really deep) and imitating the Cookie Monster.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: It's a Running Gag with her and Amy in Season 5 (the gag stops in later seasons), although Bernadette doesn't share this. In season 8, she casually relates that her high school PE coach "liked her too much" and furthered the young Penny's pastoral development by taking her to a Melissa Etheridge concert. Penny apparently got straight A's from her somewhat infatuated teacher, but does not disclose how far she had to go to get the A's. apparently "it all worked out just fine".
  • The Everyman: She could be considered this since she's the only main character who's not a super genius.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: All the guys on the show are into Penny to some extent, except for obviously Sheldon.

  • The Face: Besides being the only female lead, Penny is the only one of the five main leads who is not a socially incompetent nerd.
  • The Fashionista: Early on she became the one the group turned to for advice on clothing choices, and she definitely enjoys putting on a dress and going out for fun on the town. She also has an unhealthy obsession with expensive shoes. Amy repeatedly states that Penny has taught her how to dress up, and at the least wear more modern underwear.
  • Fatal Flaw: Fear of commitment is arguably her defining flaw in the series. Due to this she's broken up with Leonard at least once and has insecurities about the prospect of marrying him. To a lesser extent she shares Leonard's insecurity, hers being more about whether she's intelligent enough for him.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Averted, her "special" ingredient for the ramen she served for her and Leonard's date night was the flavor package.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: There are only three women in the ensemble, but Penny is the Choleric. She is the de facto leader of the group, and its strongest member, fairly independent from her significant other, and practical. She also has flaws associated with the temperament, such as having a nasty temper, being vindictive, and rather insensitive.
  • Gamer Chick: Has shades of this with her Age of Conan addiction and swift mastery of Halo multiplayer. Not to mention her defeat of Leonard at chess (the same day she learned the rules!) in Season 5.
  • Geeky Turn-On: She's gained a better appreciation for science and throughout the series has progressively started to find Leonard's ''intelligence'', not just companionship, genuinely sexy. It's best shown in "Holographic Excitation" when, after some prodding from Amy and Bernadette, she visited Leonard at work (she hadn't visited before out of intimidation). After he showed her some holograms he was working on she was so amazed by that side of him they fooled around in his lab.
  • Girl Next Door: She moves into the apartment across the hall in the first episode and that alone gave Leonard some hope that she might become interested in him. She is consistently portrayed as a fairly down-to-earth and friendly girl who helps fill in the gaps in the guys' social skills.
  • Girly Bruiser: Penny is an attractive, outgoing, and quite boy-crazy aspiring actress. However, she's incredibly strong for a woman and way more capable of handling herself on a physical level than any of the guys on the show. In one episode, she actually broke Howard's nose with just one punch. In another, she wrestled Sheldon to the ground in a second.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: She's fairly feminine with her interests in fashion, shoes, nails, and pursuing a career in acting, but she's very tough and knows more about traditional manly interests like football, hunting, or fishing than the guys. See also Girly Bruiser and The Lad-ette.
  • Good Bad Girl: Although she's a nice girl, she does mention she started dating at 14, and she was going to sleep with Stuart when they went on a date, until Sheldon unintentionally interrupted. An early episode had her casually admit that after every breakup, she engages in thirty-six hours of meaningless sex with a random guy. In a thirty-seven-hour time frame. There's also a flashback of her as a teenager reacting with ecstasy at a negative pregnancy test.
  • Groin Attack: She doesn't appreciate people stealing Sheldon's "stuff", and a swift kick to the balls is her preferred method of dealing with them. This is apparently the way they handle such issues in Nebraska, although a baseball bat appears to be an option as well.
    • She threatens Amy with this at one point after being accidentally struck in the nose.
    Penny: "Get away from me or I swear I'll rip out what's left of your pubes!"
  • Happily Married: To Leonard, despite facing some issues in there marriage during Season Ten, they both are very loving and devoted to each other.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Has these tendencies, especially when she's depressed or disappointed.
  • The Heart: Often picks up this trait when problems among others in the cast get out of hand. Sometimes it's a peaceful "let's change the subject" and other times it's a forceful "stop whining!"
  • Heel Realization: She has a naturally friendly disposition, but often realizes that she has acted in a mean-spirited way long after the fact, and usually after someone points it out to her. Specifically:
    • In Season 5, she realizes that she was a bully in her high school days, and attempts to make amends with those she hurt, with little success.
    • In Season 7, it's pointed out she never took the time to do something romantic with Leonard (and sex doesn't count). She never had to put much effort into relationships because she was pretty enough that guys just flocked to her. She decides to plan out a special evening in response.
    • In Season 9, it's not so much a realization but a confession. Penny insisted on throwing Sheldon a birthday party, in part because he hates birthday parties because he shared a birthday with his twin sister Missy, he had no friends while Missy and her friends would torture him. Penny later tells him that she felt sad for Sheldon in the way he was treated, but also guilty in that she probably would have been been just like Missy and her friends at that age.
    • In Season 11, Raj comes to realize that most of his interactions with Howard are jokes at his expense, and even points out a similarity with how Penny interacts with Leonard. Penny ends up agreeing and makes an effort to treat Leonard better.
  • Heroic BSoD: A minor one, she had a personal crisis when Leonard tried to get her interested in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, figuring it was the one show they would enjoy together (cheerleader premise, girls kicking ass and Joss Whedon's witty writing) and he was devastated that she just thought it was okay. It caused her some serious introspection because she realized that she lacked the same enthusiasm for really anything, worrying that she was holding back on appreciating things in her life. She got out of it by realizing how much she loves being with Leonard and the group and seeing their enthusiasm for all these nerdy things.
  • Hidden Depths: She surprises even herself with retaining scientific principles, thought experiments and nerd culture just from hanging around these guys. She memorably did a double-take after using a Star Trek analogy, later got all the references at the guys' "Star Wars Day Breakfast" on May 4th and was familiar with the mythology of Doctor Who despite her best efforts to not care. She also picks up skills fairly easily(such as beating Leonard at chess right after he taught her to play), when she actually takes interest in something and makes an honest effort to learn. This culminates in her getting a job as a pharmaceutical rep, which involved more studying than she ever did in school (combined with being pretty and her natural charisma, she excels at the job).
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: An early episode had her practicing for a musical performance, when overhearing it Sheldon remarks "If cat's could sing... they'd hate it too." The point was that she was trying for a role that was out of her skill set. In later episodes when singing "Soft Kitty" to Sheldon, she has a passable singing voice.
  • Hypocrite: Penny shows several signs of hypocrisy, often she will call others out on things she does or has done herself. For example she criticises Leonard for being so insecure about the relationship he would resort to interfering with her relationship with a male student she was working with, despite several episodes earlier interfering with Leonard's relationship with Sheldon's female assistant for exactly the same reason. She also tells Sheldon he can't tell Amy what they can't do, only for Sheldon to point out that she commonly tells Leonard what he can't do. Although the others do sometimes show shades of Hypocrisy, Penny's the only one where it is normally not played for a joke.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: She's got some commitment issues. These are not entirely her fault — it is implied and later explicitly stated that she once said "I love you" to someone too early, and that someone went on to treat her like crap. Finally says the L-word to Leonard in Season 6 and the emotional gravity of the moment makes her cry.
  • Important Haircut: During the 45 days between Season 7 and 8, her long locks have become a shorter pixie haircut, that slightly resembles Jennifer Lawrence as part of a new adult look. Sheldon, of course, hates it.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Most male characters who have met Penny comment on how attractive she is. There's also a Running Gag in season 5 with Amy constantly gushing about how "hot" Penny is. Everyone thinks she is way out of Leonard's league, including Leonard himself. However, due to Hollywood casting, most of the other Love Interests are also played by very attractive actresses, but no one makes a big deal out of it, even with Howard and Bernadette.
  • Insecure Love Interest: While it's more obvious with Leonard, the fact is that it's heavily implied he is the first guy to ever be interested in Penny for more than her body. She in turn feels that she's not smart enough for him. This mostly (but not entirely) goes away by season six.
  • In-Series Nickname: Her father Wyatt called her "slugger". He stopped when Penny got her first training bra. It was difficult to keep pretending that Penny was his son.
  • Instant Expert: If she is genuinely interested in playing a game, she tends to be almost a savant at it. She was better than Sheldon her first time playing Halo and beat Leonard at Chess while he was teaching her how to play.
  • Intimate Marks: She apparently has a Chinese character tattooed on her right buttock. It is either for "Courage" or "soup" depending on whether you believe her or Sheldon.
  • Jerkass Ball: It's somewhat Depending on the Writer, but over the course of the series, Penny has shown an extremely large number of unpleasent character traits. She has an All Take and No Give relationship with Leonard, even taking money from his wallet to get him a birthday present, she expects the guy that she broke up with to continue paying for her food, gas and rent, she refuses to admit when she's wrong and the others are right, she thinks a being in a hemorrhoid commerical makes her a better, higher list actress than the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, throws temper tantrums at the slightest hint of criticism, delights in people hitting on her, even when she's in a relationship but throws a fit when a girl makes a pass at her boyfriend, spreads malicious rumors about other aspiring actresses, refuses to pull her weight at The Cheesecake Factory, eavesdrops on her customer's private conversations, broke up with Leonard and got insanely envious of the girls he dated afterwards. She also talks down to the guys and makes fun of them for liking science fiction shows\movies, even calling the losers at one point.
  • Jerk Justifications: As the series progresses it shows that she's become increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in her acting career. She outright admits that anything less than the ideal celebrity lifestyle she built up in her head wasn't worth getting excited about. She also has commitment issues, which is a big part of her problem in maintaining a relationship; the last guy she said "I love you" went on to treat her like garbage. She's also lived near nightmare neighbor Sheldon Cooper for years...
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Her Pet the Dog moments are fewer and farther between than most, but they are there. Like the time she drove for miles to beat up the bully who hacked Sheldon's World of Warcraft account, buying Leonard and Sheldon each a vintage Star Trek transporter toy, the time she stood up for Raj by harshly scolding Lucy for the horrible way she treated him, or the time she tried to cheer Leonard up by very generously buying him a remote control helicopter (which according to Raj's dad, in a later episode, costs the equivalent of a month's rent). She shows that she's kept almost all the gifts that Leonard gave her due to sentimental value (even the 10-page "Thank You" letter he wrote after their first night together). Then there are all the times she sings Soft Kitty whenever Sheldon is sick. When a new neighbor comes by in Season Three and starts seducing the guys, Penny tries to learn a dumb physics joke and seems mostly upset that Alicia is doing it to guys who aren't savvy enough to realize what she's up to.
  • The Lad-ette: While she can be very feminine and dressed-up sometimes, it's a running gag that she knows more about masculine activities than the guys. It's implied the guys started drinking more because of her (leading to the discovery of what it does to Raj), she was antsy about meeting a burglar so she could "go Nebraska on his ass" with a bat, loved going to the gun range with her dad, and when the guys needed someone who knew about manly things (specifically fishing) she was the one they turned to.
  • Lethal Chef: Downplayed, she has a few dishes she does okay with (Sheldon loved her spaghetti with cut-up hotdogs, inspired by something his mom would make), but none of it is gourmet and she makes some basic mistakes that have offset a meal. She once made spaghetti but didn't properly have the water boiling, making it crunchy. She was overjoyed to find the secret ingredient to ramen... the flavor packet.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: The Dark to Bernadette's Light. Penny is the more seductive of the two, more sexually experienced, and has a more noticeable temper. Bernadette is less overtly flirtatious, has a more stable love life, and she is slower to anger. (Though Bernadette can be more intimidating as seen in Season 8). They are close friends.
  • Like Brother and Sister: With Sheldon. In the episode "The Intimacy Acceleration" they conduct an experiment designed to make people fall in love by asking each other a few personal questions. They don't fall in love but reflect more about their friendship and they both admit that they look on each other like a brother and a sister.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: After psychoanalyzing Penny, Leonard's mother tells him that if he wants to have sex with Penny he should use the same kind of cologne her father wears.
  • Limited Social Circle: Averted at first, but played straight in later seasons. During the first seasons she seemed to have a large circle of friends outside of the guys, but in the later seasons all of Penny's social life seems to revolve around Leonard and company.
  • Literally Loving Thy Neighbor: Has a relationship with Leonard who lives across the hall in the same apartment building.
  • Little Black Dress: Seems to be a favorite of hers when going out for a night on the town.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Being a gorgeous young woman, it shows up every so often, mostly involving her relationship with Bernadette and Amy. In one episode, she realized she was a high school bully and was sorry about it.
  • Love Epiphany:
    • Has one during the Sixth Season where she finally acknowledges her true feelings for Leonard.
    • She has a platonic one in Season Eleven. After several years of denying that Amy is her "bestie," it finally hits her that the reason she's so pissed Amy is considering having Bernadette be her maid of honor instead of her is because, yes, Amy is her best friend. Amy's positively thrilled.
  • Love Interest: For Leonard, thus providing much of the show's plot impetus.
  • Love Will Lead You Back: Penny pines for Leonard after he starts dating Priya during the Fourth and early part of Fifth Season after there break up. It's quite obvious she's overjoyed when Leonard finally asks her out again during the 100th episode and they restart their relationship again.

  • Ma'am Shock: In Season 9, she reacts badly to being called ma'am by a guy working at a restaurant. She was flirting with him and told him they are practically the same age, to which he laughed nervously. The guy is actually 21 and Penny tells him to just shut up. She is in her late twenties and gets a bit saddened by it, wondering where all the time went.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl:
    • In its own way, this is what Penny is to all of the guys. Leonard and his friends Sheldon, Howard and Raj are content with their lives of scientific research at Caltech and being concerned with any given upcoming nerdy activity such as Klingon Boggle. When Penny moves in next door she is neither a genius or a nerd, but is actually an average girl with a vibrant social life. Being around her Leonard can't help but see the contrast between her going out dancing and them sitting at home playing World of Warcraft together. While it is most evident with Leonard as they become romantically involved with each other, everyone evolves significantly by having her in their lives.
    • In a reversal, Penny never really gave much thought to the academic pursuits these guys are involved with on a daily basis. While she is hopelessly unable to keep up with their Technobabble, after some time she retains knowledge and is fascinated with a few thought experiments, famously Schrödinger's Cat in the first season finale. By the fourth season, she has admitted that it is hard for her to keep less intelligent company around. By Season 6, she has gone back to school, taking a history class and, as of Season 7, a psychology class.
  • Manipulative Bitch: A mild example. She is very good at using her good looks and sex appeal to get her way.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Masculine Girl to Leonard's Feminine Boy. It's a product of her personality that she doesn't take any crap from people while Leonard will just suffer through humiliation to avoid conflict. In Season 6, Bernadette's father tries to take Howard fishing as a bonding exercise. Howard realizes he had better learn how to fish, and asks Raj and Leonard to help him figure out who he can ask to train him in Typical Guy Stuff. One Gilligan Cut later, they are knocking on Penny's door. It's also revealed that she rebuilt an entire tractor engine all by herself at the age of twelve. It's also sometimes played with, as she certainly likes girly things and can be quite emotional at times, leading to this gem when she first tells Leonard that she loves him.
    Leonard: Are we just going to pretend this isn't a big deal?
    Penny: ...That's exactly what we are going to do, because... [tearing up] you're about to make me cry. And we both know if I start crying, you're going to start crying!
    Leonard: [tearing up as well] Yeah, you'd better go.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: She treated Leonard almost like a brother in the first season, despite kissing him a few times in addition to some mild flirting. Yet, when he mustered the courage to ask her out in the finale, she seemed surprised that he was interested in her, and only then started to consider him as someone date-able. When they get back together in Season 5 and started their relationship beta-test, she would swing back and forth from a very casual Just Friends relationship to suggesting they make-out to pass the time when the power went out, which Leonard caught on and even joked about. Early Season 6, she confessed to Amy and Bernadette that she was worried about leading him on and was almost ready to break up to avoid hurting him again, only to be swayed by his Puppy-Dog Eyes and they finally had sex again.
    Penny: I didn't know what else to do. He had those big, sad eyes.
    Bernadette: Yes, of course, you had no choice?
    Penny: He looked at me like this... [imitates big, sad eyes]
    Amy: If that's all it takes, it's a good thing you don't have a dog.
  • Meaningful Name: Penny is financially the poorest of the main cast comprised of physicists and scientists.
  • Meganekko: She once donned some glasses to help her look smart and started saying random science terms like "molecules". The resultant look drove Leonard crazy.
  • Mood-Swinger: Part of the premise is that Penny is a very emotional girl who frequently baffles the guys with her illogical mood swings.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The first couple of seasons especially had her in short shorts and cleavage heavy tank tops as regular outfits. As evidence of her character growth and age (she was 21 in the first season), she started dressing more like an adult than a teenager, now more often wearing slacks and blouses. That said, she never really stopped dressing in such a way that shows she knows what she has, and how to use it. After Kaley Cuoco's real-life horse-riding accident, they stopped showing her legs to hide her surgical scars, which had no in-universe explanation. This trope in later seasons is downplayed with her wearing tank tops though now with pants rather than short shorts.
  • Must Have Caffeine: In one notable instance, she came over to the guys' apartment, declared "out of coffee, need coffee" and poured herself a cup like it was nothing, pissing off Leonard's new girlfriend, who was unaware of her Drop-In Character status in the process.
  • My Greatest Failure: As she confesses to Raj in the Season 4 Finale and evident during the early part of Season Five, breaking up with Leonard was a huge mistake for Penny. They evetually get back together and get married.
  • Nerd Nanny: She provides the page image. She lives across the hall and simply likes the company and Leonard. Although we do see why they hang out with each other, as the guys, most especially Leonard and Sheldon help her out with her problems when she's experiencing them and she helps them get a lot less bullied than they normally still are. Another difference is that they do do things without her coaxing, and she does hers without theirs, but usually in their own social circles and what they try to get from the other party is a crossing of boundaries.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween:
    • Out of the main trio, she's always the inbetween (warm, friendly, but occasionally bitchy) to Leonard's nice (the most meek and submissive) and Sheldon's mean (always pompous, rude, selfish, and demanding).
    • Out of the girls, she's initially the mean (being the snarkiest of the three) to Bernadette's nice and Amy's inbetween. After Bernadette Took a Level in Jerkass, she becomes the inbetween to Amy's nice and Bernadette's mean. She's still the snarkiest but more easygoing and less aggressive than Bernadette.
  • Not a Morning Person: She has a rule for no one to knock on her door before 11:00 am or she will punch them in the throat.
    Penny: It's six thirty in the morning! [slams door]
    Leonard: Didn't you grow up on a farm?
  • Not So Above It All: She doesn't obsess over geeky topics like the guys do, and often criticizes them for putting such a high priority on it. But she does demonstrate some of her own geekiness at times, has her own collection of stuffed animals and will sometimes get into debates without realizing it.
  • Not So Different: Considering that they both have huge egos, a stubborn refusal to admit when they are wrong, issues with entitlement, a reluctance to progress their relationships, devoted bespectacled spouses whom they often take for granted, problems with handling criticism and their treatment of Leonard as their Butt-Monkey despite how heavily reliant they are on him, it can sometimes be hard to see where Penny ends and Sheldon begins.
  • Odd Friendship: Towards everyone. Penny and Sheldon are Vitriolic Best Buds. By Season 4, when Leonard gets a new girlfriend and Penny decides to keep her distance, she comments how she's missed being around to hear Sheldon's "jibber jabber". Similarly, she admits she considers even Howard a friend of hers by the end of Season 4, even if she did once break his nose for him trying to stick his tongue down her throat).
  • Official Couple: Penny and Leonard when they start dating.
  • Old Shame: In-universe example. In Season 7, she confides that early on after moving to LA she appeared topless in a shower scene in an ultra low-grade horror movie called Serial Ape-ist (with a Killer Gorilla) that was never released. After telling Sheldon he lets her know that everyone already knew, Howard googled the movie almost the moment she left after meeting them for the first time. Could be Fridge Brilliance, she was so ashamed of the role that she was a little more picky about what she auditioned for and that's the reason she has next to no acting roles.
  • One of the Boys: Especially in the first four seasons, where she was the only girl who was always hanging out with a group of guys. Downplayed after Amy and Bernadette join the group.
  • Only One Name: Her last name is unknown to the audience, Bill Prady said it will be revealed eventually. Lampshaded on the Season 6 blooper reel, when Johnny ad-libbed a joke about Penny having issues by asking what her last name was and Kaley, caught off guard, exclaimed "I don't know!" Her maiden name remains unknown, but after marrying Leonard she becomes Penny Hofstader.
  • Only Sane Woman: Even saner than Leonard, especially when the guys are over-complicating something or have dived too deeply into a fandom to realize they're not being normal.
  • One True Love: Despite breaking up with him, Leonard is this to Penny and they truly are each others soulmates.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: She can hold her own with her fiancé and their circle of friends but she is of average intelligence and isn't as educated.
  • Parental Substitute: Sheldon often views Penny as a substitute for his mother (who is alive, just lives away from him in Texas); he wants her to take care of him when he's sick, or sing him a lullaby. This is especially emphasized in the episode "The Guitarist Amplification", when Sheldon runs away to the comic book store, because he can't bear Leonard and Penny fighting, and Penny makes it up to him by buying him a robot and a comic book.
  • The Pig-Pen: Downplayed. Her personal hygiene is immaculate, but she lives very spread out. In the second episode Sheldon compulsively cleans her apartment, pointing out it was more a matter of organization than actually being filthy. The other characters also notice that something is different when she takes the time to clean, such as expecting company.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: By and large is ignorant of most of the geeky things such as who Stan Lee is, although she is more familiar with the music, reality shows, and romantic comedy scene than the guys (other than Raj).
  • Pretty Freeloaders: Penny is a relatively mild version of this. She doesn't live with the guys, but she eats their food whenever they get takeout (most nights) and uses their Wi-Fi since she refuses to pay for her own. This is lampshaded many times: Sheldon complains about it and frequently changes the wi-fi password ("Penny already eats our food; she can pay for Wi-Fi. No spaces."), only for Leonard to promptly inform her of the change. Sheldon even changes the Wi-Fi password to "Penny is a freeloader" and Penny accepts it without seeming to care. Most of this is because Leonard offers it freely, but Howard and Raj wonder why he allows her to do this even when they're not dating.
  • Proud Beauty: To a small degree. She doesn't constantly brag about her own appearance but is still fully aware of how attractive she is.

  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: Her father wanted a son so badly that he forced her to play all sorts of sports so he could pretend she was a boy.
  • Really Gets Around: She opposes the idea that she sleeps around, despite Sheldon's math saying otherwise. He tallied up the number of partners she's had based on "age of virginity loss" and presumed sexual activity, the number of times he's seen a guy leave her apartment in the morning and running into her doing a walk of shame - adding up to at least 31 partners. (This doesn't include every guy she slept with during the series.) During an awkward dinner with Sheldon and Amy, she is asked if she considers herself a slut. At first, she immediately says no. Then she admits an unsure, "No?" and is clearly embarrassed. She has mentioned sometimes grabbing the nearest guy for a weekend of sex after a breakup, but doesn't like doing it.
  • Reformed Bully: While discussing with Bernadette and Amy, she realizes she was the high school bully. She also admits how she's upset about Sheldon's sister and friends bullying him during his childhood birthday party before admitting she's more upset about the fact she would have gladly joined them. She goes out of her way to call all her old tormentors from high school and apologize. They don't care about her apologies, call her a bitch, and hang up on her, but she did try. She's grown a lot since her high school backstory, as her best friends whom she'd do anything for are all nerdy intellectuals that she would have bullied back then, and over the course of the series, has evolved into a Closet Geek.
  • Right Through the Wall: Sheldon often complains about her being loud in bed whenever she and Leonard sleep together at the apartment.
  • Science Is Wrong: Not only she is the only one in the main cast who lacks a career in a physical or lab science, she also dismisses science at times in favor of astrology, fortune tellers and superstition.
  • Self-Deprecation: She sometimes makes derogatory comments about her own poor financial situation.
    Penny: [while wearing pure white slippers] Once these puppies touch the ground they’re mine, and I’ll have to wear them walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard in order to pay them off. Pretty, pretty, pretty.
  • Sex for Services: In "The Hook-Up Reverberation", it is implied she provided this, to a degree, to a lesbian PE coach at high school in return for straight A's. All Penny would disclose is that "it worked out just fine", so this remains Ambiguously Bi.
  • Sex Goddess: She's portrayed as an aggressive and satisfying lover in her relationships and her sex advice to Sheldon basically turned him into a Sex God on his first time with Amy.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Howard at one point calls Penny a Shiksa Goddess. She fits the stereotypical vision of the trope by being blonde, though she is green-eyed not blue-eyed.
    Howard: [to Raj] You're missing the point! A Shiksa goddess is not an actual goddess. We pray on them, not to them.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • She is "so digging the The Shamy" (supporting the Sheldon/Amy relationship).
    • She quickly picks up on Stuart and Denise's mutual attraction and subtly encourages him to move in with her.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: In the first season, she wore very revealing attire, a lot of short shorts and tank tops, which was a reflection of her age. By the late second season, she was more likely to wear sweats and t-shirts, or otherwise dressing more like an adult. In the later seasons, especially when she becomes a pharmaceutical rep, she is more often seen in slacks and blouses.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Utilized by her in The Tag of "The Egg Salad Equivalency." In an effort to better understand Leonard she considered taking some science courses at the local community college, only to find that she just can't keep up with it. Instead, she bought some glasses to make herself look smarter, which is good enough for Leonard.
    Leonard: Glasses? I really don't think that's gonna change [Penny puts them on] oh my God, you look so smart and hot!
    Penny: I know, right? Watch this. [lowers glasses seductively] Molecules.
    [Leonard leads her towards his bedroom]
    Penny: Where are we going?
    Leonard: To my bedroom so I can take everything off but those glasses. And maybe the boots!
  • The Smurfette Principle: In the first three seasons, when she was the only female lead. Afterward, Amy and Bernadette were added to the main cast.
  • Spoiled Brat: Most notably in Season 7, where she frequently throws tantrums and storms off whenever Leonard points out that she's made a bad decision (such as turning down a paid role in a B-Movie, when she doesn't have a job and needs the money, getting drunk and having a Vegas Wedding with Zack). She also has elements of Entitled Bastard and Pretty Freeloader (helping herself to the guy's food, and gets Leonard a birthday present with money that she stole out of his wallet note ), sulks like a toddler when people point out her character flaws. She also admits to starting rumors about other aspiring actresses, to narrow down the competition to win roles.
  • Straw Vegetarian: She claims to be a vegetarian in the pilot. "Except for fish. And the occasional steak. I love steak." This aspect is more or less abandoned later on.
  • Street Smart: She's Street Smart but Book Dumb whereas the rest of the characters are Book Smart but don't always have the best instincts in real-world social settings.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Strong Girl to Leonard's Smart Guy (and to a lesser extent, the other boys). Leonard is a smart scientist, Penny is stronger than the rest of the group, to the point of being a Girly Bruiser.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    • With regards to finding out Leonard was hit on by Alex Jensen, a female grad student.
    Penny: Should I be worried?
    Leonard: What? No! Of course not. Why?
    Penny: Because she's pretty and she's smart. And when you talk about work, she doesn't have to go home and look up words in the dictionary to understand what you said.
    Leonard: You do that?
    Penny: [quickly] No!
  • Team Mom: Sometimes she plays the part for the boys alongside Bernadette. Sheldon often treats her as his mom because Mrs. Cooper lives in Texas and she's across the hall. Sometimes Played for Laughs, when she and Leonard put him to bed and look upon him like his parents.
  • Team Prima Donna: Not to the same extreme as Sheldon, but she can be very rude and demanding and she doesn't take kindly to any kind of criticism, constructive or otherwise (like at the beginning of Season 2, when she broke up with Leonard after he suggested that she go back to college).
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl:
    • As a fan of watching football (and other stuff listed under The Lad-ette, above), Penny is a Tomboy to Bernadette's Girly Girl. Bernadette is unabashedly Sickening Sweethearts with Howard while Penny is more Tsundere towards Leonard and has trouble being open about how she feels.
    • To a lesser extent, The Lad-ette Penny is the tomboy to mushy and romantic Emily's girly girl. In one episode after she and Raj break up, Raj receives a call from Emily while the other three girls listen. Emily drops Raj some sad and heart-breaking if mushy lines in the phone call. While her words reach the hearts of Bernadette and Amy, Penny is visibly disgusted by her sappy lines and finds it too mushy and cheesy for her liking. On top of that, Emily disliked Penny when they first met because of the latter's aggressive sex drive and the fact that she supposedly slept with her boyfriend, Raj (despite this happening years before Emily met either of them). Also, Emily is shown to be quite sensitive to Sheldon's insults, while Penny is more prone to fighting back.
  • Tomboyness Upgrade: In season 1, she is introduced as a ditzy Ms. Fanservice with a girly lifestyle in contrast to the main guys. Over time, she's revealed to be The Lad-ette who is stronger and more masculine than the nerdy guys she hangs out with. While she's still considered attractive, in later seasons she becomes an Unkempt Beauty who is usually seen in tracksuits, oversized football t-shirts, and Messy Hair.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Zig-Zagged. In early seasons, she was pretty easy going and more tolerant of her neighbor's quirks and geeky interests. Even when she did get mad at the guys, it was usually for a legitimately good reason (like Leonard's time machine blocking the stairwell, causing her to miss her shift at work, Howard sexually harassing her, Leonard and the others dumping Sheldon on her when he was sick, etc). But as the series progressed, she became increasingly lazy, selfish, bad-tempered, hypocritical and mean spirited. Also in season one, she kindly let Sheldon's sister Missy hang out at her place to get away from the guys hitting on her, as opposed to later seasons, when Penny usually gets jealous of women who take the guys attention away from her (though this is possibly because she wasn't really interested in Leonard yet). Though this is kept in check by a number of Pet the Dog moments (See Character Development and Jerk with a Heart of Gold above).
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: In-Universe, she was offered to reprise her minor role in the sequel to the B-Movie "Serial Apeist," and she was hesitant because she knew it wouldn't help her career and still didn't pay very much. But she decided to give it everything she could and the one scene shown being filmed she really is trying to do her best at making bad dialogue work with fur glued all over her body and wearing monkey feet and hands. Penny ended up being fired after asking for another take. After the film was released Kevin Smith even said he liked her in the movie and was considering a role for her.
  • Trekkie: Penny is supposedly not into science fiction shows. But she picked up enough interest in Star Trek to see the 2009 film before any of the others (though it's possible she did this because she missed Leonard). She also starts using phrases from Star Trek, like when she says that her shields are up from the waist down when she doesn't want to have sex.
  • True Love Is Exceptional: Her "type" at the beginning of the series was the dimwitted, Jerk Jock type. The main romantic pairing of the series is her and Leonard; Leonard being the exact opposite of this.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Leonard is rather dorky and isn't that bad looking (although he's still short, socially awkward, dressed like a perpetually teenage/young-adult guy and later gets a receding hairline), but compared to the stunning Dude Magnet Penny, it sure looks that way. It ends up a deconstruction, since Leonard is hopelessly insecure about his flaws and struggles with the fact guys are constantly hitting on her even when out together, while Penny feels insecure about Leonard's intelligence and passion, fearing that she brings nothing to the table in their relationship besides her good looks.
  • Ultimate Job Security: No disciplinary action is ever taken against Penny at The Cheesecake Factory even though she outright admits that she sucks as a waitress. She gets customer orders wrong, (assuming she actually makes an effort to serve them at all), helps herself to alcohol on the job and made a customer, (Raj's socially awkward ex-girlfriend Lucy) cry via a passive-aggressive Reason You Suck Speech (although in Penny's defense, Lucy did kind of deserve it for the way she treated Raj).
  • Unkempt Beauty: Though she knows how to dress up and knock it out of the park when she wants to, she isn't afraid of being seen "less than perfect", often lounging in sweats, an oversized t-shirt and hair messily pulled back. This is more evident in later seasons, as the first few seasons had her mostly in fanservice heavy tank tops and short shorts. Although in an episode detailing her Age of Conan addiction they do go out of their way to depict her as genuinely messed up and not this trope (with blotchy skin, greasy and frayed hair).
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: In contrast to the guys, who have a common theme and rotating pieces of clothing, she has a large and varied wardrobe. A sharp eye will catch an occasional recurring item (the 100th episode has her wearing the same shirt she wore in the pilot episode), but one episode even makes a joke that instead of washing her clothes she bought new ones.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Towards Leonard after they break up near the end of Season 3, in Season 4 her feelings are hinted, however, it's truly shown after Leonard begins dating Priya. This makes Penny realizes she still has feelings for him and she's left heartbroken. It ends after Penny and Leonard get back together in Season 5.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between her and Leonard. The main thrust of the show, nudge nudge, the "bang" in the Big Bang. Season 3 had them in a Relationship Upgrade into the Official Couple, but they broke up before the end due to Penny having doubts about how committed she is to Leonard. After some time both characters had more or less moved on while remaining friends but the UST returned, and they explore being together as a couple again in the fifth season. Her marriage to Leonard in Season 9 effectively puts an end to their UST.
  • Valley Girl: Played this way near the beginning when set up as Leonard's love interest. Since then, her rather sordid Nebraska upbringing moved into a Cool Big Sis mindset.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Sheldon and Howard. They annoy her to no end but she cares for them.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Towards Leonard, Alex flirting with him spurs Penny to acknowledge her true feelings for him and ironically allows their relationship to continue.
  • Waiting for a Break: Being an actress. In Season 8, she has become a salesperson representing a pharmaceutical company.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl: She does everything she can to make her dad proud, but it doesn't work because she's a girl.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: She sincerely loves Leonard, but isn't shy about calling him out on his shortcomings.
  • What Does She See in Him?:
    • Many jokes on the show revolve around how can a girl like her be in a relationship with Leonard.
    • Invoked and subverted when it comes to her on-and-off boyfriend Zack.
      Amy: I can't believe Penny's married to Zack.
      Raj: Wonder what she saw in that guy.
      Bernadette: I don't know. He's sweet, he's tall, handsome.
      Amy: Broad shoulders, good hair.
      Raj: Hmm. Wonder what she sees in Leonard.
  • White Sheep: Well, compared to her sister, who shot her husband while drunk and her brother who cooks meth, Penny could be considered this. She's also mentioned to be the first woman in her family to not marry in a shotgun wedding.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Leonard, although his interest in her is admittedly much stronger. The show built upon the first two seasons of flirting and false starts just to get them officially together. They break up before the end of the third season and don't get back together until midway through the fifth season. They spend the next year or so trying to feel secure enough being together (Leonard's insecure about her attractiveness, Penny's insecure about his intelligence) and once they both come to grips with what they want out of their relationship they get engaged at the end of the seventh season. And even from there, their engagement takes time but eventually culminates in marriage.
  • Women Are Wiser: Played With. Penny is a lot more socially savvy and outgoing than the guys, letting her be the one they turn towards when they have questions there, but is just as prone to making dumb mistakes or personal decisions.

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