The Big Bang Theory is loaded with subplots as the characters grow and one of the funnier ones is Howard’s developing relationship with Bernadette. Howard – the only one of the four nerds without a doctorate – has met, fallen in love with, and become engaged to Bernadette. In the present story-line, she’s now going to receive her own doctorate and is being lucratively headhunted by a major pharmaceutical firm. It reflects the gender-bending of our reality as women are now able to earn more than men and men are considering their own role with the family; some of the humor is also derived from the reactions and commentary of the peers to this development. This is based upon reality as people do have to come to terms with the concept that the man is filling the role of the Missus – the one who stays home to keep things in order and run the household.
As a "stay-at-home-dad" – and I really dislike the term – I’ve had multiple encounters through the years with society’s efforts to work through the gender-bending implications.
- My wife is a physician and we’ve received mail addressed to Dr. and Mrs. with her name following.
- I’ve been introduced as the wife on more than one occasion, once in front of a group of more than 20 people.
- When the kids were very small, playdates were sometimes a problem as many mothers were uncomfortable with the concept of having a father in a traditionally maternal domain.
- A medical spouse group – which existed to support one another and perform charity work for selected projects – invited me to join them with the hookline if nothing else, you’ll get to meet some very attractive middle aged women. For the record, I didn’t attend.
- There have been multiple jokes in the distant past from other guys about knitting and crocheting, but the last one was about two years ago and even that last remark came from a man who worked as a nurse.
The needs and dynamics of the family have changed dramatically over the past several decades and for several reasons. The first is because of the social change wrought by women who were looking for greater opportunities and freedom than what had been offered to their mothers and the chance to define themselves as more than just a mother. The second is the change in the institution of marriage; the acceptability and ease of obtaining a divorce while more choose to live together outside of marriage. The third is economic as families find that incomes aren’t keeping up and traditionally male-dominated industries – construction and manufacturing – suffered disproportionately because of the most recent recession and globalization. Instead of by choice, necessity is now forcing mothers to step up to the economic plate.
But society’s views haven’t kept pace with the parental and family changes and it’s this discrepancy that provides fodder for The Big Bang Theory. As men take a larger role in child-rearing and the family’s life, the laughs will become harder to mine. Viewers will watch a particular scenario play out and find it less humorous because they can actually identify with something that’s purportedly novel and question why it’s supposedly funny enough to be filling airtime. Reality is forcing us to adapt in ways that weren’t considered by our grandparents and society’s labels are slower to change to those adaptations. I don’t see that terms such as father, mother, husband and wife will ever change. But the truth is that as men take over greater household and family responsibilities, we’ll render the Missus obsolete.