Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, Ph.D., M.D., is the mother of Leonard Hofstadter, Michael Hofstadter and a daughter and ex-wife of Alfred Hofstadter. Beverly is a neuroscientist as well as an award-winning psychiatrist and author. Despite being an acclaimed psychiatrist, she is controversially a terrible mother.
Beverly is absent in all episodes in Season 1.
Beverly first visits in "The Maternal Capacitance" Season 2 Episode 15, visiting her son. Leonard is clearly uneasy about it and it becomes apparent when she arrives: she is as strict and logical as Sheldon, if not more so. She instantly upsets Penny by talking with her about her (Penny's) childhood issues with Wyatt (Penny's father), refers to Howard and Raj as an "ersatz homosexual couple", and repeatedly belittles Leonard. However, she gets along perfectly with Sheldon and spends more time with him than anyone else. At the end they sing "Any Way You Want It" together, as a confused Leonard looks on.
She reappears in "The Maternal Congruence", where she visits Leonard for Christmas. She does not know that, by this point Leonard and Penny are dating - Leonard had not told her for fear of how she would disapprove because of Penny's lack of a tertiary or quaternary education. It turns out that Beverly stays in touch with Sheldon, even telling him more than she does Leonard. Things only become worse when Leonard is told about his parents' pending divorce, his mother's surgery and the death of his dog - all of which which Sheldon has known for weeks. Fed up with his mother's lack of compassion, Leonard leaves.
Penny takes Beverly drinking at The Cheesecake Factory to get her loosened up and they bond. Penny reveals her relationship with Leonard, and Beverly is confused on why he did not tell her (even though she neglects to tell him anything). When they get back to the apartment, she gives Leonard a genuine hug after she realizes why he distances himself. She then kisses Sheldon passionately, but rejects him for a busboy she saw at the Cheesecake Factory, confirming there is no romantic tension between the two (as Sheldon was not happy about it). Being driven to the airport by Leonard, she gives her blessing to his relationship and they decide not to tell Leonard about her kissing Sheldon, wanting this time to work on their familial relationship and feeling that telling him might make it harder for him.
Beverly is absent in all episodes in Season 4.
She appears via Skype in the premiere episode, "The Skank Reflex Analysis". Leonard tells her his recent frustrations with his current girlfriend Priya and his anger towards Penny. She only responds "Buck up, sissy pants," and later goes on to advise Leonard that if he needs any further advice from her he should purchase her psychology books on Amazon.com rather than actually call her again: showing she has not changed much.
Beverly is absent in all episodes in Season 6.
In "The Raiders Minimization", Penny purchases a psychology book that Beverly has written about all Leonard's problems growing up called The Disappointing Child. Leonard uses his embarrassment and his anger as leverage to get Penny to do things with him that he likes to do. After Penny learns about his behavior, she dresses up for sex, tempting him, and then for revenge makes him Skype with his mother. She wants to discuss why Leonard keeps involving her in his sex life. When he was six, Leonard walked in on his naked parents while his mother was spanking his father with his new ping-pong paddle - which Leonard had thought had just been a nightmare.
In "The Status Quo Combustion", Leonard contacts his mother and has an announcement for her. Sheldon has already told her about his engagement to Penny. He hates that she talks to Sheldon more than him, but declines to communicate to his mother on a more frequent basis. She has had her misgivings about Penny, but because of Sheldon's admiration, she is good enough for her. Leonard is annoyed that his mother's focus is on herself, and not on who might be good enough for him. Beverly wonders why Leonard has to have her approval, and tells him that he should work on getting over his need for her approval.
In "The Maternal Combustion", she visits Pasadena to see Sheldon and Leonard get an award. She meets Mary Cooper and wants to know about Sheldon when he was growing up. Though warned to be nice to Mary, after religion is mentioned she says she forgets how much superstitions mean to some people, thus starting an argument. Later talking to Sheldon, she admits that there are other methods of raising children. She tries unconditional love by trying an awkward hug with Leonard.
In "The Celebration Experimentation", Beverly flies to Pasadena for Sheldon's birthday party. He attended her little 60th get together that Leonard didn't even know about. Penny added that she didn't know about their Vegas wedding, which was fine with Beverly. She toasts Sheldon saying that they all can't wait to see what other successes he has in the future. Also, Barry Kripke keeps hitting on her all night which pleases Beverly and not Leonard.
Beverly returns in "The Line Substitution Solution" where Penny tries to connect with her, but the pathetic lady ends up bonding with Amy and Bernadette. Penny has had enough and yells at Beverly for being an insult all day and asking if Beverly even knows what an insult is. Beverly then tells Penny says she feels insulted that she wasn't invited to her son's wedding nor even being told that it was taking place. To make up for that, Penny decides on doing a re-wedding while Beverly is still in town, which is okay with the latter.
Beverly appears again in "The Convergence-Convergence" where she isn't quite satisfied that her ex-husband Alfred is also attending the re-wedding and the two exes end up bitterly arguing, including during the wedding dinner where she interrupts Alfred's toast to Leonard. Also, Beverly and Mary clash once again.
Her personality is rather cold, bitter, monotone and, perhaps influenced in part by her professional life, overly analytical. She tends to diagnose the behavior or neuroses of those to whom she's speaking. Her matter-of-fact analysis of Penny's relationship with her father prompts Penny to burst into tears within minutes. Rather than attempt to console Penny, Beverly merely continued to psychoanalyze her. Her behavior seems driven by the fact she tends to force clinical analysis on people around her, distantly insulting and abrasively mocking people around her before using psychological jargon to distance herself from the antagonism which she has created.
Despite herself, Beverly can be extremely arrogant, narcissistic and incredibly ignorant. Her relationship with Leonard is hugely haphazard, but she does not blame herself for that. In fact, when she observes Leonard's childhood, she deduces that he has unresolved - repeat, unresolved - childhood issues as well as an Oedipal complex that she cannot understand the origin or cause of. She doesn't seem to understand that she was the sole catalyst for practically all of his childhood issues and resulting social problems, and that his 'Oedipal complex' was just him trying to have a mother-son relationship with her, which she saw as absurd and unnecessary. Beverly also insensitively rebukes Leonard's attempts at conversation with her, or attempts to impress her, with demands for him to calm down or something as degrading as that. Not only that, but she saw absolutely no problem or even any moral faults in humiliating or belittling him.
She constantly looks down on him, and straightforward denies the request to not criticize him when he is emotional. She regards him as an anticlimactic disappointment, if not a non-entity, in comparison to his siblings and herself. Not only this, but Beverly is completely blind to his feelings and opinions and doesn't view either as important: when he reveals that he and Penny are engaged, she disregards his joy at the event and calmly remarks that 'if she is good enough for him (Sheldon), then she is good enough for her', indicating that she sees his welfare and opinion as immaterial to an extreme.
She diagnosed Raj with selective mutism and considered Raj and Howard's relationship to be an "ersatz homosexual marriage," often to their considerable discomfort. For example, her primary interest is making accomplishments in her fields. At times, she seems to see other humans as merely test subjects and will ask those she finds particularly interesting if they would be willing to have their brain scanned. While Leonard does not feel that his mother truly appreciates him, she takes a liking to Sheldon: whom she also tells more about what's happening to her than her own son (like in Season 3, after picking Beverly up from the airport, Sheldon asks if she liked the flowers he sent her after her carpal tunnel surgery which Leonard didn't even hear about, and also his brother's engagement, though Sheldon did send a present from the both of them).
Family and Relationships
As a by-product of her personality, Beverly's relationships with others tend to be non-traditional in nature.
Beverly's relationship with her son is decidedly unmaternal. She frequently critiques various aspects of his life, utterly oblivious to the fact that she might be hurting his feelings, although she is perfectly aware of his childhood issues with her. Once as a child, Beverly made Leonard return an award at the ceremony because of its similarity to an earlier project of his brother, Michael. Beverly mentioned at one point that Leonard's brother and sister are more successful than he is. Leonard's childhood with her can best be described as a series of neurological experiments. At one point Leonard indicates that he created a "hugging machine" in order to feel some sort of warmth and companionship. Leonard was not even told that his brother was getting engaged, when his dog was put to sleep or when his favorite Uncle Floyd died. It is likely that she may have been more interested with Leonard as a test subject rather than her own child. Beverly made a brief appearance in "The Skank Reflex Analysis" via Sheldon's laptop to comfort Leonard and listened to his problems and simply told him to "buck up", then signed off. In return, Leonard is spiteful towards Beverly and blames a majority of his childhood issues on her. As a result of this upbringing, Leonard is desperate to impress women. In the seventh season, Beverly writes another psychology book based on Leonard's childhood and shortcomings. Leonard also once says "I have been in therapy ever since my mother accused me of breastfeeding co-dependently".
Sheldon noted at one point that her other children (Leonard's younger brother Michael and their older sister) are far more successful than Leonard both professionally and personally. There is no indication that she feels any differently toward them on an emotional level, so she is just the same with them as she is with Leonard and wasn't proud of them, even though they both have successful careers. For example, when Howard asked her if she was proud of them because of their success, she said, "Why? They're not my accomplishments." And when Leonard remarks that she must be happy about her son Michael's engagement to a successful young judge in New Jersey, Beverly replies "Why? I'm not marrying her." In "The Celebration Experimentation", Beverly says that Leonard's siblings were at her 60th birthday.
We learn in the "The Maternal Congruence" that Beverly is divorcing Leonard's father Alfred as he had an affair with a waitress from the Princeton University cafeteria. This time is one of a few we see anything resembling emotion from her as she indicates she "did feel something akin to grief and perhaps anger" and further characterized Alfred as a "loathsome son of a bitch". We also learn that they did not have a close romantic relationship with Beverly explaining that she had been responsible for her own orgasms since 1982 and only had intercourse for the purposes of reproduction (perhaps a root cause for Mr. Hofstadter's affair). He also used to borrow Leonard's hugging machine to compensate for the lack of love too. Leonard caught his mother swatting his father's rear end with his ping-pong paddle.
In "The Convergence-Convergence", the two exes come into each other's presence once again in order to attend their son's re-wedding and snipe at each other, including at dinner where Beverly ends up interrupting Alfred's toast to Leonard.
Between her neurotically strict speech patterns, lack of social conventions, and attention to detail, she is basically Sheldon's female equivalent, aside from Amy Farrah Fowler (although in many ways she surpasses him, as Sheldon can and does, admittedly rarely, show affection to others, while she never has). Sheldon did keep in touch by Skype, much to the confusion of Leonard.
Indeed, her inability to understand social conventions seems if anything to be somewhat more extreme and has to have some social concepts explained to her by, of all people, Sheldon (though his explanations typically reflect his own, at best, incomplete understanding). It is therefore unsurprising that Sheldon and Beverly share an odd non-romantic attraction to each other. They have a mutual interest in having their brain scanned and have even sung a duet of the Journey song "Any Way You Want It"; however, she did once kiss him passionately while intoxicated (declaring afterwards that she'd "rather have the busboy"). She apologized the following morning and Sheldon accepted as she was intoxicated (he blamed Penny). Beverly is essentially the mother Sheldon wished he had.
Despite being equivalents, there are things that make Sheldon and Beverly different, like, for example: Unlike Beverly, Sheldon truly appreciates Leonard and is capable of love.
Beverly doesn't seem to be too fond of Penny, especially when the former upsets the latter when Penny tells about her father treating her like a boy. She comes to later accept Penny due to Sheldon being fond of her. Penny tries to connect with Beverly in the penultimate episode of Season 9, but fails and Penny is angry at Beverly, but Beverly admits that she was feeling insulted about Penny marrying Leonard and not inviting her nor telling her that the wedding was taking place. The two ladies then somewhat connect when Penny suggests that a re-wedding would be done while Beverly is still in town.
The rest of the group
Howard and Raj both particularly dislike Beverly because she is such an annoying cold woman. They are not happy with her thinking that they are in an ersatz homosexual relationship and not believing the fact that Howard has a girlfriend. It wasn't until later in "The Line Substitution Solution" that Beverly would've seemed to know that Howard is married to a woman. Also, Beverly seems to be the reason Raj had selective mutism (inability to talk to women outside his family) which appeared from the first episode until the Season 6 finale.
Beverly hadn't been seen with Bernadette, Amy, Stuart and Leslie until "The Celebration Experimentation" and didn't talk to any of them. She also didn't meet Emily because she was absent. She properly meets Amy and Bernadette in "The Line Substitution Solution", talking directly to them for the first time ever in the show, and she bonds with the two girls. This annoys Penny, who has been trying to connect with her until Beverly admits it was because she felt insulted about not being invited to her son's wedding nor being told that it was taking place. She has also been seen with Stuart twice, but they still haven't spoken to each other, but when they do, it's likely he will dislike her. She was also seen Leslie but haven't spoken, but when they do, it's likely they would be enemies due to Leslie's enmity with Sheldon. If she meets Emily, it's likely that Beverly would be afraid of her due to Emily's dark side.
Beverly meets Sheldon's mother Mary Cooper seemed to be civil to Sheldon's mother at first, but when Mary mentioned religion, she offended Mary with an offensive comment and said she (Beverly) forgets how much superstitions mean to some people and this started an argument between the two mothers, but eventually they seemed to make up later. However, this peace does not last. It appears that In "The Convergence-Convergence", Mary has kept her dislike of Beverly and when the two women meet up again, Mary is not happy to see Beverly again and Mary endś up bonding with Beverly's ex-husband Alfred over their mutual dislike of her and their admiration of each other's beliefs and at the restaurant during the wedding dinner, the mothers start a small argument about the Bible.
Beverly published multiple scholarly papers and books about her son Leonard and her personal life. She is enthusiastic about promoting these publications, even to Leonard.
- An unnamed paper, presumably arguing that parents should "focus on celebrating achievements" instead of celebrating their birthday or hollidays when they raise the child - mentioned in "The Peanut Reaction" (S1E16) by Sheldon, who thinks this argument is "based on very sound theories". Penny thinks "that's so silly" and mocks it.
- An unnamed paper, written "from the neuroscientific point of view", presumably arguing that people should "only had intercourse for the purposes of reproduction" - mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Capacitance" (S2E15). She also mentioned that Leonard's father also published a paper on the same topic "from an anthropological" (point of view). She then states that hers "was the only one worth reading."
- An unnamed publication, describing her sex life, that can be "ordered from the Princeton University Press" - also mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Capacitance" (S2E15). She also has a presentation about this subject.
- An unnamed paper "disproving quantum brain dynamic theory", mentioned by herself in "The Maternal Congruence"(S3E11), for which Sheldon makes notes and praises her with saying "for a non-physicist, you have a remarkable grasp of how electric dipoles in the brain's water molecules could not possibly form a Bose condensate."
- In "The Skank Reflex Analysis" (S5E01), Sheldon calls Beverly to "help" Leonard with his puzzles in his relationships and Beverly tells Leonard "If you need any more help from me, my books are available on Amazon."
- An unnamed book, with "there's no guarantee even if you have kids that you're going to like them" right on its dust jacket, mentioned by Leonard in "The Shiny Trinket Maneuver" (S5E12) when the gang are discussing about the possibility of Howard to have a child in the future.
- A book entitled Needy Baby, Greedy Baby - mentioned by Sheldon in "The Recombination Hypothesis" (S5E13), which Leonard thinks is strongly untrue: it should be noted that finally it turns out this reference takes place in Leonard's day dream.
- A book entitled The Disappointing Child appears in "The Raiders Minimization" (S7E04), in which Penny buys one copy for her psychology class, making Leonard embarrassed and very angry.
- Whenever having orgasms she says "yikes".
- Beverly claims that she's been responsible for her own orgasms since 1982.
- Both Leonard and Sheldon's mothers are fit for the other. Beverly for Sheldon and Mary for Leonard.
- Due to Leonard and Sheldon's mothers being fit for the other, Leonard is jealous of Sheldon's childhood and Sheldon is jealous of Leonard's childhood.
- Her appearance in "The Skank Reflex Analysis" (S5E01) was on a Skype screen since the actress appears in another series based in New York.
- It was planned that she would meet Mary Cooper which would have caused mother envy between the two in Season 6 but that story line was postponed and moved to season 8.
- Penny ends up in tears when talking to her about her childhood, but she seems to cozy up to her during her next visit when they go out drinking together.
- Beverly is the name of Wesley Crusher's mother in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This could be a reference to how Sheldon relates to Wesley Crusher and is fit more for Beverly than Mary.
- Beverly is comparable to the character of GLaDOS in Portal and Portal 2. GLaDOS is sadistic, cold, analytic and does everything 'in the pursuit of science.' GLaDOS runs the Aperture Science laboratory and relies on human test subjects.
- GLaDOS is has the personality of Caroline Johnson in her, and one theory of the main protagonist of the Portal series's parentage is that Caroline and Cave Johnson (the former head of the science facility) are her parents. Since the main character, Chell, is a test subject this could be a reference to Leonard's dysfunctional childhood.
- While it isn't the same actress, there is a marked physical resemblance to the way Frasier Crane's academic psychologist mother is portrayed in "Frasier". In episodes where Frasier's mother appears via flashbacks and fantasy sequences, the similarity to Beverley Hofstadter is remarkable. It as as if the TBBT producers are consciously imitating a woman who named her two sons Frasier and Niles after favorite laboratory rats who showed more intelligence than the rest - and not the other way around. And of course Frasier married Lilith - another academic psychiatrist, who saw nothing wrong with putting her baby son into a scaled-up maze to see how quickly he could find his way to the bottle of milk at the centro. Frederick Crane is a highly intellectual child with a cold mother, ineffectual father, a bed-wetting problem, and an embarrassing middle name (in his case, "Gaylord"). Is this earlier intellectually high-achieving, but very dysfunctional, TV family a direct influence on the Hofstadters?
- Out of all her son's friends who are main characters, the only one who Beverly hasn't met yet is Emily. She also hasn't yet met recurring character Claire.
- In "The Celebration Experimentation", Penny mentioned Beverly didn't know about their Vegas wedding, which was fine with Beverly. In "The Line Substitution Solution" when Penny asks if Beverly knows what an insult is, Beverly then tells Penny says she felt insulted that she wasn't invited to her son's wedding nor even being told that it was taking place, which is a contradiction. But it's likely Beverly was trying to cover up her emotions to not be herself.
Green = Appeared,
M = Mentioned, V = Voiced,
Dark Grey = Did not appear,