May or May not contain spoilers! Read with your own discretion.
How I Met Your Mother is one of the most popular sitcom television shows that has aired on primetime television in the United States with its highest viewership during the final season. The show ranked 28 in the Nielsen ratings and season nine (the last season) averaged 10.5 million viewers.
The show itself is narrated by Ted Mosby in the year 2030, recanting the story of how he met his wife to his two children. The show is simply flashbacks of the stories Ted is telling to his kids. In the season premiere of season one, viewers meet the five main characters that America comes to love – Ted, of course, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney. So who are these people?
Ted Mosby is the hopeless romantic architect who can’t seem to ever find the perfect girl. Before we ever actually meet the mother of his children, Ted goes through multiple relationships – two engagements, one where he is left at the altar and the other he is engaged to a woman who he stole just a few hours before her wedding; a crazy woman who protested his greatest architectural project he worked on and stole from a man who called himself “The Captain”; and he even dated Robin. It’s incredible that he ever finds the one.
Marshall Eriksen is Ted’s roommate who is currently in law school, later passes his bar test and becomes the lawyer who represents Honeywell and Cootes, an environmental firm to help clean up the earth. Consistently funny and sarcastic with a little bit of wit and always “lawyer-ing” people, as he would say. Lily Aldrin is Marshall’s girlfriend, later to be wife. Lily is a full time kindergarten teacher and on the side artist. She left her dream of becoming an artist when she and Marshall began to get serious. The two are peas in a pod and are one in the same.
Robin Scherbatsky is a Canadian news broadcaster who moved to New York to further her career. However, lands jobs at the worst networks an anchor could work for. For some insight, a few of these jobs include a 4am airing slot where her only viewers were drunk college students who made a drinking game out of her broadcast, co-anchoring with a man who never wore any pants, a position overseas where her co-anchor was a monkey.. Do I need to continue? And then there is Barney Stinson – the man of many faces. Barney is a womanizer who uses his “Playbook” to lure in women and sleep with them. The tricks are extreme – he is dying, going on a space mission, is Neil Armstrong, from the future, etc. The list goes on! No one is quite sure what it is that Barney does for a living but it is certain that he is wealthy.
Lets take a look at Barney’s Playbook:
The characters sound great right? “So what’s the problem,” You may ask. (Besides the obvious manipulation of women by Barney Stinson, of course). The problem of this show is that it places women into the classic “man-dependent, crazy, over-dramatic” mold that women have been forced into for decades.
Let’s look at a few women that Ted crosses paths with:
- Karen: the pretentious hipster college girl. During their on and off relationship, Karen cheats on Ted multiple times in his own college dorm bed.. (talk about awkward). Her pretentiousness was hated by Lily and Marshall because it would also rub off on ted.
- Zoey: the crazy, over-passionate-about-her-job type of girlfriend who protested Ted’s greatest architectural work. Their relationship is unstable because Zoey likes to challenge him, argue with him, and constantly drives him up the walls.
- Stella: the one that almost-was, the one who left him at the altar. Stella was still in love with her ex. What a shady woman, right?!
- Jeanette: the one that stalked him, started a fire, and followed him for a year just to get the chance to meet him.
Why is it that the women Ted encounters are liars, cheats, crazy, over-the-top, or all of the above at one point? Its like Ted can’t find anyone who is good enough for him? Maybe it wouldn’t take you nine seasons to find your wife had you just lowered your standards a little bit. Something to think about. Hmm..
Another thing to consider: each of the main characters occupations.
- Ted’s job status goes back and forth but he continues to find a successful job in his field of architecture. At one point, Ted lucks out and loses his job. He then decides to open his own firm but can’t find any companies worth designing for. He lands a teaching job as a an architectural professor conveniently enough.
- Marshall starts out as a law student when the viewers first meet him. Seasons go by and we get to see Marshall pass his bar test and lands a huge job at Goliath National Bank in their judicial branch. He realizes working for a corporate company is not why he became a lawyer. He wanted to fight for the environment. Also conveniently for him, he lands a job with a large environmental firm.
- Nobody really knows what Barney does but by his luxurious apartment, plethora of designer suits, and how he treat his employees, it is more than clear that Barney is quite wealthy.
- Lily is a kindergarten teacher. Some may argue that Ted also teaches and that is some type of equality. right? Wrong. Professors, male professors at that, on average make more than female professors and teachers. For example, a man who shares the same working title in the same department as a woman at University of Colorado makes more than that said woman. Can you imagine being a kindergarten teacher trying to make ends meet for your family? Of course Lily depends on Marshall.
- At Metro News 1, the job we first see Robin at, she is given silly stories to cover. She then goes back and forth between terrible co-hosts and is always overshadowed by her counterparts at work.
Women do not need to be portrayed as dumb, easily manipulated, and dependent for a show to be funny. Nor do they have to be crazy, over-dramatic, loud, or liars in a relationship. Educator Sheila Dubin says, “girls are no longer seen as people, but as sexual objects to be joked about.” The idea that women are seen as objects to be joked about in sitcom television is very dangerous. A study showed that men who were exposed to television shows that objectified women and set gender roles were reported to engage in sexual harassment and sexual coercion. If prime-time television continues to show women as objects rather than people, then chivalry really will be dead.
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