A feminist analysis of How I Met Your Mother’s final episode

How I Met Your Mother is an American sitcom that originally ran from September 2005 to March 2014, reaching nine seasons. As the title suggests, the program is about Ted Mosby narrating the story of how he met his wife as he tells it to his children. While this is the framework of the plot, the program focused on Ted and his friends Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin and their adventures as a gang. Other minor story arcs include Marshall and Lily’s husband-and-wife relationship, Barney’s womanizing antics, Ted and Robin’s relationship Barney and Robin’s relationship, among others.

Last Forever, the finale of the nine-season long series, aired on March 31, 2014 as a two-part episode. The episode’s story took place after the wedding of Barney and Robin. The episode opened with Barney trying to hook Ted up with the bass player from the reception, then Ted saying goodbye to the gang as he begins leaving for Chicago. However, his plans change when he meets Tracy – the titular mother and the bass player from the wedding reception – and he decides to stay in New York. They eventually begin a relationship. Fast forward, the gang begins its breakdown. Ted and Tracy begin to have a family in the suburbs, and Barney and Robin reveal that they have been divorced after three years of marriage. While Barney goes back to his womanizing antics, Robin becomes awkward with the gang seeing her ex-husband hitting on other women and her ex-lover Ted happy with his wife and mother of his children. Lily tries to keep the gang together but fails. Robin also fails on her promise to Lily that the gang will always be complete for the big moments.

Eventually, members of the gang begin to have their big moments. Marshall fulfills his dream to become a judge, and later becomes selected to run for state judge. Barney gets a woman pregnant and the birth of his daughter changes his behavior towards women. Finally Ted and Tracy get married – this Robin attends, getting the gang back together again. Then Ted Mosby narrates their lives afterwards as his story ends with the Tracy’s death. His children are convinced that this (the whole series) is not about how Ted met their mother, but rather about how Ted still has feelings for Robin, and they encourage him to ask her out on a date. Eventually, Ted gives in and runs to Robin’s apartment, bringing the French blue horn – an intertextuality with the pilot episode of the first season.

The best aspect of this series to analyze with the feminist framework is the story arc of Barney Stinson. Throughout the series, Barney keeps a thick book which he calls “The Playbook” – a compilation of his techniques on how to hit on a girl. This running gag shows how Barney treats women in the series. He treats them as objects that he can play around with, that he can fool around with. And after his ‘playing time’ with the ‘toy’ he just ‘throws’ or ‘keeps it away’. Although at some points in the series plot, he did get into serious relationships, when the relationships failed he would go back to his old self. A good example is how it was easy for him to hit on women right after the revelation of his divorce with Robin in the final episode. While Robin clearly still has not moved on from her ex-husband, Barney already has. In fact, a portion of the episode showed Barney narrating how he used a couple of entries from the playbook.

Throughout the series, Barney behaved as if his behavior towards women brings him to his self-actualization. From time to time he presents challenges to himself like the Perfect Week (seven girls and seven nights) and the Perfect Month (31 girls and 31 nights). He succeeds in both, but ‘tragedy’ struck when he gets a girl pregnant – the woman was not even given a name; she was merely called Number 31. For Barney it was a disaster because being a father will limit his ability to perform his antics. He wants all-sex but he was not ready to face the possible consequences of his actions. Well, at least he took responsibility for his daughter even if up to the last minute he was hoping that things would turn around.

There are two other scenes in the episode where Barney, Ted, Lily, and Marshall are at the bar hanging out. The first one was just shortly after the revelation of Barney and Robin’s divorce. Barney sees a woman and follows her but Lily stops him, only to be out-ruled by Marshall who allows Barney to hit on the woman. The second instance was on the day of Ted and Tracy’s wedding (Barney is already a father by this time) where Barney sees two young girls and follows them. Again, Lily is the only one to voice out her concern. But eventually, Barney, now a changed man, reprimands the two girls for not dressing decently and for making bad decisions. In these two instances, we see only Lily voicing out her concerns about Barney’s behaviors while the two other men, Ted and Marshall, are silent. We really cannot say if the two guys actually agree or disagree with her, but if they do agree, then why are they not vocal about it? And in the second instance, when Barney reprimands the two girls for their indecent clothing and bad decisions, it was as if when anything happens to the girls – for instance, a womanizer like the past Barney hits on them – it is the girls’ fault because of their behavior and not the man’s fault.

We have to admit that in today’s society, Barneys exist. There are a lot of disrespect, objectification and discrimination going on, not only towards women but also towards other genders. And there are only a few Lilys who speak out. For more, only the Lilys speak out. The Teds and Marshalls are silent on the issue. Some people see the issue, but only a few of them speak out. This may be a struggle for gender equality, the struggle of the oppressed to achieve an equal status as the others, the struggle of women to achieve equality with men, but this does not mean that only women can join in the struggle. And the media portrayal of these issues, with sitcoms and dramas trivializing and making fun of these issues, are not helping.

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