A SOGIE Analysis of How I Met Your Mother

Marshall and Lily to their newborn son: “You’re gonna love the park, buddy. It’s a great place to meet chicks. Or-or dudes. Or both.” “Oh, we love you no matter what.” How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) generally shows this kind of acceptance towards the LGBTQ through plot lines and characterization that does not make a fuss over sexual orientation and identity.

Set in diverse and liberal New York, the series has presented characters who deviate from society’s standardized binary of genders. As opposed to mainstream television’s common sensationalism of homosexuality in a stereotypical and superficial manner, HIMYM tells the audience to look at a person on more than one aspect of their life.

In an episode called “Single Stamina,” Barney’s brother James comes to New York for a visit. Barney is a womanizer who goes through intricate schemes to attract women to sleep with him. James is exactly like Barney, except for the fact that he is gay and therefore hits on men. Even so, their difference in sexual orientation does not reflect on their appearances – both of them have a fondness for wearing suits to establish their dominance in public places. James is not portrayed as the stereotypical flamboyant cross-dresser.

Barney is outraged when he finds out that his brother is engaged to a man named Tom. When James asks him if he is against gay marriage, Barney says “no” and exclaims that he is against monogamy itself. Barney would have had the same reaction regardless of who James was in a relationship with. James’ engagement with a man is apparently treated equally with heterosexual relationships. Moreover, James and Tom adopt a baby together, which is an alternative means to heterosexism’s ideology of procreation.

Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of Barney Stinson is particularly ironic to the fact that he is openly gay in real life. Harris’ real life identity draws attention to the opposite role he depicts in the series. This challenges the way the public views homosexuality. By not exploiting Harris’ sexuality, HIMYM prompts the audience to not dwell on only one defining characteristic, and regard him with other qualities such as his admirable acting skills.

Meanwhile, we are given more covert depictions of queer in the character of Lily, which reinforces Lesbian Feminist theory’s notion that a woman’s sexuality is always at least double. Lily is in a committed and loving relationship with her college sweetheart Marshall. Still, she occasionally expresses sexual attraction (usually in a joking manner) to Robin, her girl bestfriend.

To mention a few episodes, there is that time she expresses that Robin has been the subject of some sexually “confusing dreams” (Robin 101), reveals that drinking martinis causes Lily’s bisexual tendencies to emerge and attempts to coax the guys into daring her and Robin to make out (The Perfect Cocktail), and more than willingly kisses Robin for a longer time than required during a dare (The Broath). It is worth pointing out that Lily evidently feels the need to supress her bisexual tendencies that may be mainly due to the fear of being rejected friendship with Robin who alternates between ignoring and being slightly disturbed by her feelings.

HIMYM is open to transcending binary oppositions and celebrates otherness through accepting and uplifting depictions. Still, it is evident that anomalous categories (such as Lily’s bisexual tendencies) with regard to the straight-gay binary opposition are suppressed. Homosexuality is more acknowledged than bisexuality.

References:

* “How I Met Your Mother and the Portrayal of Gay Men.” Media Criticism. Accessed October 19, 2014. http://blogs.longwood.edu/mediacriticism/2013/04/28/how-i-met-your-mother-and-the-portrayal-of-gay-men/.

* “Lily Aldrin.” Wikipedia. October 17, 2014. Accessed October 19, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lily_Aldrin.

* “How I Met Your Mother, Season 2, Episode 10.” Movie4k.to. Accessed October 19, 2014. http://www.movie4k.to/How-I-Met-Your-Mother-watch-tvshow-5380546.html.

* “How I Met Your Mother, Season 7, Episode 24.” Movie4k.to. Accessed October 19, 2014. http://www.movie4k.to/How-I-Met-Your-Mother-watch-tvshow-2817370.html.

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