Saturday, May 5, 2012

Double Standards in 'How I Met Your Mother?'

After watching an episode of the popular series How I Met Your Mother last night, I came across this interesting article, “How I Met Your Mother: StereotypingSociety?”,  about gender roles the various characters on the show including, Barney, Ted, Robin, Marshall, and Lily. Firstly, he notes the reversal of gender roles of Ted and Robin. According to the writer, Mayer, Ted is the “hopeless romantic, believes that every girl he meets just might be “the one”.” Ted is portrayed as the guy who is desperate of being alone and wants to have a girlfriend. His character is juxtaposed with Robin’s character. She is portrayed to be independent and is not looking for a long lasting relationship.

Another interesting point that Mayer brings up is about Barney, the only one who wants to remain single out of the group. Barney is considered the “ladies man” of the group. In a Season 7 episode titled, “Trilogy Time,” Barney wishes to continue his lifestyle, sleeping with different women once and then kicking them out. This shows that Barney is only purely seeking sexual relationship rather than one that is more emotion-based. Mayer states that the show suggests that this promiscuous lifestyle is morally wrong and should be condemned.  

I thought that this show satirizes traditional gender roles. Women are no longer portrayed as desperate in finding a long lasting relationship. Instead, men can also take on that role. The article also alludes to a double standard that is apparent with the Ted-Robin relationship. Since Ted is desperately searching for a spouse, he is often looked upon as a beloved and likeable character, as it is atypical for a male to behave like him in society. Men are expected not to invest in emotional relationships. However, if Ted’s character was a female’s, then she may be considered as whiny and needy.  This discrepancy of varying gender roles, ironically, is what, I think, adds the element of comedy to the series.

Barney, another distinct character, is also part of a double standard that the series sets up. In the show, he is completely opposite of his Ted; he portrayed as a womanizer. Barney even has different strategies for meeting and sleeping with different women. He finds a hard time imagining himself in a monogamous relationship. His outright promiscuity earns him the label as a ‘ladies man.’ However, if his character were to portrayed by a female, she would be ridiculed and even condemned as loose. Similar to Ted’s double standard, Barney’s double standard adds to the humor of the element. 

Another point to consider is that Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Barney, is gay in real life, yet plays a womanizer on the show. What are your reactions to this? Do you think that Neil Patrick Harris does a good job portraying Barney?


  1. I get uncomfortable watching this show sometimes because of Barney's behavior. Sure Neil Patrick Harris does a great job as a womanizing character (his sexuality in real life clearly doesn't interfere with his ability to act), but more often than not I feel as though the show idolizes his behavior rather than condemn it. While the other characters make reference to his promiscuity, and make fun of him for his shallow relationship with women, the show does make his behavior as negative, nor do any of the characters do anything to stop him from disrespecting women. Characters like Barney only perpetuate the notion that it is cool for men to be promiscuous, and that there are very limited consequences to that kind of behavior. The show also characterizes women as less intelligent than men, as Barney easily persuades women with his ridiculous ploys and pick up lines, which only increases the appeal of Barney's lifestyle and objectifies women further. While I agree the show attempts to satirize traditional gender roles, they do not take Barney's promiscuity seriously enough, and have created a role that disrespects and objectifies women.

  2. I completely agree with Alex's opinion about Barney. I also agree with Courtney's comment about if a woman played the part that Barney does, she would most likely be shunned immediately for living such a lifestyle. In addition, since this show is a comedy, the poking-fun at these stereotypes help habituate the audience into feeling more comfortable with the actions portrayed in the show. However, like Courtney mentioned before, How I Met Your Mother does manage to switch up some gender roles in the form of Ted and Robin, allowing for this habituation to apply to them as well. The show's producers may not be intending on projecting this image, whether pro-gender equality or not; their main objective is to get as many viewers as possible, which means making the show as funny as possible. In the end, these characters were most likely created to encourage as many laughs as possible, and these characters just so happened to be formed in the way that suggested these gender roles.

  3. I am a fan of How I Met Your Mother and I can understand where you found that the show was challenging and even promoting gender stereotypes. Though the two comments above say that Barney’s character makes them uncomfortable, I think that most viewers do not think his character’s actions are acceptable, but really do view it as comedy. Barney’s actions are not realistic; the writers have greatly exaggerated what a typical womanizer would be. The fact that Neil Patrick Harris is gay in real life also makes the character less threatening, as it is known that these actions are not real but are just a part being played by an actor.

    One stereotype that you did not mention related to Robin is her view towards children. While women are usually the ones portrayed to want to have a family, Robin does not. This reversal presents Robin as less nurturing and instead gives this trait and others to Ted. Robin usually seems to be more in control of her emotions as well, something that female characters are not usually shown to be. Robin's character is important in challenging some of the gender stereotypes that are shown through other women on the show, including those who are portrayed as less intelligent when they fall for Barney's lines.

  4. I think that the characters of Robin and Ted do challenge stereotypes in the ways that were mentioned. It reflects that not every male in society is uninvested in emotional relationships, and not all women are dying to be mothers immediately. And like one of the earlier comments, the goal of the show is to get laughs. Humor can come from embracing stereotypes to their ridiculous conclusions. A show with all stereotypes turned on their heads would probably not be a comedy.

    On the point of Barney, I haven't watched the show enough to know to what extent he is made fun of for womanizing or supporting it. I do want to point out a character that is the female version of Barney: Samantha on Sex and the City. Samantha does not want anything more than sex, and is perfectly happy with her way of life. She can be called loose but shoots it back in people's faces. The show doesn't look at Samantha in a negative light just because she sleeps around. I don't know about Barney, but not all female counterparts of his actions are condemned.

  5. I personally really like this show because it is so real. these characters are going through real life situations and being who they are, and not what the stereotypes and we have created as a society. sure if we pick it apart their are issues, but its not the shows focus. these stereotypes are found in our everyday life, so of course its going to be in this show. This is a story of a group of friends and how they became who they are up to when we finally meet the "mother" that started these adventurous tales. yes its on television, and its being "promoted", but if its was the perfect life with no stereotypes and no "womanizers", and everything that makes this show comical than no one would watch it because it wouldn't be realistic.

    these are real situations that could happen to anyone, which makes the characters relate-able. if the characters weren't relate-able than it would be criticized for its lack of realism. if society changes than the television shows focus will change to. Its not the show that makes people stereotypical (yes i think some shows do influence people in a negative way, but this show isn't necessarily promoting it, its just showing you the stereotypes in Ted's life the way they are in ours.). each character sometimes goes against the way they typically act, just like real people. Barney has a soft side, and ted has a tough side. Ted stands up for his friends no matter what and has a real taste for tradition and mature content, but he is also a real "goof" when it comes to trying to cheer up his friends, etc. Barney is a womanizer, but why? maybe he has mother issues or maybe someone really hurt him one time or another. Just like real people he acts the way he does with women because of something. But he also has that emotional side that needs attention and love. He always demands Ted to say that he is his best friend whenever the topic comes up.

    what I'm saying is that they are all like real people, in fact many of them are like people that are very close to me. there is no hate towards barney being a "womanizer" because that's how he is. His friends love him for who he is and not what he does. He is a grown man and makes his own decisions. They have been angry at him before and told him many times that he might need to change. everyone is their own person and that's what makes this show great. it provides lessons on life and friendship and by the end of every episode you feel like you have experienced the adventure with your own friends.


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