HIMYM: The most sexist show I've ever loved
Warning: Potential spoilers ahead.
The end is (finally) upon us. On Monday night we will see the conclusion of "How I Met Your Mother." Or, as I call it, "How A Somewhat Sexist Bro, Thinking He's Too Good For Any But The Perfect Girl, Managed Improbably To Woo A Woman Who Is In Fact Way Too Good For Him."
For God's sake, Internet, don't spoil it for me! I can't watch the big series finale until Tuesday morning. I don't want to know in advance whether The Mother dies. I don't want to know whether Robin and Barney's wedding was fake. I don't want to know whether Ted has Alzheimer's disease, whether Bob Saget is actually the father or whether the whole thing happened in a snow globe.
My investment in this show defies all logic. I've seen every episode, from the laugh-out-loud early years to the, "sigh, another episode" final season. I've watched Robin and Barney's once-believable relationship chug away, an obvious sham kept alive to conclude the series. I've watched Lily and Marshall's stable 19-year partnership descend to histrionics over a not-unreasonable work decision.
And Ted. Oh, Ted. The starry-eyed romantic of 2005 has become so entitled to his own Perfect Girl that by 2014, I cannot believe the Perfect Girl (Cristin Milioti as The Mother) would actually bite.
Of course, the fault isn't all Ted's. In the world of HIMYM, the pickins are slim for decent women. Ted's first casual date on the series ends with the seemingly-sweet Natalie beating the bejeezus out of him. After Natalie: Cathy talks too much. Cindy, The Mother's roommate, is a jealous, repressed lesbian. Stella leaves him at the altar for a bad boy ex. Zoey The Agitator tries to wreck his career. Strawberry The Other Agitator screams at a non-vegan chef. Royce has a gambling addiction and possibly an incestuous relationship with her brother. Becky is a ditz. Blah Blah is insane. Jeannette is criminally insane. Karen is insufferable.
Obviously, these are the types of women who befall kindly architects who are just looking for The One.
The show wants us to believe that Ted is a victim of destiny. Never mind that he dumps two perfectly nice women Mary and Stacey in two different seasons because Barney, as a prank, convinces him they're slutty (they're not), and Awesome Trudy is disappeared after joining Ted in a three-way.
Then there are the side characters. Friend Claudia is a shrew. Marshall's mom Judy is possessive. Barney's mom and Ted's mom are oversexed. Robin's assistant Patrice is annoying. Barney's conquests are without brains. The one girl Marshall dates other than Lily has "crazy eyes." The Woo Girls are pathetic.
Even the show's female leads, Robin and Lily, suffer from a shortage of writerly goodwill. Robin starts out an interesting character, a modern woman who knows what she wants. But in the past couple of seasons, she is basically the object of Ted and Barney's tug-of-war, who occasionally shows "personality" by screaming at Patrice. Lily bails on Marshall, bails on her career, bails on her other career, drowns Marshall in credit card debt and often seems to be there to provide conflict for Lily-Marshall story arcs and to make Marshall look good. Lily and Robin aren't awful in fact they're likable but they don't develop like the male leads and aren't painted nearly as generously. Can you imagine this show giving us a woman who behaves as badly as Barney and still is held up for endearment?
The women who survive the low expectations of HIMYM writers are put on a pedestal, most notably Ted's prize ,The Mother, and Victoria, who was the writers' fallback for The Mother if the show were to have gotten cancelled.
It's worth mentioning that there were 15 writers who each contributed to more than five of the show's 208 episodes; only three of those writers were women.
These strains of sexism have always nagged at me. But even after mentally taking down this show, I can't wait for the finale. I want to know what happens! I want to say goodbye! This is the show I throw on Amazon Prime while doing housework. I have several of Marshall's musical compositions memorized (my favorites are "Paying My Bills" and "Cat Funeral"). I'm a fan in spite of everything. I know Ted doesn't deserve the Perfect Girl, but I still hope The Mother doesn't die. (Seriously, that won't happen will it?)
Did you love HIMYM? What are some TV shows or movies that you connect to despite the fact that they run against your personal values?