Two of the main male characters of How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby and Barney Stinson, demonstrated or reinforced the concept of a male-dominant ideology throughout the show. Different forms of toxic masculinity were present through the characters’ behavior. Although, on the surface, this show can be seen as a story following friendship, love, and life, hegemony is clearly a present part of the characters’ storylines, as well as the overall tone of the series.
Throughout the series’ nine-year-long run, we see these characters living in a world which seems to be made for them. There is a traditional and conservative perspective of male dominance within the characters Ted and Barney. These two characters are guilty of a hegemonic mindset, ultimately using privilege and power to achieve personal success.
1. Ted Mosby’s persistence
The “hopeless” romantic throughout the series was disrespectful to women because he constantly broke boundaries. We see this toxic persistence take place in Ted’s love life, particularly when he is interested in a girl named Stella. Ted, who is a patient of Stella’s, asks her out several times over the course of six weeks. Each time she says no, yet at the end of their last session, Ted plans an impromptu two-minute date on the streets of New York without her knowledge. As this show is fictional, she agrees to go out with him again. However, in real life, his behavior could be described as harassment. Common in the male-dominant ideology, a woman’s right to say “no” is seen as an obstacle that men must overcome.
2. Constant “slut-shaming” and double standards
Male sexuality and female sexuality are seen completely differently in the eyes of society. When men are seen as promiscuous they are told they are “bachelors,” while women are seen as “sluts.” This basically reinforces the concept that men can be sexual and women cannot. All the characters in the show are sexually active, but yet there is definitely a double-standard comparing the sexuality of female characters like Robin to her male counterparts Barney and Ted. Robin definitely experiences sexism and shame in some of the conversations surrounding sex (“The Naked Man”, Season 4, Episode 9), while Ted and Barney openly discuss and celebrate their sex lives, particularly Barney.
3. The Playbook
The Playbook is a collection of the different lies Barney uses to pick up women. Not only does The Playbook simplify women’s intelligence, but makes a game out of manipulation. The playbook could be seen as the power and privilege Barney has over women. The character has been able to get a substantial amount of women to sleep with him based on the lies used within the book. A power trip is almost inevitable and we see the hegemonic perspective of the character more clearly than ever in this sequence of events.
4. Downplayed sexual harassment and predatory behavior
Barney Stinson is a well-loved character with a huge fan base, but that doesn’t erase the fact that almost every time he is on screen, he is making sexual remarks on behalf of women. Most, if not all, of these comments are supposed to be taken in a comedic way, but yet people will likely still experience discomfort in hearing these words. Barney’s behavior reinforces the concept that as a man you must use sexual conquest as a gauge for manhood. This mindset should not be celebrated or connected to the concept of this gender as it demeaning to both men and women.
5. Offensive comments regarding LGBTQIA+ Community
TV shows and movies unfortunately often use the LGBTQA+ community as comic relief. Although this show was in a way progressive in terms of featuring LGBTQA+ characters, there still were some tasteless comments made throughout the series. The discussion of this community commonly has a humorous tone within the media, especially during this time period. The comments made reinforce a dominant ideology that heterosexuality is the “norm” throughout society.
6. Barney’s “Hot and Crazy Scale”
Barney again is acting through a misogynistic lens, connecting a woman’s attractiveness to her difference in mentality. According to the scale, a girl is allowed to be crazy only if she is equally as hot. This concept is extremely sexist as it puts women in a box, ultimately leaving their worth to be determined by those around them. The hot/crazy scale is seen throughout pop culture, and it perpetuates the same harmful messages that a women’s worth is determined through a masculine perspective.
7. Treatment of female side characters
Zoey was only on the show for one season where she played Ted’s rival and love interest. They met while she was protesting against the knocking down of a historical hotel, which would ultimately be replaced by the building Ted was designing. Throughout their “love story” Ted continually pressured Zoey to stop protesting against the new building, despite knowing she was passionate and had a personal connection to the hotel. Fortunately, Zoey was confident in her stance, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ted did try and believe he could convince her to stop the protesting.
8. Barney Stinson’s repressed emotions
It’s no surprise that Barney has some unresolved trauma that leads him to act and behave in certain ways. Commonly, we see men reserved emotionally in media because they’re conditioned only to show certain emotions: passion toward sex, cars, sports, and beer. This is a societal concept that has been reinforced time and time again where men are shamed for sharing their emotions. This repression is harmful to the minds of many, and to those around them. Barney represents the ways in which these repressed emotions lead to unhappiness within oneself.
9. The use of Robin Scherbatsky’s character
Robin’s character can best be defined as a strong, confident, and independent woman. However, it seems her storyline was interrupted multiple times throughout the series due to the fact she was commonly used as a love interest for our male characters, Ted and Barney. When we first meet her she’s Ted’s unattainable dream girl; then, later in the series, she acts as Barney’s motivation to improve himself. These are two popular arcs we see for women within television and movies, in which a man is chasing them or relying on them for their emotional well-being. Within the series, it is also apparent she is written through the male gaze by demonstrating that ”not like other girls” tope, which is commonly desired amongst male characters in the media. This unfortunate characterization leaves the secure character at the hand’s hegemony, where she’s seen as a “prize” amongst the two characters rather than an individual.
10. Finally, Barney Stinson’s overall characterization
Barney Stinson is the perfect face of toxic masculinity. He reflects the traditional male concept of power and success. This ideology associates women with being a luxury or trophy for men, rather than a person. His whole personality demonstrates a strange, and unhealthy hobby for exploiting and manipulating women.
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