Monday, March 31, 2014

Glossing over vanity

How I Met Your Mother almost had a real moment in the season 8 episode titled “Romeward Bound.”

Barney, who is engaged to Robin, spends most of the night fantasizing what his wedding planner looks like underneath her coat. He shares the fantasy with Robin, not even trying to hide his lust-filled ego (par for the course for Barney). Ted, who is close friends of both, tries to explain to Barney that Robin may be hurt by Barney’s continuous fascination with other women, despite how “cool” with it she may seem.

Before Ted gets the point across, Barney stops him, offended that Ted thinks he knows Robin better than he. Ted drops it and offers to buy the next round of beers.

Barney’s pithy, emotionally stunted defense would work within the context of a man who is deluded about whom he is called to be in marriage, and a friend who is too timid to correct him. But that’s not the context provided. Barney’s presumed superiority goes unchallenged, and the notion that a wife would not be “cool” with her husband fantasizing about other women is dropped.

This flies in the face of Robin getting upset when she found out Barney lied about burning his playbook, a book of plays he ran on girls to get them in the sack when he was single. It flies in the face of Barney’s stated reason for settling down, that he felt cold and empty after treating girls as sex dolls his whole life.

Perhaps he needed to be reminded of that cold, empty feeling by his best man, Ted. Perhaps he needed to hear that he would have to be faithful to his wife, and even then that wouldn’t guarantee a successful marriage. Most people in a wedding are there to tell the couple what they want to hear. A few are there to tell them what they need to hear. The best man is such a person. The groom needs his best man to encourage him when he feels doubt and humble him when he gets cocky.

Barney rejected Ted’s prudent advice, and the show’s plotters validated his vanity by glossing over it.

How I Met Your Mother, whose 9-season run ends tonight, is an amusing, diverting show, but its persistent glorification of sexual hijinks as the main characters ostensibly “mature” renders it mild soft-core porn with only marginally better plotting.

UPDATE (4/3): In the series finale on Monday, Barney and Robin separate after being married 3 years. The reason given is Robin’s career as a network news reporter, which takes her all over the world. In reality, Barney’s wandering mind and eyes and his lack of shame and self-awareness of them would have doomed the pair from the start.

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