I’ve been a fan of How I Met Your Mother for years. The show has always had its problems, but it was a fun comedy about friendship, with the optimistic perspective that everything happens for a reason and that things are leading towards happiness in the end.
I’m still watching the show, but I’m finding it harder and harder to bear. And although the show’s quality in general has gone downhill, my problem can be summed up with two words: Barney and Robin.
I’ve been supporting Barney and Robin’s relationship almost since the beginning. She was a fun, career driven character who could bro out with Barney and who didn’t want marriage or kids, and he was a caricature of a player who was, arguably, a good friend with plenty in common with Robin, who saw the harm that his games could cause, and who turned over a new leaf when he fell in love with Ms Scherbatsky. But then things fell apart.
After Barney and Robin broke up, Barney went straight back to his womanizing ways, but the tone was very different. Barney was no longer an amusing caricature. He had been given a plot line of emotional growth. And then he went back to the person he was before, with us once again expected to laugh at his sexist comments and at the young women who were stupid enough to fall for his tricks. Worse, to me, the show eventually decided to give Barney some more traditional romance stories, first with Nora and then with stripper Quinn. He even gets a brief engagement. But unlike in his relationship with Robin, his personality remains the same. He remains a sexist jerk who tries to get his fiance to sign a prenup promising to get repeated boob jobs and dreaming about his own personal harem. It’s difficult to support his future marriage to Robin when this is his attitude.
Meanwhile, Robin has suffered severe character degeneration over the past few seasons. She’s ceased to be a realistic character who is driven in her career and knows how to handle a gun. Instead, she is a screeching cartoon of a woman in a breakdown. She rarely has plot lines of her own, and when she does appear, she spends most of her time shouting and being overemotional (particularly at her poor coworker Patrice). Robin has changed from a character that we connect and laugh with to a character that we are supposed to laugh at. Unless, of course, they’re using to for ratings-related fake pregnancies during November sweeps.
I do still watch How I Met Your Mother, and I frequently enjoy at least parts of the show. But if the writers don’t seem to care about the characters or treat them as real people, why should we?