How I Met Your Mother- Analysis

How I met your mother is an American sitcom that uses comedy to recount to his children in the year 2030, the events that lead the main character, Ted Mosby, to meeting his wife. However, this television series is a lot more than what it appears to be. We perceive throughout each episode a degrading trend that projects negative images of women. They are repeatedly marginalized as objects and are mostly spoken about in a harmful and debasing manner by one character, Barney Stinson. With the use of irony, the hegemonic view point of the white rich Christian male is excluded from the norm, equalitarian to sexes. Nonetheless, Barney??™s ideologies cause the most laughs and achieve dominance over the others.
First of all, in this television series woman are shown to be ???something of use???. This is to say that females are portrayed to be objects of male satisfaction. They are shown in revealing clothing that is not seen as sexual expression but as low class and slutty. This perspective is made clear to us by Barney??™s actions and the way he regards women. These images are chosen by the media to encode anti-feminist messages, consciously or subconsciously, that will allow men to remain at the apex of social hierarchy and continue this ideological cycle due to the viewer??™s socialization. The media is a business and by allowing these messages to remain in society, it becomes profitable to those who control this industry, the hegemonic male. Stuart Hall clearly supports this idea by his definition of the mass media. According to Hall, mass media is
???A complex structure in dominance??™ sustained through the articulation of connected practices, each of which retains its distinctiveness and its own specific modality, its own forms and conditions of existence.???In other words, figures in power will attempt without fail to broadcast a certain way of thinking that will be beneficiary to them and will allow them to keep their seat as socially dominant. For example, in one particular episode, Barney sets Ted up with a beautiful girl and Ted assumes that this woman is a prostitute because she is dressed in an open short dress. To Ted??™s surprise it turns out that she is a lawyer and a much respected one at that. In this particular scene, no astonishment is drawn at Ted??™s conclusion because this is what is expected of the viewer since society and media have taken over the public sphere and engraved these ideologies into individual??™s thought processes. Women are depicted as prostitutes if they express themselves with their clothing and thus, men remain in supremacy.
Second of all, women have fought for decades to achieve certain amount of liberation from sexist attitudes, comments and marginalisation. Although, feminist movements have seen a lot of success, negative and banal comments are projected in the media every day. In this show, women are often referred to as ???hoes??? and??? bitches??? without it causing nostalgia. Instead, humour is drawn from these appalling words when it is said not only by men but by women. However, men are rewarded for their sexual accomplishments and are not categorized by it. Deborah Cameron reinforces this point by stating:???[…] differentiation from one to another comes not through sexual attributes and status, but primarily through occupation, or attributes of general humanity, for example, decent, kind, honest, strong. Men remain men and women become specific categories in relation to men and to other categories.??? (Deborah Cameron, The feminist Critique of Language, 1990)In short, equality does not exist between men and women due to classification and language. Men are strengthened while woman are referred to in purgatory and demeaning terms. For example, in one of the episodes, Ted brings a girl to one an important event. His female friends go on by saying that these girls are ???sluts??? and they will always be disposed of the next day. The female sex is been looked on, in these shows by certain characters, as people to be forgotten and that have no true value, objects. Even women use detrimental linguistics that creates a bad image of their own sex. If women use this language to represent themselves or others, then what is expected of society Media organizes women into groups and categories and consequently, outlines these arrangements into society??™s thoughts. The masses allow this abasement to continue but only due to their upbringing in a media controlled world. Third of all, our society is surrounded mostly by one view point, hegemony. The white rich Christian man has been dictating our thoughts and individualities through media for the past century. With the rise of religion, the church members and the rich became the head of hierarchy. With the fall of monarchy, came a subtle rise of powerful figures replacing kings and queens. Media has become the playground of these men to push society to consume their thoughts and ideologies. In how I met your mother, Barney represents this hegemonic figure, assuming that money can buy women and he distributes his thoughts any chance he gets. His friends differ from him in the means of equality and justice. They regard Barney??™s actions and view points as disturbing and wrong. However, they do not punish him for his behaviour but laugh with him and even, sometimes, imitate his unlawful conduct. He is excluded from the norm that is his friends but seems, regardless, to rise above that and share his beliefs through humour, making them the dominant view point. Maria Black and Rosalind Coward state that ???In a society structured along a series of unequal divisions, there are clearly a number of groups who have power in relation to other groups: whites, men, managers.??? (Deborah Cameron, The feminist Critique of Language, 1990)
In brief, in this western civilization, the hegemonic white man??™s ideas and desires prevail over other group??™s beliefs. They are in control of the media and consequently, distribute their thoughts in society, creating more people that unconsciously are socialized to share these ideas.
What is most ironic about this situation is that the actor, who plays Barney Stinson, is the complete opposite from this character. Neil Patrick Harris, in reality, is an openly gay actor who differs completely from the typical masculine that he plays in this television series. “…I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love a lot.??? (, Wikipedia)
This quote displays the great distinction between Harris and Stinson because it clearly demonstrates a kind hearted artistic gay man that plays the role of an authoritarian capitalistic straight man. These contrasts create this evident irony and, as a viewer, bring to light the importance and the frequent manifestation of encoded images in our everyday lives. Also, even though the hegemonic view point that lowers feminine value is continuously present, it is constantly being made fun of by the distinction between the character and the actor. In conclusion, woman??™s rights have been around for only a few decades and feminists strive everyday to achieve a certain amount of freedom. Like Annette Kuhn says, knowledge is power and in order to succeed in the mission of equality, it is necessary that shows like these do not profuse images that create wrongful messages in our society. The knowledge that will serve us better is not one that should be shadowed by these encoded messages but one that will halt this type of media and allow humanity??™s progression towards equality.