How I Met Your Mother: The Finale Analysis

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    I loved this show and watched all nine seasons of it.  I borrowed the first three seasons from a friend who said, “you need to watch this show; you’ll love it.”  He was right.  I got hooked right away.  I’m basically a female version of Ted Mosby, and all of the other characters on the show remind me of at least one of my friends and/or family members.  I think this show has been the “Friends” of the beginning end of the millennial generation, i.e. those of us born between the late 70s and the mid 80s.  The plot lines and the characters are relatable to us: there’s one couple who met in college and who mostly remains together, i.e. the corporate lawyer and the artist/teacher who are serial monogamists.  There’s the more career oriented, “tough chick” female friend, the funny male friend who behaves like a stereotypical “player,” and the creative, visionary friend who wants love so badly, but through a combination of bad luck and bad choices, seems to have a hard time finding it.  (We all have at least one friend who fits all of these descriptors.  I think I’m a combination of the “tough chick” female friend and the unlucky in love creative friend).  Thus, so many of us fell in love with the show.  However, a lot of people, from what I read and heard, were disappointed in the finale.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I liked it. 

     The reason I liked it was that I thought it was honest.  No, not everything turned out the way you would have liked it to for the characters, but it was true to live.  It was disappointing that Barney and Robin’s marriage only lasted three years, and honestly, I would have liked to have seen them fight harder for it.  However, we all know at least one couple who had a passionate and adventurous, but short-lived marriage.  Robin did what I think many of my friends and family have feared I would do: she chose the charming and smart, but not very reliable guy.  Having said that, I as a viewer understood why she made that choice.  She knew that Ted wanted kids and that having kids was not an option for her, and she and Barney neither one seemed very interested in having a “traditional” family and a “traditional” marriage.  So she made the best choice she could at the time.  I think perhaps if she and Ted had met either five years earlier or five years later than they did, they probably would have ended up together in the first place.  However, as is sometimes the case in real life, you can love someone, but the timing just isn’t quite right.   

     In the last season, we get to know and like Ted’s first wife, who we finally learn is named Tracy McConnell.  (However, the fact that I had to look up her name shows that I wasn’t as invested in her character as I was Robin, Marshall, Lily, or Barney, but perhaps that was intentional on the part of the writers).  She’s quirky, but in a good way, and she’s smart, attractive, and funny, so it makes sense that she and Ted would choose each other, after both of them having to let go of past flames.  I can certainly see why people were disappointed to learn that she passed away, after we spent a whole year getting to know her.  However, the writers hinted at it, especially during the episode where they’re having dinner and they broach the topic of subjects too uncomfortable and sad to discuss. There were other hints, such as the locket, but even I didn’t catch on until the very end.  Ted was clearly completely devoted to his first wife until she passes away, so in the end, I as a viewer still like his character.  Also, unfortunately, in real life people are sometimes widowed at an early age and have to move on to new relationships.  Therefore, I, like the kids, feel happy when he and Robin reunite because I want Robin to have her happy ending too. 

     I think what the show was trying to do–and perhaps didn’t do as well as it could have–is challenge the notion of traditional ideas of love and romance.  At the beginning of the show, Ted has a fairy tale idea of romantic love, and by the end of the show, he seems to have a more realistic one.  There are people, Lily and Marshal being an example, who are lucky enough to meet the person they’re meant to be with early in life and stay with that person forever.  However, at the risk of sounding callous, it’s just not that way for some of us.   Some people have to try and fail several times (more like Ted and Robin) to find the person who’s truly a good fit, and some people, like Barney, make the conscious choice that a traditional marriage is not what they want and find fulfillment in career, friendships, and other areas of life.  (Robin too makes this choice between marrying Barney and reuniting with Ted.  It was disappointing to me to read that some people thought Robin’s life “sucked.”  To me, having a successful career and traveling the world is not a life that sucks).  Therefore, the characters have a happy ending, just perhaps not the way they thought.  Barney finds joy in this daughter, born as a surprise, but clearly valued nonetheless.   Lily and Marshall have a more traditional marriage with kids.  Ted and Tracy get married, but much later than they expected and after having kids.  (Again, this does not fit the societal mode, but it’s happening more often now).  Robin has one short marriage, a long and successful career, and then (hopefully) a second and happier marriage later in life.  Her story might not be a traditional princess meets prince story, but she still has a happy ending. 

     So no, the finale was not what people wanted or expected, but then again, what in life really is.  The friendships changed, but when it was all said and done, the friends were there for each other’s important moments, which again was true to life.  Another important message of the show, I thought, was to value the single years and/or the years without kids while you have them.  Yes, the traditional family life is great too, but you have less time for your friends.  Again, the show showed this honestly.  I was happy with the finale, both for its honesty and for its portrayal of different kinds of love.  

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Double Standards Exist in Both Directions

“I am not overweight, I fluctuate between ‘chubby’ and ‘curvy’,” says one of my two TV heroes Mindy Lahiri from the Mindy Project, who follows her statement with the guy who calls her fat/overweight with, “I could have sworn you were a bouncer at an Orlando strip club.”
I personally am happy to see a TV show about a curvy girl who fights back. When Kevin’s ex-girlfriend refers to Mindy as “a chubby Indian girl,” she responds by saying that she’s “average American womany”. Then, she ditches the evil Kevin and goes about her way, along which she picks up plenty of other hot dudes, including her cool Christian boyfriend Casey and Seth Rogen, who plays her childhood camp friend grown into a studly military guy. (Don’t we all wish those would come back into our lives and sweep us off our feet. Sigh). It’s inspiring, really. Most female and movie TV stars are either extremely skinny or very overweight. I like seeing one who is more averaged-sized and who doesn’t let people criticize her for it. It’s part of what makes her relatable to me because she’s closer to my size. She’s still successful in her career and has plenty of gentlemen callers, and she tries to stay healthy, but doesn’t completely forbid herself from eating a burrito and having a drink from time to time. People like her because she’s fun, nice, and successful. And let’s face it, when a guy is around her (well, our) size, people don’t have much to say about it. We just get more flack for it because we’re women. But I’m hopeful that the paradigm is starting to shift. There are more cool women on TV who are a more average or even a heavier size. I know people hate on Glee a lot, but I like how Tina is a more average size and Mercedes is heavier, but still learns to see herself as attractive. Kat Dennings from Two Broke Girls is very healthy looking, but also very busty and doesn’t resemble an out of proportion barbie doll. So, there are reassurances. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t sometimes look more like Twiggy, but women like these stars inspire me to try to be healthy, but not overly obsessive.
In all fairness, I think double standards exist for men too. I have several male friends who are either teachers or in more creative professions and have really cool jobs, but don’t necessarily make a lot of money who feel embarassed to share their professions with potential dates. To me, that’s just sad. I used to teach at a diverse, more urban middle school, and honestly, some of the teachers who seemed to impact the kids the most were males. I think kids need strong male role models and that men should be proud to say they’re teachers. I really wish my grandfather (John Thomas Ruffing) had been in my life when I was growing up because he was very much like me, and he would have been a good role model for me. He’s a prime example of someone who gave up a career he was passionate about and good at to make more money. He was a newspaper writer for the Miami Herald and the Associated Press, and he was a talented writer. But, he eventually became a Stock Broker because he knew he would make more money at it. He was good at it, apparently, but I don’t think he enjoyed it nearly as much as he enjoyed writing. I just don’t think it’s fair that men (more so than women) get pressured into fields that aren’t really right for them and get stuck there just because they’re trying to be the “man” and to make more money. We need more male artists and nurterers in the world,and men should be able to be that (or whatever else they really want to be), just like we as women shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when we’re hungry because we’re afraid someone would think, “why does she want to eat, she already weights enough.”
Yes, I know that men tend to be drawn toward conventionally attractive women and women tend to be drawn toward men who will be good providers. Or, said more bluntly, men like hot girls and women like men who have “bank,” or who are rich and powerful. Maybe that’s why some rich and powerful men and some unusually beautiful women just aren’t pleasant people, because they know they can get what they want in life. I know some of this is primal, but isn’t part of being human the ability to reason and to see beyond our primal instincts and reactions? I’m certainly not saying that women should eat McDonald’s every day and that men should be content to work at McDonalds every day for the rest of their lives. Show some self-respect, and take some initiative to eat better and to work an interesting job. I’m just saying that I think men and women both need to rethink their definitions of attractive. When it’s all said and done, do you want the person who is arm candy at a party and can buy you an expensive car, or the one who will pet a stranger’s dog and cheer you up when you’ve had a bad day? I know I’m not always perfect in this area of my life either, but it gives us all something to think about.