An Open Letter To The Creators Of ‘How I Met Your Mother’
Dear Creators of “How I Met Your Mother,”
Let’s talk about why I love your show.
You created one of the most accurate representations of being a 20-something in New York; trying to build a career while fostering friendships, searching for love and feeling the isolation that New York City brings but still honoring the incredible moments it offers.
The show was simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and cry-your-eyes-out heartbreaking. For that, I thank you.
You also effectively created a group of individuals who represented our generation in a way I haven’t seen before and doesn’t currently exist elsewhere.
I love these characters because they are layered, they make mistakes, they follow their own rules and they’re better for it. They have grown with us; I have grown with them. They have seen us through our own heartbreaks, job trials and friend tribulations.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that in less than one hour, you effectively broke the bond I spent nine years building with these people. These people were my friends.
Let’s talk about our friends.
Barney Stinson. He’s actually the worst kind of guy, but somehow, you made him lovable. More importantly, you grounded him in reality. His dysfunctional relationships with women stemmed from an honest place of childhood trauma. You gave him depth.
You slowly, subtly and brilliantly revealed his layers and allowed him to evolve and change. I watched Barney go from the “playbook,” to earnestly fall in love. Barney’s evolution is one of the best on TV. His relationship with Robin grew from a place of respect and nurturing.
When a bus hit Barney and his life flashed before his eyes, it was Robin that he saw. That was an amazing character arc, truly.
Barney ending his marriage with Robin because her successful career was more than a slap in the face (yes, I went there) to his character development, but also, a slap in the face all the people who grow and change as they learn what they want from life and love.
Seeing the playbook once again in his hands and watching him chase after women who were half his age broke my heart. He deserved more. His journey deserved more.
Lily. Her journey has been one many can closely relate to. For years, Lily chased her dream to be an artist. That dream led her to nearly lose the love of her life — twice. Still, she believed in herself and needed to honor her desires.
The dream evolved, shifted and altered, but art was always present. She showed us that it’s never too late.
In the finale, Lily’s career is nothing more than a memory. She morphs from a woman who managed to juggle marriage, children and work, into a 1950s caricature of a wife. She talks about her husband’s career and pops out baby after baby.
While Marshall pursues his ambition to become a judge, what is Lily doing? Is she a stay-at-home mom? Does she have a part-time job? Does she work full-time and still manage to make it to Daisy’s dance recitals and Marvin’s baseball games?
Or, does her life revolve around everything Marshall does?
How did this woman — who I have watched for almost a decade — end up? How was her story wrapped? From the finale, I am led to assume that it ends with many babies and not much else.
Ted and Marshall both have several inconsistencies, but they have endings that honor their desires and character development. In fact, Ted gets two happy endings, but more on that later.
Most of us have seen ourselves in these people, but none more so than in Robin Sherbatsky. Robin Sherbatsky is one of the best female characters to grace our television screens. She is strong AND feminine, invested in her career AND in her love life.
She is a woman who doesn’t apologize for who she is and what she believes. She is the perfect role model for women in their 20s who are trying to pave their way in a world where women are valued for the size of their jeans.
Her sense of self worth was NEVER connected to a man. She is a woman who knows herself, her values, her strengths, her weaknesses and her capacity for love.
When it was revealed that Robin couldn’t have kids, you showed us something. You showed us that motherhood is not the only thing that validates a woman’s identity.
You showed us that having a career can be as fulfilling as having a family. With Robin, you showed us that a woman can like scotch and watching sports without compromising her femininity.
In one hour, Robin went from having all the aforementioned qualities to being a weak, isolated “yeti.” After sticking through an entire season building up to the wedding of the two most interesting and evolved characters on your show, you broke them apart in less than five minutes.
You boiled the end of their relationship down to meaningless sex with each other in the wrong hotel room. They deserved more as a couple. Robin deserved more as a progressive woman. Barney deserved more as an evolved man.
They deserved for you to address the complexities of divorce, of having a career and a relationship and ultimately what it means to take a vow.
In a generation where we barely have the attention span to walk without texting, you condoned running away from a hard discussion and giving up on a relationship that was healthy for both parties.
Then, you proceeded to isolate our female heroine from the friends who said, “We choose Robin.” (Even though this is not about choosing.) They turn on her and talk about her behind her back. They take her back, but not without judgment.
You turned her into a caricature, a woman who can’t have a career and maintain relationships. What about Lily? What about the relationship they built? They don’t talk. They don’t email. They don’t even tweet, for God’s sake!
Moreover, you broke her down. You made her uncomfortable in social situations; you made her run away from New York; you destroyed her self-confidence and the friendships she’d built and fostered.
Worst of all, you turned her into a woman longing for an ex from whom she chose to walk away because they were not right for each other.
She CHOSE because she knew herself and her values. After all of that, she ends up pining for him and regretting her decisions. Worse than that, every time she talks about her career, it’s in a debilitating way, as if it’s held her back from her true happiness… and her true happiness is… wait I can’t even actually type it… it’s… Ted.
Before Ted “saves” her, she ends up alone with her dogs. So, while the man was married to the actual love of his life and got his happy ending, Robin was alone simply waiting for Ted’s wife to die so that she could be Ted’s consolation prize.
So, now, the man gets two happy endings and Robin is still second fiddle. She sits and waits for him to sweep her off her feet, even though she’s created a life for herself and paved her own way in the world.
To top it all off, the man with whom she shared a marriage, the man who stood by her when she learned she couldn’t have children, the man who valued her for more than her womb, the man who saw her as an equal was effectively changed by a baby he conceived during a one-night stand.
He needed the one thing Robin couldn’t give him to find happiness? Evidently their love and companionship meant nothing because she couldn’t give him the baby he needed in order to change.
For years, your show has enlightened viewers with lessons and messages about life, love and family. What message were you trying to send to us? We’re women, writers, filmmakers and business owners in our mid-twenties. How should we interpret this episode?
How should we value ourselves based on this episode? Are our careers simply placeholders until we find men to fulfill us and we become baby-making machines?
Or, if we don’t want to or can’t have children, should we wait it out until a man has children with another woman, fulfills that need and then he can see the value we offer? Should we get rid of our male friends while we’re at it?
I wish that I felt like you wasted my time. Instead, I feel that you wasted an opportunity — an opportunity to show a progressive couple help each other discover who they are in a nontraditional way, while both having careers.
You missed the chance to show Millennials that there are different types of relationships and that while romance is not dead, it’s not for everyone.
You missed a chance to say that a relationship is worth fighting for with the right human. You missed a chance to show that a woman can have a career and be sexy and be cool and make mistakes and not have children and have a successful marriage — all at the same time.
You missed the chance to tell us that we are more than our value to men.
Contributions made by NYC blogger, Naomi Davis. Check out her blog at http://bookgeekconfessions.tumblr.com/.
Photo credit: CBS