Following the ending of Friends, a gap opened up for a new comedy show to take the reigns as the most popular sitcom on television, a role which How I Met Your Mother seemed to fill perfectly. Despite its bad ending, the show is still beloved and talked about today as one of the best sitcoms of the 21st century so far.
However, the show is not all great, especially in hindsight. Some stuff from the show has not aged well, and in turn, the show can be pretty problematic, either by way of its characters, storylines, or jokes, thrown in amongst the positive aspects.
Problematic – Telling The Kid’s These Stories
The whole premise of How I Met Your Mother is pretty fantastic, but in hindsight, if fans are to believe everything fans see and everything Bob Saget narrates gets said to the kids, that is worrying.
Ted is pretty much telling his kids how awful Barney is, someone who is likely a prominent figure in their lives, as well as telling them insane amounts of personal details, including various hookup stories, and how awful their father can be.
Positive – Personal Growth Possible
The five main characters of the show undergo a lot of change throughout the show, with Ted having the least amount, but even then having some growth.
While the finale undid a lot of the development of the characters, the show still proved that even people perceived as bad like Barney could grow, and let their good heart out, like when he becomes a devoted father, as well as that people who are perceived to have everything sorted out as Marshall and Lily can develop further.
Problematic – Treatment Of Women
The most obvious way in which How I Met Your Mother is problematic falls down the list only due to how incredibly apparent it is, that, of course, being the treatment of women.
Whether it be Barney and his conquests, the playbook, the hunt for who is ruining Barney’s hookups, how awfully Ted treats nearly everyone yet acts sympathetic, or even how Robin and Lily get portrayed, the show has a serious issue.
Positive – Be There For The Big Stuff
The most common way in which single-camera comedies and sitcoms end is with the main characters all moving on in significant ways, like leaving an apartment, getting a new job, getting kids and growing older, or any one of a hundred things.
Perhaps the best thing about the finale is that it shows the people you love and care about will always be there, even if you drift apart and become separated, being there for the big stuff is all that matters, and while bittersweet is a good thing overall.
Problematic – Homophobic Tendencies
So many shows that came out ten, twenty, thirty-plus years ago suffer from a slew of outdated jokes and storylines that in today’s society are not and should not get tolerated.
How I Met Your Mother is no different and throughout nine seasons has a load of homophobic jokes, like Barney trying desperately to pick up a lesbian, or ‘who’s hot and who’s Scott.’
Positive – It Is OK Not To Have Everything Figured Out So Soon
One of the best things that the show portrays is the fact that even these characters who are all in their mid-to-late twenties and then thirties do not have life figured out.
Lily, for example, wanted to be an artist and spent a long time finding her calling, while Marshall always so desperately wanted to be an environmental lawyer, but through years of frustration realized being a judge was the best course of action. Then, Robin worked relentlessly for years before finally achieving her dream job; it shows that it is OK not to have everything figured out entirely so soon.
Problematic – The Shaming
Similar to how the show tended to be homophobic, it had a severe and more evident problem with shaming people, particularly slut-shaming and fat-shaming.
The fact Marshall shamed Robin for sleeping with Mitch but never condemned Ted for how he acted, or even Barney, really is awful, and one of many examples of Robin at the end of that treatment. Barney’s discrimination and hurtful insults towards overweight people are also pretty evident throughout the show, and far from OK.
Positive – It Is OK To Be Who You Are
Each character on the show has a slew of problematic aspects as humans and shames others in cruel ways. But at the same time, the show also presents the idea that it is OK to be who you are.
This can get seen particularly through Marshall and Lily’s relationship and Robin. The former is OK being cutesy, is OK being passionate, and does not care about what others think of them, while the latter is as far from a stereotypical woman as can get, and has zero care about what others think about her cigar-smoking, hockey-loving, whiskey-drinking, and [often] kid and marriage disliking self.
Problematic – Ted Mosby
Ted Mosby is consistently a terrible person throughout the show and extremely problematic as a protagonist, especially one presented as being a good guy.
Ted is toxic, and treats women awfully, worse than Barney sometimes. However, it is not that which makes Ted so problematic, it is how sympathetic, whiny, and innocent he makes himself out to be, he thinks everyone else is the problem, and never admits that it is him.
Positive – Growing Up & Moving On With Life Is Natural
The idea of moving on with life and drifting from the people you love got mentioned earlier with the positivity of the be there for the big things agreement.
However, the wider context of that idea is itself a big positive of the show, as every character, in one way or another, proves how good it is to grow up and move on. Whether it be Marshall and Lily’s perfect life together, Robin’s success, or Barney’s inability to move on fully until he has a daughter, change, and growth gets shown to be a good thing, which it is.