While Barney isn’t the best in How I Met Your Mother, he may not be that bad, and Ted’s just exaggerating.
One of the most iconic sitcoms of the 2000s, How I Met Your Mother has remained a favorite due to its unique structure and comedy. Now that the show is complete, fans pose theories and questions regarding the characters and the plot of the show, with Reddit user KermitTheFraud92 posting a theory that could change the scope of the show since they suggest Ted has exaggerated Barney’s antics and behavior to make himself look better.
The theory continues, noting how odd it is that Ted tells his children about the inappropriate behavior Barney exhibits. Most parents would not willingly relinquish such details to their children, especially if it’s about a close family friend. In addition, it’s unclear how Ted knows about the private details in Barney’s life. Unless Barney explicitly told him about all of his sexual adventures, there is no feasible way for Ted to know this much.
However, mostly the theory expands on the idea that Ted exaggerates Barney’s behavior to make himself look better by comparison. Season 1, Episode 18, “Nothing Good Happens After 2 AM,” is a great example of this given how terrible Ted is.
While seeing a girl named Victoria, Ted finds out that Robin has feelings for him. This catapults him into a dilemma that becomes exacerbated by Robin’s late-night invitation to her apartment. Convinced Victoria is about to dump him, Ted decides to go over and lies to Robin, telling her he broke up with Victoria.
During a wacky conversation with a made-up image of Victoria, Ted admits that he just wants to get laid and that he’s still in love with Robin. Minutes later, Robin accidentally picks up Ted’s phone and speaks with Victoria, discovering the truth. Angry and hurt, Robin gives Ted his phone back and tells him to call Victoria, effectively ending their night together.
In the next episode, “Mary the Paralegal,” Ted construes Barney as the villain of this episode. Feeling lonely and miserable, Ted finds himself lacking a date to Robin’s Local Area Media Awards, so Barney suggests he hire a sex worker. Despite Ted’s reluctance, Barney takes it upon himself to hire a woman named Mary and claims she’s a paralegal. Ted doesn’t believe him, but despite his suspicions, she is a paralegal, and Barney intentionally played Ted for a fool.
This portrayal of Barney’s prank is shown as a cruel act on Barney’s part and pins Ted as the victim, despite his actions in the prior episode. Since Ted is the narrator, he spins the story to distract from his past actions, painting Barney as an insensitive womanizer. However, Barney could’ve gotten him a date because he felt bad for Ted, but Ted exaggerates this event in a negative way so his children, who are listening to the story, think their dad is not the bad guy, especially in contrast to Barney.
This is just one example that supports the theory, and there are nine seasons worth of material that support it as well. Ted portrays his youth by putting himself in the best light, which the show certainly does. Barney on the other hand has some real characters development, so it’s unfair for Ted to constantly paint him as the “bad guy” of the show. KermitTheFraud92’s theory seems valid and changes the way fans can view How I Met Your Mother during a rewatch.