Much of “How I Met Your Mother” hasn’t aged well, but these are the most egregiously problematic moments that probably wouldn’t see the light of day if the show were currently airing. Given that the series’ entire premise relies on Ted telling his kids about all the women he’s hooked up with (in disturbing detail), there’s a lot to choose from.
Constant mockery of LGBTQ+ people
Homophobia is rampant, from Ted dressing up as a woman to try and dupe a lesbian into sleeping with him to the constant use of “gay” as an insult. Transphobia is just as present in the series: Consider the Season 6 episode, “The Exploding Meatball Sub,” in which Ted and Barney discuss a horrid game they call “Who’s hot and who’s Scott.” The premise? Trying to find a transgender woman in a group of models. Another hideous joke is the reveal that Ted’s biggest fear is finding out his partner is trans.
The women slut-shame other women
Lily and Robin are both sex-positive people, and they each have their own voracious sex lives. So on top of everything, it’s pretty hypocritical that they constantly tear down other women for doing the same thing. We grow up with this idea that women’s sexuality is somehow dirty and wrong, a belief reinforced by media like “How I Met Your Mother.” Thus continues the rotten cycle of pitting women against each other. Be better, Lily and Robin.
Consent isn’t a joke
Many of Barney’s one-night stands are black-out drunk when he hooks up with them, a fact that is often orchestrated by him beforehand. This lack of consent is intentional and premeditated. In fact, “The Playbook” lists dozens of scenarios he uses to trick women into sleeping with him. Whether he’s making up stories that he’s from the future and needs to sleep with someone to prevent a catastrophe or regaling women with lies about being a Yankees player, his tactics are all manipulative and downright assault-y. Yet beyond some lightheartedly scandalized exclamations from the gang, no one does anything to stop him. Nor do they ever call it for what it really is: assault.
The bisexual awakening that never was
The series could have had a progressive bisexual awakening plotline for Lily, even if she never dated a woman. It could have been cool and beneficial for many people to have her come to terms with and accept that part of herself. But instead, the writers reduced her interest in women to fodder for cheap laughs.
The treatment of Quinn
The gang continually tries to break them up purely because they don’t respect her job. Yet they’re totally fine with Barney doing things like dressing as a maid to secretly watch young girls in a school bathroom. Not even his policy of “I pay for the meal, you handle my deal” prompts his friends to do anything about his behavior. Quinn flat-out tells him, “I like my job, and I do not need to be rescued. So don’t be that guy.” But Barney has selective hearing when it comes to boundaries. He tries to force her to work at his bank after apologizing for being a jerk and proposes to her in an attempt to get her to stop dancing. Shockingly, their engagement doesn’t last. But that could also have something to do with the hundreds of pages of prenup papers in which he demands access to her “lady parts.”
Stalking isn’t quirky, Ted
For instance, he claims that Lloyd Dobler’s boombox love declaration in “Say Anything” is charming because Diane Court is into Lloyd. By Ted’s logic, if she weren’t, only then would it be creepy. Of course, he takes it 10 steps too far, equating the creep factor to Jeffrey Dahmer Sorry Ted, but stalking is stalking. Between Ted’s unhealthy relationship with Jeanette and the joke the series makes out of the restraining order Paul Shaffer has against Robin, “How I Met Your Mother” can’t help but paint stalking as a joke. In reality, the U.S. Department of Justice reports millions of people to become victims of stalking every year. It’s just not funny.
Ted gaslights every woman he dates
Ted is absolutely unapologetic about his abhorrent behavior. He tells her that he doesn’t want to waste her time because he “really likes her,” trying to paint himself as a noble guy rather than what he actually is: A narcissistic jerk. He tells her it’s not a big deal, and that it’s like she lost the lottery. Um, it seems kind of like she wins the lottery by avoiding a future with Ted. Of course, he paints her as a “crazy chick” when he regales the story, adding to the pile of characters who throw that word around to describe women they don’t agree with.
Don’t try The Naked Man at home (or anywhere)
Do you know what’s definitely not consent? Stripping down on a first date the minute your date walks out of the room, then creepily posing when they walk back in. In “The Naked Man,” Ted meets a guy named Mitch who boasts about his tactic of backing women into a corner by forcing his dates to see him nude. While Mitch brags about The Naked Man’s two-out-of-three success rate, two out of three experts would call this sexual assault — and the third one is probably an incel. The idea is to procure pity sex, which is yet another notch for the manipulation game.
Cheating isn’t romantic
Does anyone need a refresher on why he and Victoria broke up in the first place? Oh, that’s right. Ted cheated on Victoria with Robin. Fans are treated to Ted’s whining over getting left at the altar for years, yet he seems to have no problem when the tables turn and even succeeds in getting Victoria to run away from her wedding with him. And what happens next? They break up, again, because Ted can’t stop obsessing over Robin. Classic, selfish Ted Mosby. But he’s a good guy — he promises!
Dogs are people too, Ted
It’s not like they’re living together at the time and he’s allergic. Nope, he’s just jealous of Robin’s dogs. Her dogs. That’s all there is to it. Eventually, she heeds Ted’s desperate cries for attention, sending the pups to live on a family farm. To be fair, the dogs are probably much happier having room to run and play, but it really isn’t Ted’s place to ask — especially since he has no actual concern for the dogs’ well-being, or Robin’s. He’s only thinking of himself. We’ll take “narcissist jerkwad” for $200, Alex.
Nobody asked you, Robin!
Robin’s verbal abuse towards one of the show’s only recurring plus-sized women not only sets a bad precedent for what’s allowed in the workplace, but it also caricatures a kind and supportive woman into an on-screen meme. Patrice does little else beyond acting as Robin’s verbal punching bag. Heck, she even fake-dates Barney for Robin’s sake — any woman deserves an award (and a weekly STD test) for that. This awful gag serves as the grand finale of the show’s constant fat-shaming, and as usual, “How I Met Your Mother” takes things too far.
Get the stork out of here
Dear “How I Met Your Mother:” Not everyone wants to be a mom. Period. Everyone celebrates Barney for his disinterest in children. He even goes as far as celebrating his made-up holiday, “Not a Father’s Day,” for all of the childless bachelors out there. It’s perfectly fine that Barney has no interest in being a dad (until he later becomes one). But it’s just as okay that Robin adamantly doesn’t want children throughout the series. Some women just don’t want kids! Yet society never stops dictating that there’s only one path that women can go down in order to lead a fulfilling life.
Malpractice lawsuit, the party of one
It is highly unethical to date your patients (or even former patients) under any circumstances. Kevin has seen the innermost workings of Robin’s mind. This results in a very warped and downright disturbing power dynamic. He even uses what he’s learned about her against her at times, unable to turn his doctor switch off — which makes sense, given that he met her in therapy. For once, the other characters actually voice their horror regarding this inappropriate relationship. Still, it continues way longer than it should. It would definitely cost Kevin his job, and possibly his license if the board found out.