A favorite of mine is the popular How I Met Your Mother. This show is a collection of flash-backs following Ted Mosby’s desperate search for romance and the adventures he encounters with his friends along the way. How I Met Your Mother is mainly targeted towards young adults who relate to the emotional roller-coaster of romance. For my Marxist analysis I will be focusing on the pilot of the show because it provides a good summary of the main on-going themes. By looking underneath the show’s humor a clear message reinforcing the hegemony of “monogamous romantic relationships are desirable and results in happiness” stood out to me. This dominant ideology is illustrated by the pain Ted suffers due to his ‘single’ status, the approval Lily and Marshal invokes from other characters due to their ‘happily in love’ status and the disapproval Barney incites due to his ‘against monogamy’ standpoint.
Throughout the pilot episode (and the other episodes), Ted is evidently frustrated by being ‘single’ and desperately wants a monogamous relationship providing an anti-model for the audience. In this case, Ted’s suffering implies to the viewers that they do not want to be single like Ted. Ted’s desperation is sparked by Marshall’s engagement to Lily and is demonstrated by his ongoing defeated and discouraged attitude as well as his constant complaints about being single. He regularly expresses desire to be like Marshall and Lily which I perceive to be the show’s positive models.
How I Met Your Mother reinforces the idea of “monogamous romance results in happiness” by providing Marshall and Lily (happily engaged couple) as the role-models of happiness for Ted. Throughout the episode Marshall and Lily are viewed by the other characters, especially Ted, as the perfect couple. “The olive theory is based on my friends Marshall and Lily. He hates olives, she loves them. In a weird way that’s what makes them such a great couple, perfect balance.” (How I Met Your Mother, episode 1). The fact that Ted used the olive theory as an indication of his future with Robin (Robin hates olives, Ted loves them) shows that Ted looks up to Marshall and Lily to the point of using ridiculous nuances in their relationship in his own. The implication is clear when contrasting this positive approval with the condemnation Barney spurs as the opposite end of the spectrum.
Barney’s steadfast standpoint on “no monogamy” is paired with an outlandish persona which results in the viewers relating “no monogamy” with the ridiculousness and disapproval provoked by Barney. I believe this was the show’s original intent although Barney’s character since proved to be extremely popular and charismatic. “…even the dumbest single person alive and if you don’t believe me… call him. (Referring to Barney)” (How I Met Your Mother, episode 1). Barney is presented as a silly and amoral womanizer who the other characters rarely agree with.
The different levels of happiness and approval each of the main characters is presented with illustrates what the show is trying to imply as desirable and happy. The show’s message through these characters reinforces “monogamous romantic relationships” as the norm. Another interesting aspect of the show to consider for a Marxist analysis would be the show’s message on who is empowered in the young dating scene (attractiveness). Comparing the physical and behavioral characteristics of the “attractive” and “unattractive” characters of the show could be helpful for such an analysis.
“Pilot”. How I Met Your Mother. 20th Century Fox Television. 19 Sept. 2005. Television.