I've been kind of unmotivated to write lately. Not that there hasn't been plenty of fodder out there for a feminist to jump on, but for some reason nothing has sparked my interest. I've also been mulling over calling out feminists for being assholes to one another in the blogging world, but I'll save that for another day...
The subject of this blog is Barney Stinson, and this feminist's relationship with liking him.
What can you say about Barney Stinson? I guess I could start with the basics. For those of you unfamiliar, Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris, is one of the five main characters of one of my all time favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). Barney is the prototypical superficial play boy womanizer who is always on the prowl for another woman to trick into bed. He lives by a set of principals he calls the "bro code" which are, as you could assume, unapologetically misogynistic and male centric. Barney is often portrayed as lacking morality, unscrupulous, and all around sleezy, with the occasional display of his softer side, which we can never be 100% sure is genuine.
So how could I, someone who is in many ways the living opposite of Barney Stinson, like him and this show? How did I know you would ask! There are a few redeeming things I find in the portrayal of Barney and his place in the context of the show.
Firstly, I think Barney serves as a reminder that these guys exist. Unfortunately, creepers like Barney are real...and I'm actually OK with reminding women that the Barney Stinsons of the world are out there, looking sharp and debonair, with an incredible story of lies designed specifically to get in your pants. Now, if you're comfortable with a pack of lies and a one night stand, more power to you! But if that's not your cup of tea, just remember Barney.
Also, Barney is often portrayed as ridiculous. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Barney is often the laughing stock of the group. The show isn't designed to necessarily condone his behavior. Barney's conquests often backfire in his face leaving him in incredibly ridiculous situations. Of course, he doesn't ever really learn a lesson, reform, or truly get his comeuppance, but there's still time left in the course of the series.
And finally, and most importantly, you have to view Barney in the wider context of the show and the world. In the context of the show, I would argue that Barney is the only non-feminist character. Lilly and Robin are both fairly headstrong women who have made reference to feminism before, Lilly kept her maiden name, and Robin is a rabid hockey fan and isn't interested in kids; all things somewhat rare in prime time comedies. Ted and Marshall are both portrayed as romantics and sensitive men who cry or like things like theatre and art. So within this frame work of characters who are not gender stereotypical, we have Barney who is...and, as mentioned, is often the butt of jokes.
Also, the relationship of Lilly and Marshall is egalitarian and healthy and stands in contrast to the debauchery of Barney. We're not supposed to want to be Barney. We're supposed to want what Lilly and Marshall have. In fact, Barney learned his bad behavior from having his heart broken. In a flash back, we see Barney as a sensitive and caring boyfriend to a girl who leaves him for the "bad boy." Seeing this happen, Barney stops being the good person he truly is and assumes the persona of the Barney we now know. The lesson: if women put up with men who disrespect them, it breeds more men who disrespect them.
Also, in the wider context of the world we live in, I take a certain satisfaction in the fact that TVs possibly most womanizing man is actually played by a homosexual. For some reason, gay actors are questioned in a way that straight actors are not for their ability to play characters who have a different sexual orientation from them. For this reason, I love that Neil Patrick Harris is Barney. No one else could really pull it off like him.
Ok, ok, so at the end of the day Barney Stinson is essentially as deplorable as Tucker Max. I can agree to this much. (At least the good news is that Barney is fictional!) Sure, I wouldn't hang out with Barney. Hell, I couldn't even have a productive discussion with him. But for what he is in the context of the show, I'll allow it. In fact, I love it.