5 Lessons from the HIMYM finale

So, How I Met Your Mother is finally over. And the internet is pissed.

Spoilers below, obviously.

This is what everyone wishes they could do to the writers.

I think there are some legitimate arguments why the finale was terrible, but I can’t decide if I actually hate it or not. They gave us some pretty big hints about what was going to go down all throughout the show, and the ending makes Ted’s obsession with Robin for the first few seasons considerably less creepy. Still, I think they tried to cram too much into the finale (while stretching out Robin and Barney’s wedding waaaayyyy too long).

That being said, I actually thought the finale offered some semi-legitimate lessons for it’s audience. I thought I’d share them with you below.

1. You cannot change “that guy” 

This is a pretty big staple of the rom-com genre. You have the eligible bachelor who just needs the right woman to come along and change his wandering ways. Well, life isn’t like that. Barney is hilarious, I know, but he has no respect for women. His “playbook” is all about pushing the line of consent and getting sex from women who are drunk, or confused, or manipulated. In real life that is not okay. And in real life a guy like that doesn’t just start respecting a woman because he is married to her. It may suck that Robin and Barney get a divorce after only a few years of marriage, but can you actually say you are surprised? If you knew Barney in real life, would you actually set him up with your friend expecting him to respect her and cherish her to the end of her days?

In spite of Barney’s lack of respect for women, I do believe people can change. I just don’t think sex is necessarily the best thing to change a sex addict. Plus I never really found his sudden transformation for Robin all that believable. I mean, he had to go through a one-night-stand detox just to handle the idea of being faithful. That’s why I loved the thing that really did change Barney in the end.

I’m not saying that making a person into a parent is always going to fix them, but the majority of the time it really does change their perspective on life.

2. Friendships evolve

I am so guilty of the “our relationship will never change” mentality, but in the last few years I’ve started to be open to change. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you can stay friends with someone forever- if you are willing to put in the hard work. It’s just unfair to you and your friends if you expect those relationships to never change.

Some of my best friends live totally different lives than I do. I’m so happy for them, because it’s the kind of life they dreamed of having, but it also means that we have less in common. When you have less in common, it’s easy to try to treat your friend like they were before they started to grow into the person they are now, and that’s just not fair. For me, it’s always a little bit sad to come to terms with change, but if it’s something that makes my loved ones happy, shouldn’t I be happy about that too? I want to try to celebrate the changes my friends are going through, and not get hung up because we can’t meet at the pub regularly anymore (we didn’t actually have our own version of MacLaren’s, but you know what I mean).

 3. Relationships are Messy

A nice wedding doesn’t mean a great marriage. My in-laws eloped. They had to grab two strangers off the street just to have witnesses, yet they have a fantastic relationship. I would be so happy to be as content as they are when John and I are their age.

In the HIMYM finale, Ted and the mother (Tracy, but she will always be “the mother” to me) don’t get the big fancy wedding of their (Ted’s) dreams, and yet they end up so happy. Robin and Barney do get their dream day, but divorce within 3 years.

I’m not saying the dream wedding isn’t worth having (I wouldn’t have traded ours for the world), but the wedding is just an awesome party you get to throw. It doesn’t really say anything about what your relationship will be like in the long run.

After the divorce, Robin can’t handle being around Ted or Barney since they are both reminders of relationships that didn’t work out. This is something that often gets ignored in sitcoms because they don’t want to break up the gang, but let’s be honest, have you ever tried to stay “besties” with your ex? I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just really not as easy as it usually looks on TV.

4. Reality can suck

This partially ties in with my previous point, but I’m thinking of something pretty specific here:

They freaking kill the mother!

By the time they had actually introduced the mother I was pretty much in love with her. Her death ticked me off, because HIMYM was always a brainless escape for me. I mean, if I wanted to be that depressed I would just watch the news. That being said, I appreciate what Rachael Larimore said in her article about “Fans of a Certain Age“:

“The struggles they faced [in the finale]… were familiar struggles. I’ve seen friendships wither over kids and divorces. I’ve watched too-young parents get sick and die. Having grown into something that I don’t like to call middle age, I’ve learned that everything is not what I hope and dream… It’s understandable that so many fans are mad that, after all that, Ted ended up with Robin. The complaint that it was “nine years of character development down the drain” is a common refrain. I disagree. Ted spent this whole last season saying farewell to Robin. And he was successful. But when life dealt him the ultimate blow, it’s not a step backward for him to make the best of it. That’s a mature response to life, and the finale was especially touching to many of us who’ve lived a little ourselves.”

While part of me agrees with Larimore in saying that the HIMYM finale was finally showing the reality of adult life on television, it wasn’t just the mother dying that really got under my skin. It’s that the mother’s death and Robin and Barney’s divorce all worked towards to create one of the biggest TV cliches.. only this time everyone was NOT falling for it.

5. Sitcoms still can’t help getting the “will they or won’t they” couple together in the end

Even though I agree that it was pretty groundbreaking to shake up the idea of “the one” by killing off the mother, there was one trope HIMYM just couldn’t help falling into.
I get that leaving Ted and Tracy in peace would mean some pretty creepy sections about Robin in the story he was telling his kids, but still, doesn’t this just remind every guy out there if he just keeps bugging a girl long enough eventually she will cave? It’s just one more show that feeds into the idea of the persistent nice guy, which Evan brought up in his recent blog post “An Open Letter To Women I Am Interested In”.

Evan seems to be asking where you find the line between pursuing someone with perseverance and straight up harassing them. And when you look at most of the TV couples out there you realize it’s a pretty legitimate question. According to one quote he shares:

“A generation of romantic comedies rewarding men for diligently pursuing a woman until she caves has normalized a behavior that has direct and unwelcome corollaries in real life.”
Sitcoms just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to the nice guy protagonist. At what point does this stop being cute? At what point should we start telling Ted that “no means no!”

So did I hate the finale? Okay, I’ll admit it, part of me felt a little like this.

Why are you guys leaving me with so much hurt??

Still, I feel like it offered a few good points to consider. What do you think?

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4 responses to “5 Lessons from the HIMYM finale

  1. The whole deal with the finale is that the ending is what Bays and Thomas had envisioned from the very beginning. I mean, they filmed that scene with the kids really really early on. That’s all to say that if this had been the end result come, say, the end of Season 2 that would’ve been fine. The problem is that we ended with Season 9. The means didn’t justify the end, if that makes sense. The showrunners should’ve realized that they were headed in a different direction and acted accordingly.

    I’m right with you when it comes to the lessons you laid out, though. As I was watching the finale I couldn’t help appreciating the realism that was present there. Friends drift apart, huge romantic gestures do not a lasting relationship make, etc. Things got very real very quickly, and in spite of how jarring it was I couldn’t help but respect that in a sitcom.

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