One of those things that crops up in fiction a lot is the idea that if someone does something huge or life-changing or amazing, they’ll win someone’s heart or the cup or they won’t die. I’m often swept along with it, because escapism yay, but it’s started bothering me more and more. Weirdly, it was the Nightman Cometh episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia that got me thinking about it. If you haven’t seen it (and why not?) the plot revolves around a guy putting on a musical in order to win the heart of a woman. Only, it’s the worst musical ever and the woman hates him. And rightly, looks completely disgusted with him at the end. All well and good, and a nice lampshade on the idea. Very soon afterwards, I saw for the first time in ages the episodes of How I Met Your Mother where Barney ends up proposing to Robin. ARG.
Man, I have such a complicated relationship with HIMYM. There’s so much to love about it – it’s sweet, and funny, and inventive. It often gets the grand gesture right – there’s the two minute date, Marshall meeting Lily at the airport, Barney surprising Robin with Canada. But this particular gesture is awful. Barney lies, cheats, manipulates, screws over his friends, and never, at any point, thinks about talking to the woman he’s supposedly in love with about how he feels. Direct quote from the script, as Robin reacts to this sequence of events:
“You lied to me, manipulated me for weeks. Do you really think I could ever kiss you after that? Do you really think I could ever trust you after that? This this is proof of why we don’t work, why we’ll never work. So thank you. You’ve set me free because how could I be with a man who thinks that this trick, this enormous lie could ever make me want to date him again?”
And then, because it’s actually about marriage, it’s all FINE. No. No, no, no, no, no, no. No. No, no. Awful stuff, insulting to the characters and the viewers. Much like the finale, which kills off a wonderful woman, so Ted can get back together with someone he dated briefly 30 years ago. Ugh.
The one possible saving grace to this mess – could it be a way of leading up to that terrible finale? The writers knew how they wanted it to end, that Tracy (the mother) would die, and childless Robin would be able to take her place at Ted’s side. They knew that Barney and Robin would be married at some point. Are we supposed to think that this is awful? That Barney and Robin won’t work because of how they got there? Or am I giving them too much credit because Drumroll Please is still one of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen? I’m going with the latter, unless there are any other convincing arguments out there.
Anyway, conclusions to this ramble? I dunno, this is a big minefield of a topic that’s quite personal to a lot of people. 1. The right gesture, well communicated and consented to, is awesome. 2. Anything manipulative and more about the person making the gesture, kind of sucks. 3. Barney Stinson is the worst. 4. If time machines are ever invented, I’m using my go to remake the last series of HIMYM.