Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Philosophy of How I Met Your Mother Trevor Wiemann Blog Post H1G2

           For those of you who do not know, How I Met Your Mother is an ongoing sitcom pretty similar to Friends (except way better). The show is told by the narrator and main character, Ted. The big catch? Ted is telling the story (each episode’s plot) twenty years in the future to his children. Thats right, the entire show is one big flashback. Ted is explaining how he met the kid’s mother (his wife). Get it? Awesome. The show is now on its 8th season, so obviously Ted is telling his kids way more than just the important things. Or is he? We’ll get to that later.

Right to Left: Robin, Barney, Lily, Marshall, and Ted laying across them

          The big question is is the mother even important at this point? Eight years after the show’s pilot episode, we have yet to meet Ted’s wife. We have realized that the show is about everything that leads up to how Ted met her, not just the single moment. This being said, I would argue that the mother is extremely important. She gives meaning and hope to moments of the show that would have otherwise be worthless, hopeless, and just plain sad. Why you ask? Because we know that all these events hold significance to how Ted met his wife. In a nutshell the theme of the show is no matter how you ended up at the current point in your life, you’re there now. And even if all the events that lead up to it sucked, they are important. Whatever joy you currently have was influenced by everything that helped you get there. Now I know the first thing that pops into your head is “Oh! He’s talking about destiny!” NO. Destiny isn’t the theme of the show. Yes, what I’m trying to explain is similar to destiny, but not the same. I'm talking about the series of choices one makes, and how the effects of those choices lead to a certain outcome. Many times during the show Ted questions, or even states flat out that he believes he will meet his future wife via destiny. But the show repeatedly rebukes this idea via Ted’s breakups. Right when Ted thinks he’s found the one, and DESTINY lead him there, he is sadly mistaken. The story is less about destiny and more about everything working out in the end. In my humble opinion there is a fundamental difference. 

Destiny says no what you do you will end up at a certain point. Almost the opposite: a sequence of wrong turns can actually lead you to the exact place you wanted to be. The story of all the little pieces fitting together to make a big things happen. Confused yet? Now that we’ve gotten the main philosophy out of the way, I would like to describe some specific instances where you can see examples of this theme.
             One of the reoccurring events in the show is breakups. We all know about them; most of us have experienced them. It can be one of the worst pains in life. The writers obviously understand how breakups are a universal thing because they don’t skimp on them. It seems like every other few episodes there is one. I believe the reason they are included is to show that even a super sad thing can bring happiness. Example: freedom, sympathy, love and support from your friends, and most importantly: your soulmate. Voltaire’s Zadig tells the story of a morally good man trying to find love and success. Zadig and Ted could not be anymore similar. Furthermore, both men face hardship over and over and OVER again. It seems to never let up. However, both men experience spurts of happiness in between the challenges. And guess what else? Both men end with true happiness. Zadig with a wife and rule of a kingdom. And Ted with his soulmate, two awesome kids, and the career of his dreams. When watching the show, its easy to get lost in the humor of each episode: Marshall’s silliness, Barney’s hookups, Robin’s awful jobs, etc. The show is ridiculously hilarious. Likewise it is easy to get lost in all the sad parts too. 

Marshall hopelessly crying in the rain after being dumped by Lily 

Marshall and Lily’s breakup is one of the saddest moment the show has had to offer. Just as Ted’s dream girl, at the time, Robin decides she wants to date him, he finds Marshall sitting on the stoop of their apartment in the poring rain holding Lily’s engagement ring. Ted goes from being on top of the world to the lowest of lows as he feels almost as much pain as his best friend Marshall does. The next couple episodes deal with contrasting the intense happiness Ted is experiencing with that new relationship feeling to the pain Marshall is going through post-breakup. But it is EXTREMELY important to always look at the bigger picture. It’s all about how all the little things lead to Ted meeting his wife and his soulmate. I think that this is another one of the more important keys to the show’s philosophy. We now know Marshall and Lily end up happily married together, but in order to get to that point they had to go through some rough spots. In this case, a rough spot being the end of a four year relationship and engagement. This breakup was key to the success of Marshall and Lily’s marriage. How? Who knows, but the whole point of the show is to show that no matter how happy a person is, they could not of gotten there without some major trials and tribulations. Heck, before Barney was a wealthy womanizer and company executive, he was a broke hippy who had to get dumped to realize he needed a life makeover. If it wasn't for the breakup, or even his hippy stage he couldn't of gotten where he is today.

Never seen Barney without a suit? One of the rare episodes where Barney is seen not wearing a suit. This time as a teenager, years before the show takes place.

Furthermore, Ted probably learned a lot from watching Marshall and Lily over the years. Without this knowledge it’s very possible he might have known what to look for in a soulmate, or even how to deal with the obstacles placed in their marriage.

Word Count: 1000+


  1. Thanks for filling me in on this show, Trevor. My whole family is smitten with it, now I (sorta) understand. You're right, destiny/fate is not quite the term for the unique journey each of us takes over the course of years, that lands us in a unique time & place & life-situation. Different story arcs must have been possible at every step. But if we are grateful to be where we are (and shouldn't we be, even if our lives aren't as charmed as Ted's), mustn't we be glad things happened as they did? It still seems relevant to note, with Kierkegaard: we live forward but understand backwards.