Premiering in 2005, How I Met Your Mother is one of the most iconic sitcoms of the early 2000’s.
The show’s plot was simple: a middle-aged Ted Mosby sits down to tell his children the story of how he met their mother. (It only takes him nine seasons to get to that part, of course.)
For most of the show, Ted is written as a hopeless romantic. He’s not just looking for a good time — he’s looking for a wife to have a family with. There’s nothing wrong with this attitude, but in retrospect, much of Ted Mosby’s behavior towards women makes him a jerk, not romantic.
The show takes place over nine years and Ted dates thirty-one women.
Nine years may be a long time, but thirty-one women? According to a study commissioned by the release of The Rosie Project, most men will have six serious relationships in their lifetime, while women will have five. So, to put that in perspective, Ted Mosby has dated five times more women than your average man.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue if Ted was just looking to have fun, or date casually — but he’s not. He’s on the quest for his soulmate, and he found thirty-one women to be inadequate for this role. If you ask me, Ted’s not looking for someone to connect with — he’s looking for perfection.
(It also begs the question: who is really the problem? These women or Ted?)
Robin seems to be the only one capable of meeting Ted’s standards, and he’s infatuated with her.
The entire catalyst of the show is the moment that Ted meets Robin. From the second their eyes meet, Ted is in love. HIMYM tries to make Ted’s actions toward Robin (such as him stealing the blue french horn) seem like the ultimate romantic gesture. But is it?
In the early seasons, Ted is almost obsessive when it comes to Robin — he tells her he’s in love with her on the first date, deceptively tells her that he only wants a casual friendship (when we all know he doesn’t), and throws a bunch of parties at his apartment just for the opportunity to talk to her (and not seem creepy about it.)
That’s just what happens in the first two episodes — and Ted doesn’t even know Robin at this point. In real life, most people would consider this harassment, not a romantic gesture. As I said, Ted has no idea who Robin is, and he’s practically planning the wedding. There’s nothing organic about their ‘love story’ or Ted’s affections.
When they do finally get together, Ted tries to make Robin into something she’s not.
What ultimately splits Ted and Robin apart are their mismatched goals. Ted wants children, and Robin doesn’t.
They try to make it work, but unfortunately, there’s no way to compromise on the issue — they can’t make each other happy. Despite knowing that there isn’t a future with her, Ted continually tries to ‘win back’ Robin throughout the series (as if he could change her mind, and make her into the dutiful, loving wife he wants her to be.)
When he’s not obsessing over Robin, Ted’s search for love consumes his life.
It’s perfectly okay to want a relationship. Having the ability to share your life with someone you love is an amazing experience — and not something that everyone gets.
But it’s also important to love yourself and be happy without a partner. (Chances are, if you’re unhappy with your life single, you’re still going to be unhappy in a relationship.)
Although he has a successful career and a blossoming friend group, Ted never seems to learn how to love himself. He’s constantly consumed with finding ‘The One’ that he can’t be content by himself.
The show doesn’t explore the aftermath of Ted and Tracy’s life very much, but you do have to wonder: what happens once Ted finally gets his wife and kids? Is he finally content with his life? Did he ever realize there’s more to life than popping out kids and getting hitched?
The world will never know.
Some might argue that the show is self-aware when it comes to Ted’s creepy dependency, but I disagree.
There are definitely points throughout HIMYM where the rest of the group confronts him about his unhealthy romantic behaviors. In The Three Days Rule, Marshall and Barney catfish Ted, pretending to be a woman he met earlier. Their goal is to see how quickly they can get Ted to say ‘I love you’, and it doesn’t take long.
The show does seem to have some self-awareness about Ted’s jerkiness, but they also don’t allow him to grow or change as a character. (If I’m rude to people all the time, but I know I’m acting rude, does my awareness make it okay to be mean? I don’t think so.)
There are a few times when Ted swears off relationships, but that never really lasts more than a couple of episodes. Time and time again, Ted is impulsive, clingy and infatuated with any woman who looks his way.
We should probably talk about the ending.
The ending of HIMYM left many fans feeling cheated — myself included. Throughout the series, we put up with Ted’s obsessiveness because we know that he’s eventually going to meet the right person. We know he’s going to get over Robin.
Oh, wait! Except, that’s all a sham— and Ted’s wife dies, and he gets to be with Robin (and have his kids) in the end. The finale is a copout. Instead of recognizing that Ted and Robin just aren’t right for each other, the show decides to reward all of Ted’s unhealthy behaviors by giving him ‘the girl’.
I don’t think Ted is a completely terrible character. However, I do think that many of his creepy actions get passed off as “romantic”, and HIMYM sends the message that not only are these behaviors okay, but they should be rewarded. Romance, affection and a desire for a soulmate are all perfectly normal feelings to have, but Ted allows this longing to take over his life. He has impossible standards, gets fixated on a girl he shouldn’t be with, and never learns from his mistakes. He’s not a hopeless romantic — he’s a jerk.