US sitcom How I Met Your Mother is now approaching its ninth and final series. Levi Grayshon considers the representation of women on the show and finds that, while the central female characters are sometimes shown in a more positive and feminist light than on other popular sitcoms, the treatment of women overall is problematic at best.
The eighth season of How I Met Your Mother recently finished airing on E4 in the UK, with the premiere episode of the ninth season set to air in the US towards the end of this month (23 September). The show centres around a group of friends in New York during their late twenties and early thirties as they navigate various experiences. These include looking for love (Ted), focusing on a career (Robin), flirting their way around the city (Barney) and settling down (Marshall and Lily).
The two main female characters of the show are teacher and artist, Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) and broadcast journalist, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders). When the show begins, Lily is newly engaged to her college sweetheart, Marshall (Jason Segel) and Robin is brought into the friendship group via her doomed relationship with hopeless romantic Ted (Josh Radnor).
Though the show is not perfect by a long way, these characters are arguably often represented in a more positive, feminist light than women on other popular sitcoms, such as Two and a Half Men. For example, Lily expresses her desire for sex on many occasions and openly discusses her and Marshall’s sex life, but is never shamed or punished for it. It is also hinted that she may be bisexual as she often admits, when drunk, to having a bit of a crush on her best friend Robin and even tries to get the rest of the group to dare them to make out (to no avail).
Additionally, Robin enjoys casual sex, notably with Ted, who becomes her room-mate in a later series, and also on a few occasions with Barney. Her sexual activity is not generally looked upon negatively either. However, there is a blip in this refreshing lack of judgement in one episode, The Naked Man, where Robin is called a “slut” by Marshall for having a one-night stand with a man who she dated but didn’t connect with. This shows that the male characters are uneasy about Robin having sex for its own sake, compared to Lily, who talks openly about her sex life that occurs within her long term relationship (and later marriage).
This is the cover for the forthcoming UK DVD package for season eight of How I Met Your Mother. It shows a white clouded light blue sky. In front of this, a smiling (left to right) Marshall, Lily, Ted, Barney and Robin are at head and shoulders level above a sea of dark blue umbrellas. Ted (centre) holds a yellow umbrella over all five of the characters. The written details are in the top third of the picture and sloping upwards towards the top right corner. The title (“how i met your mother”) is written in large lower-case letters, while the package details (“the complete season 8 3-Disc Set . 23 Episodes”) are in smaller type (mixed case).