Media, in particular television, has influence or what society defines as normal, gender roles being the most prominent example. Television shows with different subtleties of these gender norms as they hop between the public and private spheres. In the television show How I Met You Mother, the main character Ted Mosby, a hopeless romantic, is trying to find the love of his life in the city of New York. Switching from girlfriend to girlfriend Ted finds help from his four best friends; Marshall and Lily who are a married couple, Barney who is a womanizer, and Robin who is driven by her career. These five characters span a very wide range in gender stereotypes. However they change their behaviors depending on their surroundings. Interactions between the five friends and other lesser developed characters will change based on venue and/or the surrounding people.
Starting with Ted, he is probably the most boring character on the show based on his actions but is at the same time, along with Robin, probably the most complex in terms of his gender identity and emotions. Ted wants nothing more than to find the love of his life and start a family. This desire to start a family is generally seen as very feminine or womanly. This is even highlighted in the show by Barney who is constantly saying that it is a waste of time to get married. Contrast this with Robin who is in every way very masculine except in the way she looks. She is very driven by her career, often choosing to pursue it rather than investing time in her love life. She also, at least in earlier seasons, is very opposed to settling down to get married and have kids. Ted and Robin date for the majority of the second season. The difference in their desires for the future ultimately is what separates them.
Marshall and Lily can almost be viewed as one entity but is very important to look at them separately. They are always together and agree on almost everything; however they pick and choose which gender norms they follow. Marshall is the bread winner as a lawyer. Lily works as well, originally a kindergarten teacher, but does a lot of domestic work like doing all of the cooking. Where the couple most obviously diverge from stereotypical couple and gender norms is the very high sex drive from Lily. Men are almost always portrayed as “thinking with their other head.” This is true for Barney and to a certain extent Ted as well. Marshall on the other while generally willing to take part in Lily’s indulgences hardly ever suggests it himself; he is very much a thinker. Marshall is also a family man. He loves his family and was especially close to his dad. He is also the one who suggests that he and Lily start a family. In many ways he is similar to Ted but he got lucky in finding Lily his freshman year of college. As more time goes on and Lily becomes an art consultant it shows Marshall supporting Lily in her career as oppose to Lily supporting her decision.
Barney stands alone as the most “awesome” and most stereotypical character on the show. He is extremely shallow. As I said before he is a womanizer who up to date has slept with literally hundreds of women. He makes a lot of money in a corporate job for a bank and tries to be “legen-wait for it-dary” which is his catch phrase. It seems he only cares about himself and not settling down. Even more than Robin, he is opposed to marriage and having kids. Ironically these two start a relationship. This is where Barney starts to develop more as a character. While more emotions are brought to the surface Barney is still overwhelmingly filling every male stereotype. It is interesting that Barney’s brother, though a minor character is exactly the same as Barney only black and gay.
While these characters portray a wide range of gender roles the interesting part and really the brilliance of the show comes from how they interact. The main sets of the show