Breaking Down Gender Norms
How I Met Your mother is heading into the end of their iconic run as one of the most popular television programs on CBS. It has been a long run for the television series, which has aired nine total seasons. The show has revolved around the main protagonist Ted Mosby and his friends living in New York City, searching for Ted’s future wife, and mother of his kids. The show has had great success due to the hilarious story plots, its evolving characters, and the flexibility between masculine and feminine gender roles intertwined with the main character Ted Mosby. For example in season 8 episode 24 Ted brings his friend Lily to his newly renovated house, and shows her all of the construction work he has done by himself. The scene presents Ted showing his masculine side by rebuilding the house, but just a few seconds later he relates himself to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook. A movie few men would ever say they have seen. It’s this flexibility of gender roles that breaks down what is considered normal ways of acting as either masculine or feminine in society.
Ted Mosby by all means is considered one of the nicest guys on television these days. In the show he parades around looking for his one true love, Ted is not interested in meaningless relationships like many male characters on television today. Many of Ted’s characteristics in show could be described as female gender traits. He is a hopeless romantic, genuine nice guy, and he truly wants to settle down with a family. In society if a male was displaying these characteristics the first thought would be that he is metro-sexual, gay, or that he is quite frankly not a real man. How I Met Your Mother has had great success with disobeying these social norms, because it allows men, and women to both relate to the character, and strive to understand that you don’t have to follow the social norms of being purely male, or female.
Androgyny is an individual that displays balanced levels of characteristics of both masculinity and femininity (Cobb, Walsh & Priest, pg.83, 2009).Ted is a prime example of this throughout the series. He is a man who can go out and do manly things with his friends like going to a strip club, getting into a bar fight, and drinking beers with the boys. Ted can also talk about his feelings and be a hopeless romantic. Most of the comedy in the show is revolved around Ted showing gender flexibility, and in some ways how society looks at gender flexibility.
Throughout the series Ted has experienced backlash and praise over his gender diversity. Gender diversity is when ones preferences and self-expression fall outside the commonly understood gender roles. Gender diversity is a normal part of human expression, and has been recorded over history (Understanding Gender). Gender diversity has been recorded in all cultures, and it still is seen as being a controversial trait to have in society. In the show Ted has been falsely identified as being gay, in more than one occasion. The characteristics of his personality have drawn such conclusions, due to him portraying more feminine traits than normal male gender traits. In one scene Robin introduces her new boyfriend Don to the gang. Robin hasn't told Don she used to have a relationship with Ted. While Ted and the Don are talking about relationships Don asks Ted how he would feel if Ted’s boyfriend hung out with one his exes. Ted is utterly shocked by hearing the allegations that he is in fact gay, but then the scene jumps to flashbacks of Ted acting in a feminine manner. This scene represents how many people jump to conclusions about someone’s sexual identity, because they might not be acting in the perception of gender roles that accompanies their biological sex. Where is written that you have to be purely masculine or feminine? Media and television have helped push these social norms with early television programs, such as Queer eye for the Straight guy, and the Man Show, which presented what society, thought of as gay men, and straight men. These shows had no neutral ground for both gender types. You were either a manly man, or a flamboyant homosexual. Ted Mosby is one of the first characters on television that showed it was possible for someone to show traits of both genders.
One personality trait that presents Ted as being feminine and in some cases has been the one trait many people see as annoying is his overly romantic personality. Ted is in search of his true love in every episode of the show. This personality is considered to be portraying how women feel about relationships in today’s society. Men are not seen as being romantic people, and many of Teds portrayals of romantic behavior are considered to be actions of females. Nick Mayer states “Ted is not even close to what the public and the media outlets view as a socially acceptable role of a male looking for a relationship”. From what it seems, society has come to the consensus that chivalry is dead. Men are not supposed to plan romantic evenings for their dates, and take that extra step to going beyond the social norms of society. Ted offers a detailed example of how men can still be romantic, and how that trait can be used successfully in today’s society. One example of Ted displaying his feminine romantic side is when he steals the blue French horn for Robin, and presents it to her on their first date. Ted unfortunately ruins the date when he tells her he loves her, but the episode shows that men can be romantic and there’s no problem with that. Women are considered to be hopeless romantics that fall in love at a drop of a hat. The episode turns that gender norm upside down with Ted being the one who instantly falls in love and has Robin being the one who gets freaked out by Ted’s revelation. If a man wants to do nice things for the women he is trying to be with, then why does society and people in their life consider the act as being girly or unmanly? Ted Mosby offers men the perception that having female gender traits is not a bad thing. Gender norms are just ideas that people have learned since they were kids. The character of Ted expresses that’s it better to be true to yourself than follow the societal norms of the world.
Society has been driven on what perceptions of gender roles should be between men and women. How I met Your Mother is great example of what gender flexibility looks like and how it can be viewed in today’s society. Ted Mosby’s personality offers an insight in of how you can express both gender roles in today’s society, and how in fact it isn't detrimental to your overall role in society.
G. (n.d.). Understanding Gender. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from https://www.genderspectrum.org/understanding-gender
Mayer, N. (2009, May 19). How I Met Your Mother: Stereotyping Society? Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/how-met-mother-stereotyping-society-3304402.html?cat=39
Cobb, R. A., Walsh, C. E., & Priest, J. B. (2009). The Cognitive-Active Gender Role Identification Continuum. Journal Of Feminist Family Therapy, 21(2), 77-97. doi:10.1080/08952830902911339