In the most recent episode of HIMYM, Barney and Ted see the realization of one of their oldest dreams: opening their own bar, Puzzles. As it’s a continuity throwback, any longtime fan of the show can appreciate it. I was thrilled when I heard the synopsis over hiatus, and to be honest, I loved the idea.
What I didn’t love? Barney’s persistence that the goal was to get chicks drunk and then take advantage of them. Now, this isn’t exactly something new for Barney, as he arguably picks up most of his women at McLaren’s or other bars. However, his stories are generally good-spirited, and something was quite off about this episode. Every time we see Barney talking about his excitement for Puzzles, he mentions that he wants to get women drunk solely for the purposes of sex. This seems pretty standard Barney if you don’t look at the text, but there was something in the wording here that threw me for a loop. I even sat on it for a few days, just to make sure, and after a rewatch, I’m still sure.
First, at about 7:00:
Ted, do you remember a couple years ago? We had the best idea of all time.
(Cue flashback to Puzzles scene)
A bar where no one’s overcharged, where everyone feels valued and respected!
A bar where we get chicks drunk and bang them!
Then, at about 10:30, we get the Puzzles theme song:
Puzzles is a place where people go to feel like they belong
Gonna take advantage of dumb drunk girls
No we’re not.
That would be wrong!
For once, I actually agreed with Ted Mosby about something – I know, right? Though the night eventually goes downhill for Barney (and everyone), I’ve never left an episode of HIMYM feeling unsure of what I just watched. It’s probable that Barney has made jokes like this before, but maybe it was the combination of the joke with the obvious power play Barney was adding on to the joke that really clinched it for me. Not only was he a guy looking to take advantage of intoxicated women, he intended to do so through the power of being the owner of the bar.
One time, sure, I can accept that it was a poorly-written line that apparently no one caught. But more than once? Come on, now, writers. Barney has been one of the most remarkable and successful characters on television for years, for a variety of reasons. However, I’d say the greatest reason is that he’s able to pull off this incredibly sexual personality without ever going so far that he faces legal consequence. I’m willing to give some characters a little leniency when it comes to, well, their personal character. Generally, characters have to be larger than life to be successful, especially when he or she is the breakout, as is Barney. He is, as are all the best characters, a compilation of zany stories and antics, and I know I’ll never meet one single person in real life who encompasses all of this. I know he isn’t completely real, and for that, I’ll give him a little wiggle room when it comes to how far I’m willing to let him go as a character. But this episode just made me uneasy. Actually, I’m willing to be made uneasy as a viewer because I think that’s necessary to keep people interested. More than uneasy, this episode made me uncomfortable as a viewer and as a woman.
For me, Barney Stinson is not a rapist. Even typing that sentence upsets me. He’s a womanizer, a scoundrel, a scalawag to the infinite degree – but he isn’t a rapist. But this episode made me question my love for Barney, and I hate that. For years, Barney has toed the line between womanizing and going too far, and this episode may have toppled that balance. There have been moments in the past that have made me question Barney’s already-questionable moral ground, but I’ve never thought, “Wow, that sounds kind of like something a rapist would say.”
I know that crying rape culture doesn’t get you very many friends, and truly I don’t mean to pick on the show, as it is by far not the worst offender, but I think it’s important to distinguish when a line has been crossed. There have been a few times in the past few seasons where I’ve thought, “Wow, that was a horrible thing to say,” but I’ve let it go because, as awful as it is, it seemed to be in character. This, though – this wasn’t typical Barney. And I’m a huge HIMYM fan, but this last episode left a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s too bad, really, because otherwise I thought it was a pretty standard hilarious episode, but I just feel a little gross inside when I think about it. Rape isn’t funny, period. Not even when a funny guy like Barney Stinson jokes about it. Hopefully someone behind the scenes realized it, and we’ll be spared more “jokes” that cross the line. This comedy has gone for years without making Barney seem like a legitimately scary dude, and I hope it can continue that way.
Watch new episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Mondays on CBS at 8/7C. Next week’s episode on Jan. 12 is a rerun of the seventh season premier entitled “The Best Man.”