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The Most Problematic Moments In How I Met Your Mother

"How I Met Your Mother" has provided fans with endless entertainment since the meet-cute sitcom debuted in 2005. Yet society has come a long way since the show aired, and it's becoming impossible not to notice how many of the show's laughs come from putting down groups of people. Whether they're a dig at gender, sexual orientation, or weight, the biggest jokes on "How I Met Your Mother" bank on tearing people down. 

Series like "The Office" can get away with problematic humor because most of the characters are horrified by Michael's bigoted behavior, eliminating any glamorization of it. However, the "How I Met Your Mother" characters rarely display the moral compass necessary to signify such disdain. Sure, Robin and Lily may occasionally mildly object to Barney's behavior. But they rarely try to stop him, and even assist him at times — that is, when they're not partaking in their own questionable behavior. 

Much of "How I Met Your Mother" hasn't aged well, but these are the most egregiously problematic moments that probably wouldn't see the light of day if the show were currently airing. Given that the series' entire premise relies on Ted telling his kids about all the women he's hooked up with (in disturbing detail), there's a lot to choose from.

Constant mockery of LGBTQ+ people

You might think that LGBTQ+ characters and culture had stopped being a punchline by 2005. Sadly, the "How I Met Your Mother" characters never get the memo. Homophobia is rampant, from Ted dressing up as a woman to try and dupe a lesbian into sleeping with him to the constant use of "gay" as an insult. Transphobia is just as present in the series: Consider the Season 6 episode, "The Exploding Meatball Sub," in which Ted and Barney discuss a horrid game they call "Who's hot and who's Scott." The premise? Trying to find a transgender woman in a group of models. Another hideous joke is the reveal that Ted's biggest fear is finding out his partner is trans.

Given the rate of LGBTQ+ violence in the world, this sort of homophobia and transphobia is especially troubling: TV shows validating and normalizing hateful rhetoric is outright dangerous. This humor isn't just problematic — it's harmful.

The women slut-shame other women

Lily and Robin constantly slut-shame other women, and they're never really called out for it. What's worse, they continuously judge Ted and Barney's conquests, when in reality, the men are the ones being gross, exploitative, and manipulative. Often, they've outright duped the women in some way. Yet Robin and Lily both partake in derogatory language while watching how poorly the boys treat their hookups, and even their long-term partners, frequently calling them sluts. 

Lily and Robin are both sex-positive people, and they each have their own voracious sex lives. So on top of everything, it's pretty hypocritical that they constantly tear down other women for doing the same thing. We grow up with this idea that women's sexuality is somehow dirty and wrong, a belief reinforced by media like "How I Met Your Mother." Thus continues the rotten cycle of pitting women against each other. Be better, Lily and Robin. 

Consent isn't a joke

Let's talk consent. Most people think consent is as simple as someone saying yes to sexual advances, or even just not saying no. But it's not that simple. There are plenty of circumstances, like deceit and inebriation, that eliminate consent — and Barney has taken advantage of almost all these not-so-gray areas. In fact, Barney has written a bonafide book on how to avoid consent altogether.

If you have to get someone drunk to sleep with them, you don't have consent. Many of Barney's one-night stands are black-out drunk when he hooks up with them, a fact that is often orchestrated by him beforehand. This lack of consent is intentional and premeditated. In fact, "The Playbook" lists dozens of scenarios he uses to trick women into sleeping with him. Whether he's making up stories that he's from the future and needs to sleep with someone to prevent a catastrophe or regaling women with lies about being a Yankees player, his tactics are all manipulative and downright assault-y. Yet beyond some lightheartedly scandalized exclamations from the gang, no one does anything to stop him. Nor do they ever call it for what it really is: assault.

The bisexual awakening that never was

Lily regularly hits on Robin as a "joke" throughout the series. It's clear that Lily has real and unresolved attraction towards women that she never fully explores. In "P.S., I Love You," there's a moment during Lily's flashback to meeting Marshall when she's tempted to hook up with a lesbian, which is, of course, played off as a joke. This isn't the first (or last) time the show uses Lily's bi-curiosity as a gag.

Meanwhile, it's not cool to grope and hit on your friend without consent — especially when it obviously makes them uncomfortable. Yet that doesn't stop Lily. She and Robin kiss three times on the show. The first happens in "Best Prom Ever," when Robin kisses Lily to give her "the lesbian experience" she always wanted. The second comes in "The Broath," when Barney makes them kiss to seal a bro oath. The third occurs in "Rally," during Barney and Robin's wedding, when they can't wake him up. In "The Broath," Robin has to physically pull away from Lily, who won't take a hint.

The series could have had a progressive bisexual awakening plotline for Lily, even if she never dated a woman. It could have been cool and beneficial for many people to have her come to terms with and accept that part of herself. But instead, the writers reduced her interest in women to fodder for cheap laughs.

The treatment of Quinn

There's nothing quite like being the local strip club's biggest patron, while simultaneously judging your girlfriend who works there. But indeed, Barney tries to get his girlfriend Quinn, who works at The Lust Leopard, to quit. Sure, he's more than happy to brag about how good she is in bed. But when it comes down to it, he can't stand the idea of her dancing for other men.

Meanwhile, the rest of the gang continually tries to break them up purely because they don't respect her job. Yet they're totally fine with Barney doing things like dressing as a maid to secretly watch young girls in a school bathroom. Not even his policy of "I pay for the meal, you handle my deal" prompts his friends to do anything about his behavior. Quinn flat-out tells him, "I like my job, and I do not need to be rescued. So don't be that guy." But Barney has selective hearing when it comes to boundaries. He tries to force her to work at his bank after apologizing for being a jerk, and proposes to her in an attempt to get her to stop dancing. Shockingly, their engagement doesn't last. But that could also have something to do with the hundreds of pages of pre-nup papers in which he demands access to her "lady parts."

Stalking isn't quirky, Ted

You don't win someone's heart by stalking them — unless you're a character on "How I Met Your Mother." Throughout the series, Ted refuses to take no for an answer. He even boasts about "turning a no into a yes" when he tries to date Stella, his doctor. Harassing someone at their workplace is ultra problematic: As his doctor, Stella can't just throw a drink in his face and tell him to get lost. She has to be professional, which means enduring inappropriate behavior every time Ted comes in.

Later, in "P.S., I Love You," he says, "There's a fine line between love and insanity" while explaining his Dobler/Dahmer theory. Ted insists that whether a gesture is "charming or alarming" depends on whether or not the affection is reciprocated. For instance, he claims that Lloyd Dobler's boombox love declaration in "Say Anything" is charming because Diane Court is into Lloyd. By Ted's logic, if she weren't, only then would it be creepy. Of course, he takes it 10 steps too far, equating the creep factor to Jeffrey Dahmer.

Sorry Ted, but stalking is stalking. Between Ted's unhealthy relationship with Jeanette and the joke the series makes out of the restraining order Paul Shaffer has against Robin, "How I Met Your Mother" can't help but paint stalking as a joke. In reality, the U.S. Department of Justice reports millions of people become victims of stalking every year. It's just not funny.

Ted gaslights every woman he dates

Ted is the kind of person who asks why women don't want to date a "nice guy" like him, while simultaneously treating them like garbage. He constantly manipulates women into doing what he wants, then makes them feel like they're overreacting when they confront him about it.

Take Natalie, the woman he breaks up with on her birthday — twice. That's a really charming move, right? He breaks things off because he's just not feeling it and can't wait one single day after her birthday to cut ties. Then, he tracks her down three years later and forces himself back into her life with tacky gifts. Of course, he subsequently realizes she didn't magically become his soulmate during their time apart and breaks up with her. Again. On her birthday.

Ted is absolutely unapologetic about his abhorrent behavior. He tells her that he doesn't want to waste her time because he "really likes her," trying to paint himself as a noble guy rather than what he actually is: A narcissistic jerk. He tells her it's not a big deal, and that it's like she lost the lottery. Um, it seems kind of like she wins the lottery by avoiding a future with Ted. Of course, he paints her as a "crazy chick" when he regales the story, adding to the pile of characters who throw that word around to describe women they don't agree with.

Don't try The Naked Man at home (or anywhere)

Do you know what's definitely not consent? Stripping down on a first date the minute your date walks out of the room, then creepily posing when they walk back in. In "The Naked Man," Ted meets a guy named Mitch who boasts about his tactic of backing women into a corner by forcing his dates to see him nude. While Mitch brags about The Naked Man's two-out-of-three success rate, two out of three experts would call this sexual assault — and the third one is probably an incel. The idea is to procure pity sex, which is yet another notch for the manipulation game. 

Of course, Ted tries it, because why wouldn't he? Even Barney attempts the move, but it doesn't work on his horrified date. Serves him right. "How I Met Your Mother" often feels a how-to guide for incels who blame women for not wanting to date them. In reality, they should probably take a look inward to tackle the real reason no one likes them: Their entitled personalities. But just like Ted Mosby, they fail to do that, and instead try gambits that rely on making women uncomfortable.

Cheating isn't romantic

You'd expect someone who got left at the altar to show a bit of restraint when reconnecting with an engaged ex, but Ted Mosby isn't exactly known for his moral compass. Despite villainizing his ex-fiance's ex for winning her back the day of his wedding, Ted does the exact same thing with Victoria. The audience is apparently expected to swoon over Ted's "romantic" (read: manipulative) grand gesture.

Does anyone need a refresher on why he and Victoria broke up in the first place? Oh, that's right. Ted cheated on Victoria with Robin. Fans are treated to Ted's whining over getting left at the altar for years, yet he seems to have no problem when the tables turn, and even succeeds in getting Victoria to run away from her wedding with him. And what happens next? They break up, again, because Ted can't stop obsessing over Robin. Classic, selfish Ted Mosby. But he's a good guy — he promises!

Dogs are people too, Ted

It's reasonable for someone not to want half of their partner's apartment to be furnished with their exes' belongings. However, that does not extend to living, breathing animals. But of course, Ted Mosby never learns that in the etiquette classes he desperately needs to take.

While Robin probably shouldn't have so many dogs in her tiny, backyard-less New York City apartment, Ted has no right to request she give them up to protect his own perpetually damaged ego. The dogs, which she rescued from previous boyfriends, end up as a topic of argument after Robin is uncomfortable that Ted's apartment is 90% sponsored by his ex-girlfriends. Unsurprisingly, he turns the tables on Robin in "Lucky Penny," admitting his jealousy over her pups. 

It's not like they're living together at the time and he's allergic. Nope, he's just jealous of Robin's dogs. Her dogs. That's all there is to it. Eventually, she heeds Ted's desperate cries for attention, sending the pups to live on a family farm. To be fair, the dogs are probably much happier having room to run and play, but it really isn't Ted's place to ask — especially since he has no actual concern for the dogs' well-being, or Robin's. He's only thinking of himself. We'll take "narcissist jerkwad" for $200, Alex.

Nobody asked you, Robin!

You don't have to like everyone in your life, even the nice people. But you don't need to emotionally abuse them, either. Robin's aggressive treatment of Patrice begins as one screamed line: "Nobody asked you, Patrice!" This less-than-funny bit continues through the show's final three seasons, with Robin repeating the phrase any time the kind-hearted woman annoys her, which is always.

Robin's verbal abuse towards one of the show's only recurring plus-sized women not only sets a bad precedent for what's allowed in the workplace, it caricatures a kind and supportive woman into an on-screen meme. Patrice does little else beyond acting as Robin's verbal punching bag. Heck, she even fake-dates Barney for Robin's sake — any woman deserves an award (and a weekly STD test) for that. This awful gag serves as the grand finale of the show's constant fat-shaming, and as usual, "How I Met Your Mother" takes things too far.

Get the stork out of here

Dear "How I Met Your Mother:" Not everyone wants to be a mom. Period. Everyone celebrates Barney for his disinterest in children. He even goes as far as celebrating his made-up holiday, "Not a Father's Day," for all of the childless bachelors out there. It's perfectly fine that Barney has no interest in being a dad (until he later becomes one). But it's just as okay that Robin adamantly doesn't want children throughout the series. Some women just don't want kids! Yet society never stops dictating that there's only one path that women can go down in order to lead a fulfilling life.

The notion that everyone needs to have children tends to lead to ill-equipped people becoming parents. Emotional neglect, and sometimes even physical neglect, often ensues. Moreover, children are more perceptive than we give them credit for, and they can absolutely tell when they're not wanted or feel burdensome. But try telling that to Ted, whose selfishness is legend ... wait for it ... dary. Ted loves to tell women what to do with their bodies, and has no problem trying to force Robin to change her mind about children. Hell, Robin doesn't even hold Lily and Marshall's baby for a long while after his birth. What is with the men on this show not respecting Robin's bodily autonomy?

Malpractice lawsuit, party of one

When you sit down in a therapist's office to get help, you shouldn't have to worry about your therapist taking advantage of you. People go to therapy for a myriad of reasons, including impulsivity and other self-destructive tendencies. If someone makes a move on their therapist, they need to shut it down right away. If the behavior continues, the doctor should transfer the patient to another therapist for their own benefit. After Robin first meets Kevin in therapy for anger management in "The Stinson Missile Crisis," he tries to do the right thing when she comes onto him — but he doesn't try hard enough. When he does step down as her therapist after a slew of inappropriate behavior, he decides to date her instead of walking away entirely. 

It is highly unethical to date your patients (or even former patients) under any circumstances. Kevin has seen the innermost workings of Robin's mind. This results in a very warped and downright disturbing power dynamic. He even uses what he's learned about her against her at times, unable to turn his doctor switch off — which makes sense, given that he met her in therapy. For once, the other characters actually voice their horror regarding this inappropriate relationship. Still, it continues way longer than it should. It would definitely cost Kevin his job, and possibly his license, if the board found out.