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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ted Mosby is a Jerk

After watching many many episodes of How I Met Your Mother it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the main character's status as a nice guy, a good guy, is more of an informed attribute and less of an evident aspect.  We are told by the other characters that he is decent.  We believe it because he is the main character and he seeks a healthy monogamy but actually watching the character and ignoring what we are told you could easily come to different conclusion.  I cannot honestly recall if I came to this conclusion independently and then searched for an article like this, or whether I came across it, with the article bringing me to the conclusion.
the whole point of the show is this one guy thinking marriage is super awesome.
Which brings me to my problem, which is that... I hate Ted Mosby. He is, colloquially speaking, a monster douchebag.
I have trouble with him as our POV character, because he's extremely creepy, controlling, and often unpleasant to his friends, who fall over themselves to aid and succor him in his douchebaggery. He is a total shit to most of his girlfriends, breaking up with them on birthdays, cheating on them, using them, all in the name of "the one" (a concept I find stupid anyway). He runs out of his mother's wedding because he wants it to be his wedding and he can't bear that it isn't. He's incredibly clingy and co-dependent and obsessed with getting married and having kids to the point of psychosis. Everyone on the show talks about what a great guy Ted is, but he's really not, unless you fall into the category of maybe-my-wife, and then only for as long as you stay in that category.
What makes all this slightly more interesting is that all of that is pretty typical behavior for a sitcom girl. I mean, he kind of is Melissa from Thirtysomething. I'd recoil pretty hard from a female character with that level of obsession with finding Her Man, and I find whatever patience I have with Ted to spring from it being mildly interesting to see that behavior seated in a straight male character. The fact that a man onscreen desires marriage and children and doesn't see them as hell is pretty rare. And yes, everyone wants to be loved and few people want to be alone--the vast majority of the viewing audience wants to be partnered and that's fine. But Ted goes way over the line into unhealthily fixated.
I mean, everyone on the show is broken to some extent. I love Lily and Marshall, but their insistence and craziness about being each other's one and only, only person they've ever had sex with or seen naked or anything, is grating and out of place with the idea that they do trust and love each other implicitly... I don't really care for how they keep setting up Robin as broken for wanting to be a success at her career (but then, I hated Don the character so I was never going to root for them). Dude, as an anchor she has a limited time to make it or break it, since so much is based on looks. It is ok for her not to want to be Ted's Mommy Mannequin. Barney is, of course, Barney. But at least he's honest about what he is, as pathetic as often as he is cool.
But Ted rubs me wrong in a way none of the rest of them do. He will do anything to get The One. He will hurt anyone and break any law. He's seriously deranged about it, and of course, it's often been pointed out that the frame of him telling this to his kids doesn't work that well when he's telling them about creepy threeways and his stalking of their Aunt. But Ted would totally do that. The way he talks about finding the mother, you'd think he discovered Antarctica or defeated Sauron. It's all epic and amazing and world-stopping in his head, instead of, you know, what most people end up doing. So of course he forces his kids to listen to his heroic adventure--it's clearly the only real thing Ted ever accomplished. It's the only story he has to tell. While everyone else in the show has pretty cool adventures doing various things--even Lily went to France--Ted's only story is this woman he convinced to play the part of the mother in his pantomime. I'd only be mildly surprised to learn at the end that the mother is buried in the basement because she departed from Ted's script one idle Tuesday.
Since they've committed to only revealing the mother at the end, I'd be surprised if my opinion ever changes. She can't help but be a shallow character, slotted in to make Ted chill the fuck out and stop being awful to everyone. I'd love a spin-off series from the mother's perspective, but I don't think we'll get it. I love the show--I just can't bear Ted, his heteronormative freakouts and selfish behavior, his inability to see or do anything that doesn't somehow get him closer to that one dad one mom two kids goal. 
On the Facebook I have noticed many a young woman pining for her Jim Halpert, which makes sense, or worse, "my Ted Mosby" using his name, I presume, as a fill-in for a man seeking a woman for a monogamous loving relationship. I would certainly hope they do not watch this program and genuinely want a jerk.

Which raises the question why I have watched so many episodes.  It used to be for the continuity and a sense of genuine raunchy humor.

1 comment:

velcrofly said...

I agree 100%. What makes Mosby so grating is that his obsession with marriage is completely unnatural. It's impossible to find a compatible partner in anything, romance or otherwise, if you're only pursuing a concept of your own self-aggrandisement rather than that person. It seems all too often, especially in later seasons, as if Ted is desperately unhappy and, rather than do the healthy thing - accept it and get a therapist in some form - he has fixated on the idea of marriage as an all-consuming solution to his own unhappiness, which is a terrible reason to get married - one should only get married if one is happy whilst single, as marriage is supposed to be a declaration of happiness, not a means of achieving it. Throughout the 7th and 8th seasons I felt like I was watching a man sliding into a deep and deeply disturbing depression, and there are many episodes I won't now rewatch from the later seasons, because my ability to pay attention to them is increasingly drowned out by the voice in my head screaming at Ted, GET A THERAPIST GET A THERAPIST GET A THERAPIST. Even Barney is living a healthier life, because although he may not like himself much he's not obsessively pursuing something that won't ultimately help. Well written. Well done.