Still from How I Met Your Mother, “Spoiler Alert” (Season 3, Episode 8, 2007.)
How I Met Your Mother, or as devoted fans call the show “HIMYM”, aired from 2005 until 2014. The show follows a group of five best friends living in New York City, narrated by central character, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), and the plot revolves around his search for love. Although the show has been acclaimed for its dynamic cast which includes some truly great characters, Ted is not one of them, and he should be considered one of the most insufferable characters on television.
I’ll admit, in the beginning of the series, I found myself rooting for Ted. I was even willing to look past the fact that he told his future best friend Robin (Cobie Smulders) he loved her on their first date (which the show attempted to be cute but it actually was creepy). But after a while, the little charm that Ted had in the beginning wears off, and what is left is his sexist behavior and constant complaints.
It seems like in every episode, Ted just objectifies women. In “Little Boys”, Ted and Barney settle an argument by making a bet to see who can sleep with a woman first. In “The Drunk Train” Ted pursues a women, who tells him she is not interested in him romantically, but wishes to be friends instead. After her confession, Ted is shown to have completely vanished, uninterested in having a relationship with this women that’s not sexual.
Just when your expectations for Ted’s morality are at a low-point, they sink even lower. Ted’s sexist attitude isn’t just towards strangers he encounters at the bar, it’s towards his best friends too, like in “Spoiler Alert” when his friends discover that Ted constantly corrects people. The reason they discover this, is because only moments before, he lectured Robin on misusing the word “literally”.
Perhaps the thing that bothers me about Ted most is that even with all his faults, the show still tries to cast him as the victim: he is never the problem, it’s always someone else. It’s hard for me to have sympathy for someone who has found something wrong with a total of 38 women he has dated, yet still complains because he hasn’t found “the one” (it’s worth noting that this extensive list is still shorter than the list of frustrating things about Ted).
I’m sick of watching characters like Ted using the “nice guy looking for love” trope as an excuse to project their insecurities and bitterness for nine seasons. But I’m even more sick of television networks giving an outlet to these frustrated white men, who constantly criticize women. It’s not “nice” to constantly correct people. It’s not “nice” to talk to a woman just so you can sleep with her. It isn’t “nice” to always need to be right, and mansplaining isn’t “nice” either.
The danger of characters like Ted is they legitimize the ridiculous standards women are held to, and resonate with audiences because they seemingly have good intentions, because they use the stereotype of “the nice guy”. Ultimately, even if these “nice guys” don’t instill negative stereotypes, they are at best, annoying.