Josh Irby

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How I Met Your Mother and the Possibility of Real Change

Even though I’ve never seen an episode of How I Met Your Mother, it’s Facebook-overwhelming final episode affected me. A friend and co-worker, Matt, was upset the day after watching the series finale. After a brief summary of the show and explanation of its conclusion, I was upset too.

Because HIMYM sticks its finger into one of our deepest wounds—this lingering question “Is real change possible?”


The following is from my friend Matt Henning. [SPOILER ALERT]

It’s been a few weeks now and if you’re like me, you went on with life by just forgetting that HIMYM ever existed. Even if you liked the ending, you’ve already forgotten the show. That is the one thing all people agree upon with the ending of HIMYM.

It was forgettable.

 Yes—the Slap Bet, Robin Sparkles, Billy Zabka, The Goat, The Locket, Dopplegangers, all forgettable.

It’s amazing.

HIMYM isn’t Seinfeld where something simple taken too far becomes funny.
HIMYM isn’t Reality TV where boundaries are pushed to cover our boredom.
HIMYM is about one thing: whatever is witty, whatever is clever, whatever you never knew you wanted, they write about those things!  Oh, that was cheesy 10 years ago?  We’ll make that awesome. Challenge… Accepted!

Yet, it is forgotten now. Some people probably don’t even know why.  Here’s why it was forgettable for me.

What do people remember?

Robin Sparkles? That was an amazing episode allowed us to experience Ted’s pain, laugh with Barney, and feel confused about how they were supposed to feel for Robin. But it was also a tale of Robin’s past and present. That’s why we love hearing stories (both the good and the bad) from our friend’s past. We love hearing about change.

We remember change.

Here is what I wish the writers would have considered:  People really do change.

The shock and awe of clever writing showed us the progression of peoples’ lives and we loved HIMYM for it. However, the last episode ended with a different kind of shock and awe.  Much like Lady Gaga and her eccentric outfits , the writers of HIMYM took the story outside the lines. It was a train-wreck. They spent nine seasons on character development, then erased it all in one episode.  We discovered the characters had not actually developed at all.  They revert back to their maturity level in the first episode. And the ending is just a life-restart at age 40 for Ted?

Denying that people change leads to fatalism, fatalism leads to lack of hope, and if we lack hope we become depressed.

In life, it’s true that people get divorced, people die, people move on, people don’t keep the same friendships… but people do change.

Everything changed in the show except the people. Ted didn’t change.  Robin was still a self-focused reporter just older and more distant, looking for the next thing that will make her happy. Ted tried once, twice, no three times at a relationship with her. But this time she will be happy? Lily and Marshall still care about friends and will try to throw reunions in the midst of mid-life crises, and “just take me back to college” moments for the rest of their lives.  Barney isn’t just a womanizer, he is even more careless about friends than before. You think he will honor this commitment to a kid whose Mother he labels, “woman 31”?

In the end, the message of HIMYM is fatalistic. Change doesn’t last.

We all know people who go through life buying this message.

They believe they will be jobless forever.
They believe they can’t change their intelligence, their maturity, their situation, or their behavior.
They believe they can’t stop spending money, giving in to addiction, or returning to life-deadening vices.
They believe they will never find what is true or what is right.

This is hopelessness defined. How will they change if they believe true change is not possible?

I am not buying the message. People can change. It is rooted in my belief and my experience. This steers what I believe and how I live my life.

With one episode, HIMYM went from epic to forgettable. But [tweet_quote hashtags=”#HIMYM” ]a life of change is a story that will never be forgotten.[/tweet_quote]

What about you? Do you believe change is possible? Then check out my new series Plan2Change.

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