Why I Wish "How I Met Your Mother" Would Have Ended Differently
"The Big Bang Theory" is one of my all-time favorite television shows. The show's protagonist, Sheldon Cooper, is basically my role model, and I’m obsessed with Raj, Howard, and Leonard as well. But I also have a big problem with the show. Penny, Bernadette, and Amy -- the female characters -- serve almost no purpose to the show outside of their relationships with the main male characters.
When I started watching "How I Met Your Mother", I immediately recognized that this show was different. Sure…the main male characters -- Ted, Marshall, and Barney -- drove the show, but they couldn’t have done it without Robin and Lily. Robin and Lily were certainly love interests for the show's male characters, but unlike many other television shows, these women were not the puppets of their partners. This was a welcome change for me. I have always enjoyed strong female characters in television shows. While there are plenty of shows with strong female leads ("New Girl" and "The Mindy Project", to name a few), I think women should be essential to and authentically portrayed in a television show even if the show’s driving character is not a woman.
Lily Aldrin was undeniably that essential character in "How I Met Your Mother". She was Marshall’s strong, independent and artistic wife. She was Ted’s best friend and often his conscience -- and she served the same role for Robin. She was the only person Barney consistently trusted with his deepest, darkest secrets. There was never a doubt in my mind that she was a strong female character. That is, until I watched the show’s finale, at which point I felt like Lily had just meshed into one being with her husband, Marshall.
After Lily’s year as an art consultant in Italy, she seemed devoid of her own dreams. She spent the rest of her life focused on making Marshall, rather than herself, happy. Maybe I interpreted the conclusion incorrectly, but my understanding is that Lily lost her will to be an individual. I get that maybe that is reality for plenty of people, but I really feel it was inconsistent with the strong, independent Lily I watched in every single episode of "How I Met Your Mother "other than the finale.
I think that in order to end disappointing portrayals of female characters as playthings for men, television viewers have to stop sitting idly by and push back against these depictions. It may take some time, but once writers and producers understand that viewers want and expect female characters to be just as complex as their male counterparts (like they are in real life), I'd like to think they will have to deliver.
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