I started watching How I Met Your Mother this year; a show which provides a lot of entertainment and conversation for this flat. Today I had a brief conversation with one flatmate about Barney Stinson, a character who is just brilliantly played.
How can I quickly sum up Barney? Barney is a playboy; he lives to sleep with as many girls as he can, and is forever coming up with more and more outlandishly creative ways to achieve that. In that respect, he is a truly terrible person. He is also, however, hilarious in his highly dramatic manner, and his long spiels, and lovely in his moments which show his deep connection to his friends (who for a reason I don’t think they themselves know, put up with him). Barney is very cute, and in his little-boy moments I often feel an urge to pat him on the head. I often say, out loud, “I love Barney”, and in the same episode, may drop my head in my hands and moan at the terrible (though for the show’s purposes, funny) thing he’s done next.
Today, I was watching an episode where an ex-girlfriend of the main character (Ted) comes back. This girl is also terrible – she’s rude, shallow, and cheats on Ted repeatedly when they’re together. Earlier my flatmate came into the room and when he saw what I was watching, said “I hate that girl”. This got me thinking for a moment, and when he came back later, I asked him “So how come you hate Karen, but you love Barney?”
A huge part of this, of course, is because hating Karen and loving Barney is what the show wants us to do. Barney is a loveable character, and we only ever see one side of Karen, for, like, two episodes (there are currently eight seasons of the show). Yet when you think about their behaviour patterns, they are not wildly different when it comes to how they treat the opposite gender, and so our reaction isn’t a completely fair one.
Isn’t it the same in real life? The more we know of a person, the more grace we’re able to give them. A friend might say in passing “so my brother’s girlfriend just broke up with him, she’s with another guy now and she was seeing him even when she was with my brother. Terrible ay! I hate her for breaking my bro’s heart!” and from that limited information, and perhaps the bias of the one telling the story, we can pass a judgement on someone we’ve never met. Notwithstanding that, as we know, there’s always more to the story. The best friend of the girl in question may tell her friends the same story this way: “My best friend’s just done something really hard – she was with this great guy, who she cared about so much, but she’s met someone else whom she’s fallen for and they’re so good together, I think they’ll get married. It took a lot of guts and she really didn’t want to have to do it, but she broke it off with the first guy as gently as she could. She still feels awful for hurting him.” Now who’s side are we on?
I have to say, I do think we are kinder to our own sex, in general; I think we dislike characters of the opposite gender more than we do of our own. And we can put ourselves in the same gender’s shoes far more easily. Sometimes when guys describe something that to them is a wrong on the girl’s side, I’ve (not always out loud) gone “yeah… I can see why that’s confusing/hard for you, but I can also see where she’s coming from/why she might have done that”. And occasionally when telling a story to a guy, I get a “So?” or “And, what’s the big deal about that…?” vibe.
Not always! :) But it’s easier to think like a girl when you are a girl, and a guy when you’re a guy, of course. This is why it’s good to talk with each other about these things, when it’s healthy and appropriate, from time to time, so we can get more balanced or potentially helpful perspectives, and not always just the one we want to hear.