Is Anybody Really Surprised That How I Met Your Mother Featured Racist Yellowface? [UPDATED]

Why How I Met Your Mother is a racist show.

Let’s just get it on the table right now: Monday’s episode of How I Met Your Mother was offensive. It featured several characters in yellowface as “masters” in order to illustrate one of Marshall’s stories. Its sheer idiocy and ignorance led to the #HowIMetYourRacism trending on Twitter. From Angry Asian Man:

On last night’s show, in an attempt to deliver a devastating second-to-last slap to Barney, Marshall explains how he mastered the “Slap of a Million Exploding Suns.” This ended up being an excuse for the show to do some yellowface kungfoolery.

Take a look at all these lovely, enlightening shots compiled by Angry Asian Man:

Why How I Met Your Mother is a racist show. Why How I Met Your Mother is a racist show. Why How I Met Your Mother is a racist show.

A few months ago, I started watching How I Met Your Mother. At first, I totally loved it. The humor was simple, the laugh track was kind of fun, and Jason Segel is the love of my hypothetical life. Then, I started noticing that in between its recurring gags and funny quips, there were racist stereotypes, sexism, transphobia…all of the things that most people wish had never been acceptable to televise, but at the very least would hope might be gone by 2014. Some of the examples of these that Aimee McFarlane of The Last Women’s Magazine listed:

Ted’s “rain dance,” in episode twenty two of season one, consists of Ted consulting a white “expert” on Native Americans so he can conduct a rain dance on the roof of his apartment building.

Ranjit the cab/limo driver was the only recurring person of color till season seven. He is often portrayed as a buffoon or someone to be ignored.

Episode fourteen of season five has a running gag about an Asian girl named Cook Pu.

Finally, I would say that Robin’s repeated screaming at Patrice, the Asian sidekick, is the most disturbing— because nothing says model minority more than smiling while being screamed at by your white boss.

I also recall at least one episode about women who supposedly have “crazy eyes.” The episode was largely constructed around this idea that some women–the characters exclusively listed female examples–have eyes indicating they are mentally unstable, unpredictable and maniacal. And yes, it is as dumb, offensive and ableist as it sounds. And don’t even get me started on the whole elitism of being friends with men over women that Robin’s character consistently emphasizes.

You know, the saddest thing I realized about How I Met Your Mother when I still watched it? It genuinely seems like nobody who participates in the show’s making has any idea when it’s being offensive. It feels like the writers and producers have just zero clue as to what they’re saying when they use words like “tranny” and make all the (very few) non-white characters stupid, minor and easily ignored.

Basically, How I Met Your Mother, while funny on occasion, sucks in so many ways that cannot be overlooked. I’m glad it’s ending, but I wish it hadn’t been given such a long run in the first place.

[UPDATE: Co-creater Carter Bays issued an apology of sorts of Twitter.]

[H/T The Last Women's Magazine]

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      I like the few episodes of HIMYM that I’ve watched — mostly later season ones, which I read featured more minority characters in bigger roles (Barney has a black brother, so I’m assuming that this character came about later in the series). It’s kind of amazing that they thought that this was okay. I find that in a lot of media they’ll poke fun at traditional Asian stereotypes as an attempt at humor, almost as though because we have Halloween costumes of them that it’s okay to laugh at.

      • Alison

        Barney’s brother (played by Wayne Brady, the black dude who seems to be left out of this article) was there from the second season in at least a semi-recurring form.

    • elle

      Nope, I’m not surprised. HiMYM is such a problematic show in so many different ways that I’m surprised by how rarely I see it discussed on any of the various sites I read.

    • Candace

      The worst part was their quasi-Asian accents. Like they sat around and said “if we do thick fake accents, that’ll be offensive: so let’s tone it down.”

    • JennyWren

      I’ve always found HIMYM so patchy in terms of this stuff. I think that sometimes the show is really progressive (how often do we see male protagonists like Ted agonizing over trying to find a LTR, or actively wanting to have children?), but sometimes it’s just incredibly offensive. The incident that stood out for me was the whole “two-syllable-damn” bit where Lilly was sooooo overjoyed at having some guy holler at her in the street. ‘Cos yeah, women LOVE that shit.

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    • esprit-follet

      Ugh, the cabbie is supposed to be Bangladeshi but his name is *not* Bengali. He speaks Farsi in some episodes. And his weird made up accent. It’s just…bah.

      • Samantha Escobar

        See, that’s just the most lazy writing possible. Really? They couldn’t find a SINGLE person who could tell them this was incorrect? It also just reinforces my (unproven, and potentially incorrect!) hypothesis that the HIMYM staff is predominantly white dudes.

      • parisa

        I don’t agree with some of the other points made (Patrice being screamed at is racist because she is not white? Wtf?)

        BUT Ranjeed is played by a a persian actor and he speaks farsi in every episode, but god forbid that an american tv show has an persian / iranian role.
        I’ve seen this scheme a lot of times since I’m persian myself, but this and that one MTV Real Life season that included a persian girl but cutted every scene where she actually talked about that, stand out the most.

    • chickadee

      This show often reminds me of what ‘Seinfeld’ would have been like if ‘Seinfeld’s creators had expected the audience to like, admire, and want to emulate the characters.

    • Kat

      You really expect equal representation for minorities and sexes from a show with a Barney Stinson character? How was he not included in this? Is objectifying women okay now?

      • thebadlydrawnfox

        Pretty sure that Barney Stinson is supposed to be a parody of guys who objectify women. In-show, it is a constant point that he is a horrible human being and none of his friends know why they hang out with him…

        Don’t get me wrong, HIMYM can be incredibly offensive, but Barney Stinson is a caricature of a certain kind of man. He’s not a role model.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      It was once a pretty good show but it has really tanked. We are seeing it to the bitter end but just wish it was over already. Kind of want to quit watching early but seems silly after so many years

    • Guest

      Okay, I’m talking directly to the writer of this post. There’s only one thing worse than mild racism, and that’s blowing the whistle every time you think you see it. Racism is the ‘N’ word. It is not the act of mimicking Native American rain dancing. Sexism is “men are smarter than women.” It is not sensationalizing neurotic single girls with “crazy eyes.” That’s social mockery they can do just as easily to men. And they have: it’s called Barney Stinson. These are not the same things, so please stop giving them the same label. If TV writers avoided every stereotype known to man, the entertainment industry would be a pretty pathetic place.

      Seriously, everyone makes fun of everyone. Ted’s a grammar nerd, Robin’s an awkward Canadian, Ranjeet is a culturally unaware chauffeur, Barney hits on dumb blondes…should I keep going? Honestly, if offended is the only thing you felt after Monday’s episode, I’m embarrassed for you. People cross lines all the time, and they all contradict one another. For goodness sake I am so tired of this. Is anyone else? Political correctness has become more nauseating than the jokes themselves.

    • JonnyBravo

      I’m convinced there is a growing population of people who should never watch TV.

    • Ryan Faulk

      I must say that when Europeans are depicted in Japanese shows and anime exaggeratedly and incorrectly, I’m really, really, really offended.

      Or maybe not because I’m not a hyper-offended little turd.

    • mark still

      I think you’re just in need of a good fellation by a Lakota taxi driver in yellowface with crazy eyes. And yes, I get it that you don’t have a dick. But you are one.

    • Jacob Goldberg

      Yeah how i met your mother is sexist =because the WHOLE series isn’t about a man who is searching for the WOMAN who he says is the BEST thing that ever happened to him. No recurring people of color? Besides Barneys half gay black brother, and transphobic??? Because they constantly are talking about how much the hate trans people right? I’ve watched every episode of this show plenty of times and the only reference to a tranny was to a trans-prostitute. And he doesn’t even say its a bad thing. Ted mistakes a girl for a transgender woman and says im very flattered prior to realizing it was a woman. You make it seem as if he punches one in the face. This is a poor excuse to make something out of nothing. Its comedy, lets just not make fun of anyone and see that goes.