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:
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.]