A fan theory about How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) suggests that he's really nowhere near as bad as the show made him out to be. Barney was one of the five core characters of the hit sitcom, and the most noticeably unrealistic. While Ted (Josh Radnor), Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segal) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) are all pretty believable (by sitcom standards), Barney is a caricature of a ladies' man.
He only ever wears suits (including to sleep, when he wears 'suitjamas'), has obscene amounts of money, uses constant catchphrases, and treats women like conquests. In fact, he spends the series donning costumes and working out elaborate plays in order to get women into bed - and out of the bedroom again - as quickly as possible. However, a new fan theory sheds some light on why this cartoonish character may not be as bad as all that.
The theory has been popularized by a tumblr post from user gingersaurus, and suggests that Ted - the narrator - intentionally exaggerated Barney's worst traits while telling his kids these stories.
"That moment when you realize that Barney Stinson was probably not as much of a jerk or a womanizer as he was portrayed to be, but that the story was narrated by future Ted, trying to get his children to approve of him dating Robin again, so future Ted had to make the man Robin married look like the bad guy in the story."
This isn't the only time that Ted bent the truth a little in order to make himself seem like a better person in front of his children. From small lies (like the replacement of all weed with 'sandwiches'), to whole stories told from a warped perspective ('No Tomorrow' shows Ted as a popular party guy, before he eventually realizes he's been a sleazy jerk all night), Ted is the definition of an unreliable narrator. This is also not something that the show expects viewers to forget - that it is told from his perspective is mentioned time and time again. At one point, he is even telling a particularly inappropriate story and stops short in his narration, apparently remembering his audience.
With this in mind, the theory makes a lot of sense. At times, Barney is emotional and relatable, and his struggles to deal with his fear of commitment and have a relationship (which happens more than once) are much more reasonable than his portrayal as a womanizer make out. This would also explain why the rest of the gang spend time with him - while they roll their eyes at him from time to time, their reactions are not proportionate to his behavior, and the audience is occasionally left wondering why these people are even friends in the first place. If Ted was exaggerating his worst faults, however, this makes a lot more sense.
However, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Ted was telling the truth - including several long, complicated stories involving The Playbook. If Ted was making that kind of behavior up, then why did Jeanette (Abby Elliott) dump him? How did his long-winded proposal to Robin (arguably his sweetest moment in the series) take place? How did his relationship with Quinn (Becki Newton) begin? So many of the show's plotlines are built around Barney's actions, his Playbook, and his love of the chase, that Ted would have to be doing some serious exaggerating to make this all up. It is likely that Ted may have exaggerated a little to make himself look good, but Barney fans like to see him just the way he is.
A How I Met Your Mother spin-off, How I Met Your Father, is in development.
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