How I Met Your Mother vs The Wonder Years – The paradigmal shift in finding the love of your life
Thanks for the memories
After nine long years on the air, this week, the hit show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (HIMYM) aired its final episode, drawing the successful comedy to a close. *sniff*
Since there will be plenty of people already writing about the specifics of the finale, I’m gonna steer well clear of it. I’m sure we all have our views on how it went down. Personally, I thought it could have been better but it’s almost impossible to end a long running show in a manner that does all characters justice while satisfying the entire fanbase. For those of you who haven’t managed it yet, I won’t spoil it for all of yous.
I did want to bring up one point though I noticed and I thought it would make an interesting tidbit on here, so please let me know what you think.
But in my usual fashion, I’d meander into it.
I don’t want no scrubs….
Earlier this week, I was called a hobo at work based on my complete indifference to my self appearance and other people’s. My mother always said to me once you’ve accomplished major things in life, how you present yourself externally would not matter so much as your inner character would always shine out. And for the love of chips I believed her.
To be fair, she still calls me a hobo but that’s beside the point.
I’ve always believed it’s the man that makes the clothes and in many situations, I would feel just as comfortable naked or wearing a paper bag as I would do smartly dressed, if not more. While a lot of people will make snap judgements of others within seconds based on their attire, I would like to believe that it would only take a few seconds of interaction with me to realise in my mind, I’m always suited up.
In anycase, I tried to explain the shortcomings of this sort of judgement to the finger wagging culprit . The best thing I could manage was to sing the opening line from Joe Cocker’s rendition of ‘ With a little help from my friends’ by ze Beatles.
‘What would you do if I sang out of tune,
would you stand up and walk out on me?’
I used it as a metaphor for the high expectations people have of others and how potentially something trivial could jeopardize seeing what’s really important.
Apart from making my work colleague smile, I don’t think it changed their disposition. I was still a hobo in their eyes, oh well. 🙂
In any case, the song stayed in my head for the day or two and it automatically took me back to reminiscing about watching the Wonder Years all those moons ago, as it was used for its opening.
Having just finished watching the HIMYM finale, I then started putting two and two together and realised that both shows were essentially the same.
Don’t believe me, let me take you through them.
Both are told from the perspective of the main character as a narrator for the story . This is handled by a character called Kevin Arnold in Wonder Years and Ted Mosby in HIMYM. These are played by Daniel Stern and Bob Segat respectively.
While the wonder years could theoretically have its narrator set in the present (it’s original air time of the 80s) with a flashback to their youth in the 60s, How I Met Your Mother takes a different approach with flashbacks set in the then present (late naughties early teenies) with the narration set in the distant future.
To make a note, while we don’t ever really get to see these men in their present timelines, we can tell a lot about them from their voices alone.Even though we don’t know specifics, from their demeanours while narrating, they come across as wise people who made the most of their lives and learned many things to pass on.
Essentially they sound like old adventurers, telling the wild tales of their youth. The modern day versions of cowboys, sharing stories at campfires, remembering the days of the wild west when it was young, untamed and free. If I were to picture them, they would eventually turn into the figure below.
America has a romanticised view of this period of their history, in the same way the United Kingdom has a romanticised view of the Crusades, King Arthur and his knights (and world war two) etc. So telling a story about the past in a wild west grainy tone immediately puts its viewers in a state of wonder and reflection of better times.
This isn’t the first time the cowboy reference has been used in order for a narrator role set in the past. The Big Lebowski incorporated this technique directly when they cast Sam Elliot, to actually narrate the story, going further by playing an actual old cowboy known as ‘The Stranger’. He gives the film the very same grounding technique that happens in both of these series and manages to set the transition between scenes perfectly
Same Shit, Different Day.
So with the format down, let’s get onto the plot.
The shows focus on things we all go through on our voyage to adulthood
- Parental approval
- Your role in life and who you want to be and what you want to become
- Working in a system
- Overcoming adversity
- Dealing with loss
- Dealing with divorce
- Sibling rivalry
- Selling your soul
- Standing up for yourself
The key point in this is that they don’t just take snapshots of situations but literally cover these issues numerous times and see how they evolve as everyone becomes older and somewhat wiser, how people’s priorities and view points in life shift and how people ultimately grow apart, even if they don’t want to, because they are no longer headed in the same directions.
In both series. The main characters use the benefit of hindsight to ration through their lives most memorable moments. In some instances these are perhaps scenarios they were wrapped up in at the time and they reflect on how little an impact it’s had on them. They also manage to properly reflect on some of the key subtle moments in their lives, key moments which had a major impact or opportunities they missed as the signs became glaringly obvious with age and wisdom.
In doing both, the kinda sift through what really ends up mattering in life and what we as the viewers should look out for in our own journeys.
It must be love, love love…
However when it comes down to analysing the nitty gritty, both shows were essentially about two people reminiscing about the most defining moment of their lives. For most men, this is their voyage in finding ‘The one’. The poor person they realise they wish to be with for the rest of their life. In these shows, the voyage is no different.
Again, this is quite a special tale because while the world is forever filled with stories about these types of romances, you very rarely ever hear them from a male’s perspective. This is usually as males generally never speak about something like this in groups, ESPECIALLY if said lady (sorry for generalising) ends up being ‘The one that got away’. So to hear those thoughts in their truest naked forms, i.e. an honest tale reflection rather than a braggy story of sexual conquest, is pretty damn rare.
It’s probably one of the reason why they both connect with people on such a fundamental level, because deep down, most men have at some point had very similar inner monologues with themselves (plus women always want to know what men are really thinking so it’s win win). Certainly those brave and adult enough to admit so would agree with me.
I know I wouldn’t cause I’m ard, grrr..
Another interesting tidbit is that Danica Mckellar played a love interest to the leading character in both shows. It seems she just happens to encapsulate characters that stay twinkling in the minds of mice and men till their dying days. I wonder why that may be….
The Path to the One
The Wonder Years caters to the notion that this person is literally the girl next door. She is the girl you have known since forever, since when you thought girls were icky, That is before of course she is the root of your very first boner. You grow up with her, go to school with her, have your first kisses together, college, get married etc. She is very much the first entity you have any romantic emotional attachment to and quite possibly the only one many people ever will have. It’s the whole white picket fence American dream mentality, which very well may have been how things happened back in 1960s when the film was set.
In all, she is depicted as the first love of your life
How I Met Your Mother has things going in a different direction. This story has this journey taking a little bit longer,with folks waiting perhaps until their mid to late twenties before they eventually meet the one. Before this, comes a whole bunch of near misses and odd one night experience and bouts of loneliness of destructive relationships that shape the individual into who they ought to be and provide them with sufficient life experience so when the sign eventually comes, they are inundated with enough foresight to recognise it and cease the opportunity right then and there. Usually this encounter could have THE ONE hiding in plain sight the whole time but they couldn’t see it because of everything standing in the way. At other times something special would blossom out of nowhere and knock both people for six.
In all, she is depicted the last love of your life.
In Wonder Years, tthey have no concept of love right up to the point of when they feel it for the first time. The reality becomes the dream and all future discussions about being in love will inevitably take them back to memories of being with the one.
In HIMYM, the individual’s idea of love is their perception of what they feel true love should be and it is this catalyst that drives them to continually search until they meet someone who embodies it fully. Here, society (I’m blaming you personally Walt Disney) has provided a romanticized idea of what it feels like to be in love and all of us go out looking to replicate it. In this scenario, the dream becomes the reality and all previous discussions about being in love will inevitably send them flashing forwards to daydreams of being with the one.
Times are changing….
So it seems like in the 18 years between the pilots of both shows, there has been a real cultural shift in how romance manifests itself in our everyday lives.
I’m personally not sure which journey is better, both have their ups and downs. I guess nowadays we ration the second one by stating you won’t know how good something is if you’ve always had it good and have nothing else to measure it against. Personally, I think this stands up in court as well as Oscar Pistorius’ ‘misunderstanding’.
One could also argue that we are staying in a prolonged state of adolescence, perhaps because of the increasing state of prosperity (i.e. no wars on our doorsteps), which in effect stunts our development, so we mature a lot slower than our predecessors. This means we end up making important life decisions much later on which is why it isn’t uncommon to see men in their 4os still living at home with their parents.
Others could argue that we are now all aware of the world around us and we are far more open to the notion of choice. This, coupled with our consumer mentality means we are conditioned to not settle, even when everything says you should and we continually move on and on, which may set off our path to the ONE.
so who knows really. To be fair, neither one could be said to be better than the other, they both have their pros and cons.
One clever thing both shows actually manage to do as well is make the realisation that even when people find the one, they do not always end up with them.
This is not only apparent in the the fact that people grow apart physically with time but also the impact of life events such as travelling, moving, death which make it impossible for your dream to materialise.
It seems with everything that changes throughout the time, not being with the love of your life is one of those life constants.
Just look at Buffy and Angel
Future Shifts in the paradigm
It is almost inevitable that this format of show will be repeated a few more times over the course of my lifetime. I wonder how the path to the one would have changed from my generation to perhaps my grand kids…
Are they going to tell stories of people falling in love later and later on in life and maybe one day not at all.
I know that Sex and the city has its main star Kerry Bradshaw settling with Mr Big, when they are both in their forties (although it may just seem like that because good ol horse face doesn’t age so well.).
Or perhaps they are going to deal with the issue of multiple marriages more. It is becoming more and more apparent in our times that people do eventually get married to the one but don’t necessarily marry the right one first of all. Probably just the ‘ one for right for now’, which eventually fades before meeting the ‘one forever’.
This is probably because people change and when presented with what they think they want initially, they realise that most of the time, what they really need is the complete opposite and they never even realised they needed it until it’s staring them right in the face and they are unable to pursue because they are tied to another.
Another choice is that people may never ever find the one, either those who are forever seeking or those who happen to just not find such a goal important. The concept of life long marriage is somewhat dwindling with many people not paying so much importance to it in life. you also have the notion of carrying other people (i.e. children, ill relations, poodles and untrained pet dragons) into relationships with you. Perhaps people don’t have the time.
Also as the world gets to become a smaller place, it may become more evident that the girl next door is actually now on another continent. no one has really covered the long term Skype/internet pen pal relationship yet so much in a longstanding sitcom and even though it has been around for the time, the increasing speed and interaction of the internet has made it more mainstream and less geeky RPG gamer-esque. Formats like facebook make it plausible for people to have complete relationships over the net without even meeting one another
A concept of this was brought up in the Spike Jonze 2013 film, Her, where the lead character ultimately falls for a computer operating system. While somewhat far fetched, it does provide the notion that when emotions are heavily invested people can fall in love with anything, especially if they are open (or in love) to the idea of falling in love itself).
What’s the bottom line Jack?
In anycase, we are unique beings in our ability to reflect back at our lives, shows like this ultimately make me feel like we should be filling out our day to day lives with memories we’d wanna share with others in the future. Too many of us are bogged down in the day to day nonesense of living while rarely ever being truly alive. I’m a firm believer that everyone should write an autobiography because it subconciously forces you to lead a life worth telling stories about. These two shows embody that notion fully.
If that’s not wonderful, then I don’t know what is. Carpe Diem…