Barney Stinson — A Psychological Profile
Barney. Fucking. Stinson. Trying to nail down a definition of him is like nailing jello to the ceiling. Apart from his downright inappropriate jokes and sheer womanizing talents, there is still joy to be had for every lame pun and iconic catchphrase. You’re smiling right now, because you remember them. I swear I cannot say “Suit up!” or “Legendary!” in any voice that isn’t Neil Patrick Harris’, and it goes on to show just how quintessential the actor, and the character, were for the New York-based sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. Four nominations for the Emmy Award as a supporting character, although none were won, it could be argued that Barney Stinson was more popular than even the main character Ted Mosby.
The show thrives on dark comedy and thus, elevating Barney’s douchery into a whole new level of popularity. In today’s political climate, his jokes circling rape and women would probably be branded as “hate speech” and so it is to the series’ credit that it ended before the turn of political correctness.
The funny thing however, is that we all have a friend like Barney Stinson. In every friend group, there is always someone making grand mal jokes at the expense of others. We know it’s wrong but it always cracks a small smile on our bottom lip. Neil Patrick Harris certainly cemented himself among the most memorable TV characters. We remember his knack for comedy, magic and charisma. It is not easy to play a character so vivid and dramatic, so the decision to cast Harris as Stinson was a success.
Who is Barney? For a psychiatrist, his profile is an interesting confirmation of what we already know in the world of psychology and Freudism. It is common knowledge that he is a womanizer and lives by habits slightly different to what we are accustomed to, notable references such as his infatuation with suits and religious adherence to the Bro Code. Like everyone, he has his secrets that he is unwilling to share, and it’s those same secrets that mold him into the man he is in the show. There are two perspectives most commonly used to derive his development.
Firstly, a humanistic approach to Barney’s abnormal personality would argue that the environment around failed to nurture him in a better way. His mother, Loretta Stinson, was never honest around him. We laugh at her blatant lies to a young Barney that Bob Barker, the gameshow host of The Price Is Right is his father. The naive Barney gobbles up that lie without hesitation, and it’s truly hilarious.
All the other kids at school know who their dad is. Who’s mine?
I don’t know. That guy.
That is detrimental to Barney and his brother, James. They never discover who their respective fathers are until they meet them in their mid-thirties. Shocking. Furthermore, the woman to whom Barney loses his virginity, is just another lie played by James and Ronda. Again, we as the audience laugh at the preposterous idea, but how damaging is that to someone? A very heartwarming part of the series shows Barney crumbling down to tears over the absence of his father throughout, and the rest of the main characters holding his back. In a way, Ted, Marshall, Lily and Robin, are the only people who have accepted him. The saying “blood is thicker than water” does not apply to Barney, because he never really had a wholesome family to begin with.
Secondly, the psychoanalytical perspective can be summed up in his phobia of ever settling down and sharing a stable relationship with anyone. Again, this is where his mother’s blunders have harmed his development. Single parenthood is fine. It’s not the best situation for a child to be in, but single mothers can raise fine sons and daughters. Loretta slept around a lot in front of her two boys, which caused a massive disorganized attachment for Barney and just when life seems to be going well, his ex-girlfriend dumped him for a richer guy in a suit. Truly a prized specimen for Freud to analyze. The result of Shannon, the ex-girlfriend, betraying him, is an Id that wants to mirror the rich man in the suit. Hence, the suits. It makes Barney feel better and more confident, and why not? However, despite the Id dominating his actions, his superego wants something different. It is hard to pinpoint what it is exactly, yet a tiny part of him craves normalcy and solace, hence Robin Scherbatsky.
All this negative upbringing has to have an impact on the brightest of children, because no amount of lies can ever replace a happy childhood for the character. Fast-forward to the present timeline, when Ted first meets Robin across the bar, Barney is incapable of opening up to others and conveying his emotions in an adequate way. To his merit, Barney is very loyal to his friends. When push actually comes to shove, he makes time for the ones closest to him and rarely disappoints. Marshall’s job. Ted’s job. Lily coming back from San Francisco. Robin’s super date. A lot of “aw” moments in the series, have some kind of involvement from Barney. The playboy has his own version of the Bible; the Playbook, that actively seeks to objectify women as test subjects. Whether you want to lay the blame on women for being simply too gullible, or label Barney a misogynist, you cannot deny his charisma in courting a woman into bed with him. Couple that with his ADHD symptoms like fidgeting, terrible listening skills and tantrum fits, you have the whole package that is Barney Stinson.
Characters who suffer from daddy issues are not new to us. Meredith Grey. Elena Gilbert. Serena van der Woodsen. They’re almost always portrayed in a “tough exterior soft interior” way, a colossal bitch to everyone until somehow we discover their kryptonite; love. The producers of the show tried doing that with Barney and it works, to an extent. I find it hard to pardon his crimes against women based solely on a bad upbringing. It’d be like alleviating Ted Bundy (not Ted Mosby) of all his murders, just because of a bad childhood. I don’t mind the dark humour Barney showcases, but it is impossible to make him look like a man with a heart of gold.
In the end, even though the whole of the final season was dedicated to Barney and Robin’s inevitable marriage, they divorced three years later. The reason behind it is apparently due to the two people wanting different things. Robin, the bad-ass single woman gets back with Ted, someone with clear personality contrasts of Barney. Ted is the shy underdog, whereas Barney is the cruel philanderer. The romantic guy does a throwback using the blue French horn and prompts a smile out of Robin, underneath her building. Barney loses the girl, and gains a daughter courtesy of another one of his feminine conquests. The ending of the series is hotly debated, as fans voice their ships in favour of Ted or Barney. I myself found it incredible that this marriage would end in divorce. Despite all his tomfoolery, you still rooted for him to get the happy ending.
What is with audiences wanting the bad boy to get the girl? We find it in She’s The Man, Grease, Crazy, Stupid, Love and the list just continues. How do females, even after watching the atrocities that are men, go on to open their hearts to these rascals? Is it just an indicator that biology will always take over the thought process of a woman? Estrogen? We see evil and want to smother it. Surely this cannot account for all the absurdities that women portray when they ship Sparkles (Swarley + Sparkles), knowing full when Barney’s history with the female species? Yes, men are from Mars, women, from Venus. Is it at all possible that we just don’t know enough about the other sex?