Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Layers of Skeeze Revisited: The Barney Edition

Over at Hitfix, Alan Sepinwall asked the question: "Was Barney always this disgusting, and we shrugged it off because the writing was better/fresher? Or has he gotten significantly worse over the years, in the way that so many sitcom characters become broader and more exaggerated to keep squeezing jokes out of them?"
And as someone who watches the earlier episodes that air on various other channels with some degree of regularity, my answer is both.  There were quite a few people early on who thought the rest of the show was interesting, but Barney was annoying and horrible.  But the difference is that early on, the show addressed that.  The other characters groaned when he told these stories.  They had episodes to discover which terrible grievance had been the one that caused one of Barney's conquests to try to sabotage all his current attempts or who made the website or any of these things.  In this season there are a couple of things that make Barney's behavior seem more egregious.  First, while there are occasional moments where other characters mention that Barney's behavior is terrible, they don't seem to mean it.  And I don't mean because no one stops him, because they never did. I mean because Barney used to get some sort of comeuppance and/or he used to lose sometimes.  When Marshal made all the charts, he charted Barney's success rate and Barney had a high rate of loss.  And when Barney hit his 'magic' number and went back to tell that kid from middle school, that guy told Barney he needed help.  And when Barney kept stealing all of of Marshal's women, even though it turned out he was doing it so Marshal and Lily could get back together, Lily still helped screw up Barney's attempt at twins. 
So, sure, Barney went through a crazy mixed up proposal of Quinn.  And then screwed it up with the insane pre-nup.  But there he lost Quinn.  Yes, it was a mutual decision, but it was also a very real realization that sometimes two people really aren't meant to be together.  And then there was the nutso proposal to Robin.  And that was different because, well, we've known Robin longer than Quinn and so I, at least, want a little better for her than a guy who manipulates her that much just to surprise her with a proposal.  And, sure, Robin halfheartedly mentioned that this was a terrible way to propose.  And yet, she still accepted. 
Barney then decided to pass off his girl-getting schemes to Ted.  And this is where it gets worse.  Because now, Ted is for some reason attempting to be Barney.  And so now, I, as a viewer am losing faith not only in the work they've done to mature Barney, but in Ted who now somehow agrees that these are acceptable maneuvers as does Robin. But this week's episode about all the extra things in Barney's apartment was really over the top.  It's one thing to know that Barney often lied to the women he slept with about his name, vocation, or even state of alive-ness.  But having things in his apartment that allow him to eject participants is an additional layer of skeeze.  And for Robin to end the episode saying these were the things she fell in love with and so doesn't wish to change about him, well, it makes me sad for both of them.  It's not crazy for her to want them to get an apartment together that is not the place where he used to pretend to take women to Paris with the help of a green screen. And while from a character arc level I get that they have been playing a long game with Barney, pointing out that he and Quinn wanted to change too much about each other and he and Robin love each other as they are, I still came away from the episode feeling terrible sorry for Robin that she has become a character who would put up with this.