For my second multimedia project I decided to rewatch some of my favorite seasons of How I met your mother. Besides a little research into the characters last semester I haven’t see the full series in a couple years and let me just say, I am surprised by the things I’ve missed/overlooked in the past. Though there are great examples throughout all of season 6, as well as every season, that show the minoritization and universalization of different intersecting identities, for this project I will be focusing on Season 6 Episode 6: Baby Talk. This episode shows a minoritization of both gender and sexuality, primarily focussing on gender roles. The plot centers around Marshall and Lily trying to think of a name for their future baby. They meet up with their friends Stuart and Claudia, a clearly dysfunctional couple, who have just had a baby of their own and are in the process of naming them. The focus then shifts back to Lily and Marshall, who are prompted to come up with more names for themselves.
Lily primarily comes up with female names and Marshall, male names, this sparks a dispute over the desired gender of their child that last the entire episode. Marshall is terrified of having a girl, because of past experiences with a “hot” girl from high school and a stripper (flashbacks prompted by Lily’s suggested female names). Throughout the episode he has many fantasies about his daughter being an oblivious/ naive stripper, and Barney trying to pursue her.
He is afraid of having a daughter because he claims he doesn’t want her to make “bad choices”. Insinuation she wouldn’t be smart enough to not get into bad situations and completely dismissing the possibility of a boy being able to do anything wrong. This reminded me of a reading from my Psychology of Gender book last semester, which also relates to our discussion on Mayne’s teachings in the beginning of this semester. The idea’s this episode touches on are the underlying statement that men has a wider range of possibilities and opportunities than women do from birth. The reading also talks about how women our sexualized in our culture, to the point that doing anything sexual implies that the women being represented is a bad character, oversexual, slutty.
This is comparable to the depiction of the stripper daughter in the episode as unintelligent, over sexual, and only concerned with money. They also can’t agree on a boy’s name, because after every name Marshall suggests Lily has a flashback to one of her Kindergarten students treating her inappropriately, grabbing her breast, touching her butt, eating the pet fish, ect. They can’t agree on a girl’s name because Marshall’s before stated visions. The subplot going on in the midst of all this baby drama, is the group meeting Robin’s new co-anchor on the new. She is a busty blonde woman names Becky.
She acts extremely dumb, weak, childish, vulnerability, and “baby talks”. All of the men find Becky extremely charming and cute, including the professional cameraman. Ted even goes as far as to tell Robin that she drives men away for being too independent and not needy enough like Becky. This minoritizes gender because men are stereotyped to seek needy, dumbed-down girls whereas women seek well-rounded men. This reminded me of the reading we did last year The Cult of Virginity, by Jessica Valenti in our book “Women’s voices, Feminist Visions”. The reading talked about the idealization of virginal or innocent women as the object of every men’s desire and the idea of their “Purity” or goodness.
They talked a lot about white femininity and the blue eyed blonde hair “pure” “virginal” ideals our media depicts like Madonna, Brittany, and Jessica Simpson. This trope/ ideal is made clear in this episode through the depiction of Becky and her bubbly, oblivious, innocent, childlike nature along with how the men around her idealize and objectify her beauty and naivety. It becomes more clear in the comparison of Becky to Robin throughout this episode. Robin is a self sustaining, brash, straight-forward and independent, brunette, who is said to be standoffish and a turn of because she doesn’t make the men she’s date feel “needed” in the way that Becky’s childlike nature pokes at. Sexuality is minoritized in this episode through the fact that everyone in the show is straight, and/or assumed straight until proven differently.
The characters in the show are either in a monogamous heterosexual relationship or they are engaged in random hook ups with opposite sex. In the scene close to the middle of the episode, where Marshall and Ted are in the bar talking about babies, Marshall says “I don’t want a girl, I just want a boy”, Ted replies with “it’s not what it sounds like folks”, to the people in the bar, as if Marshall wanting a boy/man in any other way was terrible and/or appealing to the people who could have overheard them. This episode makes an attempt to universalize gender near the end. Stuart and Claudia’s baby ran a fever and couldn’t be seen at the hospital without a name. This emergency causes them to realize they were putting too much thought into coming up with a name for their child. This transitions to Marshall and Lily coming to this realization for themselves. Marshall realizes that Lily is trying to conceive and girl and Lily realizes that marshall is trying to conceive a boy. It is at this point that they both come to the conclusion that they were both being stupid, trying to set the gender of their baby at birth.
Lily commented on it being a small sense of control on the happiness of their child. How they didn’t get to decide how this child looks, acts, feel, but they wanted to at least control the child’s name and gender for their own various reasons. Marshall and Lily then choose a gender neutral name, in this there is a small attempt to universalize gender at the end of an episode that spend most of its time minoritizing it.