Thursday, January 27, 2011

Barney Stinson, Chandler Bing and The Police Inspector: A Case of Social and Personal Rejection

I have recently developed an attachment towards How I Met Your Mother and The Simpsons. Robin and Barney are my particular favorites. While I can relate to Robin, Barney's character intrigues me. He is the epitome of hypocrisy; he engages in meaningless flings to complete his score card; he keeps on competing with himself and all for what? Nothing. Barney is probably the best character that shows the ennui, the loneliness and the anguish of modern life but not without a biting sense of humor. Particularly the narrator is also not sympathetic towards Barney's "exploits" or "conquests" as he terms them. 

Barney Stinson

He is rather cynical and this comes out in the form of biting sarcasm. However the narrator's friendship with Barney also leads us to seeing Stinson in a different light altogether. It just struck me while watching this show, how lonely a person can get even when he has the best suits, cars and riches that money can buy; a sense of anguish that even his friends cannot fulfill. When you compare this character to that of Joey of Friends, there is virtually no similarity. Joey was a much simpler guy, his comedy was much more down to earth as compared to the arrogant self obsession of Barney. 

I don't know why Barney Stinson has been compared to even Chandler! Frankly it escapes me. The kind of sarcasm as shown by Chandler and Barney are clearly of two different categories. Chandler showed his despair and frustration at the society through his sarcastic remarks. Barney on the other hand is a part of this very society. 

Chandler Bing

Chandler was a disgruntled office employee who criticizes about the shallowness of the corporate job everyday but never quite makes it out of the pond (except at the end when he quits his high paying job to become a junior copywriter). Barney is successful. It is very difficult to imagine Barney quitting the luxury of his life (and particularly his 'suits') for something more adventurous, more alternate! 

Barney has internalized the superficial hollow plasticity of society; it eats him up and he tries to break free of it by engaging in conquests which he thinks are acceptable by this very society. He doesn't take chances coz he fears rejection by society. He desperately holds on to the same mechanisms of society that eat him up. 

But my post is not about this. The concept of friendship struck me while I was watching a late night episode of The Simpsons. That's right, not How I Met Your Mother or even Friends; though I would say the friends are a much more harmonious combo in the latter. In the former, they seem all too busy with their own lives; much more estranged than they do in Friends. Anyways let me get back to this particular episode of The Simpsons before I digress further. 

Last night, they showed the story of a police inspector who had no friends and who is befriended by Homer. Homer likes this inspector but being the All American prototype that he is, he also does not fail to take advantage of this friend; the advantages being he wiping out his jail records completely from the police files. There is a shootout and the police inspector saves Homer while getting injured himself. We do not see if it really happens but when he wakes up, the police inspector finds Homer sitting right by his bed and saying that he has been there "the whole time". 

Homer Simpson
He does not hesitate to insult his subordinate who was waiting for him the whole time and had just come with a bouquet saying that he did not care about him. So anyway Homer gets bored and leaves. And later the inspector catches him saying what a "needy clingy" bore he was. This complicates situations but in the end everything is resolved and Homer and the inspector resume their friendship and as a guard puts it, "their friendship is like a flame now, it lacks the fireworks but it is more stable". This got me thinking. 

Is this a phase through which all friendships go? I particularly know a friend who is a lot like the inspector; needy, demanding, possessive, clingy at times. I am sure a lot of her friends might have behaved like Homer. "Needy clingy" people have been beautiful critiqued by Western comedy series as well as films before. It seems as if the dominant trait in Western popular culture is to make fun of anything and everything; from Justin Bieber to Barack Obama. 

The inspector is too blind to see people who care for him (refer: his subordinate who waited for him at the hospital the whole time while he got shot). On the other hand, Barney Stinson's ennui cannot be filled by even his most caring friend, Ted Mosby. Barney refuses to be needy, he channelizes his frustration through wanton sex and being arrogant to people. The police inspector channelizes his insecurity and egotism by blatant show of power; harassing his subordinates as well as the common people. How many of us have a dormant Inspector or Barney among us? Why is it so bad to be needy, to want somebody to care for you, even if it is just a friend? And who gives people the right to mock these "needy" people?

All in good humor, they say. Well I would like to know who actually laugh at these wisecracks. And how "strongly liberated" those viewers are. It is funny for a while but not always. Rejection might seem terrible to some. There is nothing to be ashamed of that. Everyone has flaws. Surely the fear of being rejected by a friend is an unreasonable one, surely you can't expect everyone to like you all the time or do exactly as you wish, but if it exists, it exists. Mocking these "needy souls" who only "act out as victims" won't help. Coz sometimes it might just be real.


RAY7 said...

Loved it! I am getting more and more interested to watch How I Met Your Mother by the day. One of my very close friends told me about it a couple of years back. And now I see everyone around me raving about Barney Stinson and as you touched upon a little - how his sarcasm is supposedly better than Chandler. You should try watching Big Bang Theory.

Trisha said...

I have watched a bit of Big Bang Theory. And I never said Barney's sarcasm is better than Chandler's. Frankly I prefer Chandler to Barney. Chandler is not a hypocrite as Barney. But yes I have seen Friends a lot of times and now it its time to watch something new. Both Barney and Chandler have "different" senses of sarcasm/humor..but I did not say which one is better. I prefer Chandler to Barney. But yes, How I Met Your Mother shows the changing stereotypes of today, which were unthinkable even 10 years back. You should watch it. :)

psychebubbles said...

Well, "Barney" is debatably the best character among the humourous lot, robin, ehh shes cute, but not the best character! Plus i cant relate to it! :D

Chandler was pure humour, and it stayed, so it wasnt in any way comparable to Barney who has a rather evolving character, thats what i think! :)

Lovely blog uve got here! :)


Trisha said...

thanks for your comment sid, keep visiting. :)

reetam said...

Barney doesn't fit the bill for a 'friend' by most standards, but yet he adamantly claims he's ted's best friend. Barney I suppose is one of the strangest characters ever devised. He epitomises all that is wrong in our best friends, but you still relate to him. i know i do. heh.

interesting take on the whole concept, i must say.

Trisha said...

thanks reetam. :)

Pranab Chatterjee said...

OK. I came here from the indi post for votes and such, and ended up loving the post. Wonderful writing, great logic, and Justin Bieber. Well, maybe not that. Anyways. Once I am done posting this clever comment, I will go off to subscribe to the blog. :)

Trisha said...

lol..thanks pranab. :))

psychopneuma said...

Really nice post!
I would however like to point out that Chandler is the character which portrays true sarcasm while on the other hand Barney is rarely sarcastic and mostly slapstick where he makes the audience laugh with bogus but funny theories, hence slapstick humor.

Trisha said...

thanks :)