How I Met Your Mother is normally a very entertaining show. It isn’t breaking any new ground, and certainly falls into standard TV demographics with its cast (all of the characters are young, white, professional, heterosexual, and of course photogenic), but it does usually feature excellent writing. One of the things that makes the writing so good is that most of the comedy is based on the peculiarities of the characters, rather than genre tropes.
But there was an episode this season (“Brunch”) that fell rather flat on this point and caused some mixed feelings for me. Angry at her ex-fiance Marshall (Jason Segal) for claiming that he no longer has sexual thoughts about her, Lilly (Alyson Hannigan) shows up to a group brunch wearing a low-cut dress and a push-up bra, with predictable effects on Marshall. Determined to get back at her, Marshall wears shorts to the next brunch and makes sure to display his calves to Lilly, with similar effects on her.
I’m not sure what I thinkof this. While it is nice to see the “men are completely distracted by women’s bodies” trope turned around and applied to women as well, aren’t the show’s producer’s still sending a message that a woman’s physical appeal is her most important asset?
What really bugs me about this as well is that, while they singled out Marshall’s calves as being an odd thing for a woman to be aroused by, they of course simply went with a focus on Lilly’s breasts.* The comedy could have been much more character-driven if, say, Marshall was driven to distraction by the back of her neck, driving home that Marshall was responding directly to Lilly rather than simple “OMG BOOBS!”
But still, when presenting a woman trying to distract a man that she was with for eight years, they can’t think of anything but cleavage.
* I feel compelled to note that this is not in any way a disparagement of actress Alyson Hannigan’s physical attributes. Anything she does on screen is highly distracting.