April 15, 2014

WEISMAN | It’s Not Just a TV Show

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About two weeks ago, on March 31, the highly controversial finale of How I Met Your Mother aired on CBS. Although I hoped it was a cruel pre-April Fools’ joke, the finale was the real ending of the nine-season show detailing and developing the lives of five amazing characters, only to tear everything to pieces at the end. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before, during and after the finale aired, I spent my time on Twitter, texting friends and verbally expressing my opinions about the episode. In the days that followed, I had countless conversations with friends and sometimes even strangers about the show. Occasionally, when I expressed my dismay, people would say, “Why are you so worked up? It’s just a TV show.”

Don’t worry — I don’t plan on beating the dead horse that is the controversy of the HIMYM Finale. I won’t babble on about how misogynistic it was for Robin to become the successful anchorwoman she always wanted to be only to leave her aching for a family and a man to rescue her, or about how the mother was reduced to a plot device for Ted to have children, or even about how Barney’s decade-long character development was completely reversed. Let’s not even touch the fact that a 22-episode wedding ended in divorce in the first 20 minutes. Okay, maybe I beat the horse a little bit.

The reason I don’t want to beat the horse too much is because there are plenty of reviews and articles all over the Internet talking about the finale: Why it was amazing, horrible or somewhere in between. There are plenty of people with opinions similar to mine, so why does mine matter? Why should I keep talking about it?

I am not writing this column to tell you why I thought the finale was shallow and disappointing, but rather to illustrate why it’s not “just a TV show,” why television matters — and how it makes us think, learn, talk to each other and form communities.

These past few weeks, I have spoken to so many friends and acquaintances that I otherwise would not speak to because of the finale. I bonded with people and had debates and discussions concerning our thoughts. We shared various thoughts and reviews — including the alternate ending that should have been — on Facebook and I was able to connect with friends from high school that I have not seen spoken to since graduation. Our passion about this episode of television brought us together and strengthened our relationships.

People often don’t take my major or desired career very seriously. As a Communication major who wants to go on to create meaningful television, I have been told that my major is not “academic” and that I am probably not getting much out of it. I have been told that working in television is shallow and not a very respected career. Besides the facts that I could not be happier with my path of study and that I am learning a lot, the stigma surrounding television as a “serious” medium or career path is extremely bothersome, frustrating and insulting.

While I do not believe that every single program on television has extreme value, or that spending seven hours a day watching television is always acceptable, I do think that people underestimate the value television can have and that people are too quick to look down upon people who use television to connect with friends, find value or even build a career.

The same can be said for any major or field of study that people stereotype as being a “joke” or not being as respectable as others. I chose the Communication major because I enjoy studying it, regardless of how it compares to the workload of other majors. I am tired of Cornell students being compared and judged based on their passions, just as I am tired of people telling me, “It’s just a TV show.”

So no, the How I Met Your Mother finale was not the greatest episode of television in history nor was it satisfying to most viewers. However, it did provide thousands of people the opportunity to engage with their friends, share their thoughts with strangers online and think critically about something they care about. And while I may never forgive the show’s creators and show runners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for what they did to the characters and story I spent nine seasons enjoying and learning from — I mean, really, it felt like an extra slap had been added to the slap bet, just to hit the audience with — I am grateful that they gave me the chance to appreciate that it is, in fact, not just a TV show.