For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

On Barney Stinson

Major exams finished, and I promised myself I would write a happy-go-lucky post with lots of pictures of Neil Patrick Harris, claiming my vague theories about his character’s aromance (this won’t make much sense if you’ve not seen How I Met Your Mother)

Yesterday night, my housemate laughed and laughed as she read out sections of one of the books his character is meant to have published. With each quote, I fell quieter and quieter, trying to ignore it, hoping it would stop.

Today, when I finally got round to checking the blogs, I found that a man very like Barney Stinson, a man who Barney is a parody of, recently shot a woman in the face.

I’m all out of happy-go-lucky.

So Barney is aromantic.

I’ve been trying to supress my queerification of Barney, because I knew that the show is a parable of romantic privilege, held up as moral behaviour. I know that Barney is the freak in a group of decent people, decent people who do decent people things like moan constantly about the one, ditch their friends for the new strangers they’ve decided to pine after.

I know that I’m the freak in a group of decent people. And I always will be.

Barney’s relationship with Robin reminded me stiflingly of my own conceptions of what it would be like to date. At first, they resisted all roles, those of boyfriend and girlfriend, those of man and woman. With each other, they were freer than they were without each other. And he was so, achingly, happy. I’ve never seen him smile like that.

And then convention set in. Relationship convention, gender convention. They became trapped in what had been such a promising relationship. He became the most miserable I have seen him.

Barney’s book is a parody of pick-up artists, a group of people who started with evopsych and made it more mysogynist and less scientific. It is called the Bro Code. And no pick-up artist would ever write this. The first rule is Bros before Hos. The entire system is evident of that delusion Barney labours under- that he can say something and make it true. That he can have the power of words in a world which keeps him ignorant. And the code which he tries to lock everyone into is, dispite its overlay of mysogyny, is very basic. Underneath all the bluster, all the self-assurance, it is a simple cry for help- “don’t leave me”. “Don’t let this mean so much less to everyone around me than it does to me.”

Of the few episodes I can currently remember, one strikes me. The others are content to live in their romantic fabricated worlds, constructed by a constantly renewing act of denial. Barney realises that the group is drifting apart and his desperation, childish tantrums and attempts to communicate what he feels without the language to do so drive the episode. And, at the end, the voice of Ted, arch-romantic and Barney’s main ‘bro’, begins the closing narrative with “Of course, the group did drift apart…” I mean, it’s true to character- Ted is a jerk (not like I’m biased or anything). But that inevitability with which he cruelly dismisses Barney’s fears, marks them with that ‘not wanting what you’re supposed to want- not grown up enough- invalid’, the way he doesn’t consider how every single one of them has something to move onto, something to look forward to, except Barney, who has darkness and loneliness and a hunger with no name.

Somewhere in the world, a woman lies in a critical condition, having been shot in the face. Somewhere in the world, thousands of men consume the poison of the man who shot her. Somewhere in the world, right now, someone who thought they had something special but didn’t have the words, who needed that connection, is getting rejected in favour of that sick dream. They can’t even express their loneliness. Somewhere in the world, presumably, are the millions of people who find it funny. And the world is shit.

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Comments on: "On Barney Stinson" (5)

  1. I really want there to be a conversation about this post, but I’m not sure what to say to start it.

    I think this is really important, because it says a lot about the invisible ways society enforces the standard model of relationships. Barney’s needs are illegitimate because he hasn’t learned to express them in societally approved ways.

    I’m a quicker study than Barney, and less misogynistic, but if it weren’t for those factors I could easily imagine ending up like him. Instead, I managed to co-opt the structure of the standard model to get at least some of my needs met, and learned to repress the ones that weren’t. I guess that’s lucky?

    • Yeah, my main thought when I look at Barney is a kind of ‘there but for the grace of God goes I’.

      I think the interesting thing about him, though, is that he actually does tap into socially approved models in search of his needs- his P.U.A. shows that (I don’t know enough about you to speculate, but I’m gessing the poly sex-positive feminist type stuff helped us both a lot in getting where we are). His ‘Bro’ model is, I think, something genuinely radically queer, masquerading as something mysogynist to give it strength. I know both you and I have mentioned on our blogs that we want to see straight or asexual men in primary relationships with each other, looking outside the relationship for romantic and sexual intimacy- Barney’s vision looks a lot like that.

      • I think we mean the same thing? He uses social models, but in search of things they can’t provide. PUA stuff can get you laid, but it’s not designed to provide commited, intimate platonic relationships.

  2. Also, you got me watching HIMYM again. I forgot how much I love this show.

  3. […] about this repeated joke during my blissful not-watching, but something in it brought back that time I almost cried when a friend read extracts from Barney’s book. Rather painfully. The book, in case you don’t know, is called the Bro Code, and reads very […]

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