Friday, May 9, 2014

Life in Some Kind of Context

When How I Met Your Mother came along nine years ago, I watched it only sporadically, and not for long. I only saw a few episodes of the early seasons, and then the random one up to about three years ago. It was something that was on the edge of my subconscious, not really watched but known about to the point I had it listed as a favourite show on Facebook.

Nevertheless, I still read up on the finale on Wikipedia. Up to that point, I'd found it quite one-dimensional that until the final episode, the 'mother' character had only ever been known as just that - no name or personal identity, just that one word. "The Mother."

What I found really interesting was what Wikipedia described as the 'polarized' critical reaction from everyone - either you loved the end or hated it. That seems to be the general reaction to most series finales these days. It seemed the same for other shows I'd not really watched intensely but knew about or admired from a distance. Like Lost, or Dexter, or Breaking Bad. My work colleague, Imad, hated the finales of all three. Me, I'm mostly indifferent or lightly impressed, never one to severely dislike a plot resolution - unless it makes absolutely no sense to the point of insulting my intelligence.

The most important thing I think, really, is to consider the context and the world a series gives you. You see all the exciting or purposeful or defining moments in the main character's lives in an episode, not a slideshow of him or her waking up, going to the bathroom, eating breakfast, washing up or showering, going to work, working, having a lunch break, etc. etc. etc....you're going to see him or her have an unusual day with conflict or discovery or extraordinary affairs that defines an episodic program. As a result, to keep a series going, you get these plot arcs that writers will stretch for too long or make out as way too big a deal. With an ongoing premise in the background to keep people interested.

For the Mother series, I read that fans felt screwed over when Barney and Robin divorced in the finale after such a large amount of time was spent throughout the series having them get together. What a waste of time that was. Well, the truth is, that's how life works. You felt cheated out of something you put a lot of hope into because a couple of writers put too much time and effort making that relationship a big deal over a long period of time. Carter and Bays (the show's writers and creators) made you see that plot arc through a lens that made it seem perfect and hopeful and constant, even drawn out, and then they pulled off a move that's perfectly realistic to reality - in three minutes.

Of course, I never saw the finale nor watched the entire series. I'm probably lacking any credit. But so what? It's amazing how fans of a television show or comic book or novel or whatever work of fiction will develop such strong emotions or hopes for the fictional characters therein. I can understand connection, being able to connect with a character and see yourself in him or her, or feel at home reading or watching, but you can't divorce those characters from their creators, writers who have free will to make that character do whatever he or she wants, virtually on a whim. A showrunner or creator, and the writers, will often try to write or direct in a way that satisfies the viewer, of course, but they aren't perfect; they can't please everyone, and in my opinion, when they make a choice upon a plot line that is realistic and resounding with truth, they're doing a good job. For How I Met Your Mother, Carter and Bays did a pretty good job making a sort of chronicle of a story, as well as creating mystery, but the fans who disliked the ending put too much of their own wants into fictional characters while the writing duo put too much emphasis on a relationship dynamic - Barney and Robin could have still married, but it didn't have to be as big a deal as it was, considering they divorce minutes later in the final episode.

There was another complaint about how "the Mother" was briefly mentioned as passing away, and how that wasn't big enough - but again, that's just another plot element that's logical and makes sense. The ending of How I Met Your Mother isn't about "The Mother's" funeral and Ted grieving, it's about the relationships he has with his friends over that long period of time, with his meeting of "The Mother" the backdrop of the series (and minor premise). People get sick and die prematurely, families lose their loved ones. It's an unfortunate part of life. People get divorced, and in Barney and Robin's case, it made sense considering one was going sky-high with her career and travel, and the other couldn't keep up with that.

The final thing I want to say, really, is that despite my not keeping up with the series very well, there was one thing about the ending I did really like. Ted's children realize that he still likes Robin. In the end, he goes to her apartment with some kind of horn - apparently this instrument has meaning, I don't know, sorry for my ignorance - and they immediately connect. I like that because it comes full circle (I do remember Ted trying to date her at the beginning of the series) and it kind of clears things up perfectly for them because Robin seems kind of left out towards the end, on her own, and Ted seems much the same, so their connection speaks to me. The finale aired on March 31st. If I had a favourite character on that show, it was Robin, and I like that they seem to have a good ending; I liked her because she's Canadian and has an attractive personality to me. They once referenced You Can't Do That on Television in one episode - a children's show produced in the very neighbourhood I grew up, on Merivale Road - when Robin's background as a minor Canadian teenage pop personality was a focus of the episode.

Anyway, my general statement is, life has its contexts. All television does is magnify certain situations and paint them in a way that make them seem overly meaningful when they aren't, necessarily. It's like reality television and how it intentionally paints its participants - cut together five shots of one of the women crying on Hell's Kitchen five times in one episode when those shots were recorded over five weeks for different reasons, and you've got a false impression that she's infantile when she isn't. The show created that context. That's what TV does. Don't forget that every fictional character is written. The amount of death threats I've heard of out there that writers or comic book writers gets is absurd. They killed Brian on Family Guy! So what? Dogs get run over in real-life. Cartoons don't have to be immortal. It's a cartoon. Geez.

Justin C.

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