Fandom: How I Met Your Mother
Pairing: Barney Stinson/Robin Scherbatsky
Word Count: ~3700 words
Spoilers: Through all aired episodes of season four.
Notes: Thank you to cageyklio for beta reading and to everyone at barneyrobin who threw suggestions and recs in my direction. Screencaps were stolen from here.
The Barney Stinson/Robin Scherbatsky Manifesto
How I Met Your Mother is the sitcom to subvert all sitcoms. Currently in its fourth season on CBS, the show tells the story of how Ted Mosby, a twenty-something architect living in New York, meets the mother of his children. The story is narrated by future!Ted to his daughter and son, and is told in flashbacks; future!Ted, however, is not always the most reliable of narrators, which means that the writers can and do play with the traditional elements of story and plot. Much of the show's action takes place in a Manhattan bar called MacLaren's and in the apartment rented by Ted and located above the bar. Think Cheers combined with Friends, and you'll start to get an idea of the style.
Haaaaave you met Ted?
Present!Ted, of course, has a loyal battalion of friends to help him on his quest for the perfect woman. Marshall Erikson, a lawyer, and Lily Aldrin, a kindergarten teacher, have known Ted since practically their first day of college and have been dating nearly that long. Barney Stinson is a mysteriously employed corporate executive who proclaims himself Ted's best friend and the one person in the world who can teach Ted how to be cool. Robin Scherbatsky is the final addition to the ensemble; Ted first lays eyes on her in the pilot episode and promptly declares her his future wife.
This is not a Ted/Robin manifesto.
Buckle your seatbelts, kids. It's gonna get legendary.
Barney is the ladies' man with surprising depths. There's not much you can say about Barney that he won't say better - or at least more colorfully - about himself. At first impression he comes across as a crass, self-obsessed, egotistical womanizer obsessed with suits, catch phrases, and laser tag. At second glance, he doesn't come across much differently.
Despite his wild impulsiveness, Barney's life runs along profoundly stagnant tracks. He works for the mysterious corporation Altrucel in an unknown function which seems to involve everything from peace talks with the North Koreans to tampering with the drinking water in Lisbon. He drinks with his friends after work at MacLaren's. And he lures woman back to his sleek apartment in an endless stream of one-night stands. He's a high-roller, he's completely awesome, and just about the only thing that repulses him is the idea of settling down and getting married - something that his matrimonially-inclined friends cannot understand. He also lives his life by "The Bro Code" - which means, always, bros before hoes.
In the hands of any actor but Neil Patrick Harris, Barney could easily have become an offensive, obnoxious caricature, but NPH imbues his performance with enough charm and childish enthusiasm that Barney has become the breakaway hit of the show. Ted may be the soul of the series, but Barney is the heart; he's the reason a great many of us keep coming back, week after week. As the series progresses, more and more of the man beneath the suit is revealed. In season one we find out that Barney was previously an earnest hippie with dreams of joining the Peace Corps with his girlfriend; when his girlfriend leaves him for a slick, besuited corporate man, he transforms into the Barney we know today.
Barney's a born and bred New Yorker close to his brother, James, a married, gay, black man, and his mother, formerly as promiscuous as Barney himself. There is literally nothing Barney will not do for his family and friends; when Marshall and Lily break up and Lily flees to San Francisco, it's Barney who retrieves her. When his mother expresses a wish to see her son married, he hires actors to plays his family. When Marshall loses his job, it's Barney who finds him employment; when Robin loses hers, Barney does everything short of buying a television station to keep her from being deported to Canada. His schemes may end up with ludicrous results, but they're always well-intentioned.
Barney: [at the Liberty Bell] Do you ever go behind the rope and touch it?
Employee: Only all the time.
Barney: Do you ever, like, stick your head inside it?
Barney: Have you ever licked it?
Employee: Nope. I have never licked it.
Barney: I bet nobody in history has ever licked the Liberty Bell. If someone were to pull that off, I daresay it would be - what's the word? Legendary.
Future!Ted: [voiceover] And that was when I realized why I hung out with Barney. I never got where I thought I wanted to go, but I always got a great story.
Robin is Canadian. She's also a "sophisticated, Scotch-swilling, cigar-smoking, red-meat-eating, gun-toting New Yorker," with a pop music past, an aversion to serious relationships, and an intense dedication to her so-far unrewarding career as a news anchor. Robin is the red-herring of the show; Ted falls for her in the pilot, leading us to believe that she's the one destined to become his wife, only for future!Ted to finish the episode by saying, "And that, kids, is the story of how I met your Aunt Robin."
Ted spends most of the first season in desperate pursuit of Robin; she finally returns his feelings, and they date for the entirety of season two before ultimately concluding that they simply want different things from their relationship. Ted is searching for a life-partner and mother for his children; Robin wants something light and fun and abhors the idea of being tied down for the rest of her life, particularly to kids. She'd rather spend the time building her career and traveling the world. At one point Ted calls Robin prudish about saying "I love you," but at the same time Robin is sexually liberated; it's only emotional intimacy that puts her off, not physical.
Robin is an incongruous collection of contradicting traits and habits; her father raised her as if she were a boy, teaching her to appreciate cigars and hockey - at least until the day he caught her kissing a boy from her hockey team. In an abrupt turnaround, Robin renamed herself "Robin Sparkles" and went on to become a minor Canadian pop star. Sometime between her year-long tour promoting her hit song "Let's Go to the Mall" and the beginning of the show, she started a career as a news anchor.
Although Robin has lingering issues with her father, she is close to her younger sister Katie. She's best friends with Lily, and after the break-up she and Ted settle into a (mostly) comfortable friendship, to the point that Robin eventually moves in and shares Ted's apartment.
Robin: What's my "but?" You know, I'm really nice, but...
Ted: [voiceover] But she's afraid of commitment.
Lily: [voiceover] But she's a gun nut.
Barney: [voiceover] But she's...Canadian.
Marshall: [voiceover] But she doesn't like Field of Dreams.
All: [in unison] I can't think of anything.
The nice thing about this pairing is that canon is absolutely rife with enough shippy instances to send any fan into fits of glee. For the first half of season one, Barney and Robin barely interact; Barney is busy picking up chicks and plotting crazy schemes, while Robin is slowly integrating into the group and struggling with her feelings for Ted. And then lo, one day the writers decided to try an episode where Robin suits up as Barney's bro, and something magical was born.
Episode 1x14 ("Zip, Zip, Zip") is the first time fans - and possibly even the writers - had any idea of the chemistry and potential between Robin and Barney. When Barney needs a wingman for his "bro-ings on about town," he extends a limited-time offer to Robin - and she accepts, arriving at his gentleman's club looking killer hot in a suit of her own. The rest of the episode is a whirlwind tour of cigars and laser tag as Robin and Barney discover exactly how much they have in common. Robin ends the night by inviting Barney back to her apartment to play Battleship; Barney, as usual, gets the wrong idea and starts disrobing in her living room. Robin is shocked - she really did think they were going to play Battleship - but Barney points out that they're clearly compatible and both looking for something "casual and fun." Robin agrees with his assessment, but finally turns down Barney's offer in lieu of...playing Battleship. (It's worth noting that they both cheat.)
At this point, we know that Barney and Robin have similar interests and outlooks - marriage is a drag, Ted is a hopeless romantic, beating twelve-year-olds at laser tag is fun - and we know that they find each other attractive; obviously from Barney's end, but Robin isn't repulsed when he wants to sleep with her, only shocked that he jumped to that conclusion. Season two continues to build on their interaction as Robin becomes a fully-fledged member of the group. She, for the most part, is caught up in her relationship with Ted, but it's in 2x09 ("Slap Bet") that Barney's obsession takes root. The gang discover that Robin is hiding a sordid and embarrassing secret about her past; Barney becomes convinced that she used to be a porn star, and throws his considerable resources into tracking down video evidence...until he finds that Robin was not, in fact, a porn actress, but a teenaged pop sensation in Canada, touring under the name Robin Sparkles to promote her single "Let's Go to the Mall." Barney proceeds to watch the video approximately one thousand times over the next year, but it isn't until Robin reveals the existence of a second Robin Sparkles music video that things come to a head.
This is exactly as tacky and hilarious as it looks.
In 3x16 ("Sandcastles in the Sand") Robin's ex-boyfriend comes to town - the same ex-boyfriend who starred in the video for her second pop hit. In a series of tragic-but-amusing circumstances, Robin falls head-over-heels for a washed-out, balding, wannabe rock star...and gets dumped by him yet again. Barney spends most of the episode making overseas calls to track down Robin's music video; at the end of the episode he finds Robin drinking alone at MacLaren's. He admits that he can't find her video, but is distracted when she reveals that she was dumped again. Tough-as-nails Robin, for one of the first times in her life, starts to cry in public - and in response, Barney wraps an arm around her, reminds her that she's way more awesome now than at sixteen, and finally coaxes a smile out of her. Robin invites him back to her apartment and shows him "Sandcastles in the Sand." They watch it over, and over, and over...until they finally stop watching.
Episode 3x17 ("The Goat") opens with the morning-after. Barney is mostly pleased, and Robin is mostly horrified. They agree that the incident never happened; Robin rushes off to take a shower, and Barney freaks out over having broken the Bro Code by sleeping with his best friend's ex. Robin finally cracks and reveals the one-night stand to Ted, who in an astonishingly hypocritical move tells Barney that he no longer wants to be friends. Barney spends the majority of the next three episodes alternately trying to prove that he doesn't need Ted and trying to win back Ted's affection. It's all very co-dependent and revealing of how needy Barney is behind his cool facade. In the season three finale he manages to get himself run over by a bus rushing to get to Ted after Ted is in a minor car accident; as Barney lies in his hospital bed, he reconciles with his friends, who begin to speculate about the things Barney must have seen flash before his eyes when the bus hit him. Unnoticed by anyone else, he gives Robin an incredibly tender look. That's it; no words, no declarations, just a look. And then the season ends.
Season four starts with a kicker. In 4x01 ("Do I Know You?") Barney calls his BFF Lily over to his apartment and reveals that he, ladies' man and male-slut supreme, is in love with Robin. What follows is a priceless series of events as Lily tries to convince Barney to tell Robin and Barney breaks down because he doesn't want to be in love. Lily, with a bit of trickery, finally manages to set Barney and Robin up on a date. Unfortunately, Robin is completely clueless; she sets up innuendo after innuendo, only for Barney to compliment her on her teeth. Robin gets frustrated and can't figure out what's up with Barney, and eventually decides to thank him for the nice dinner by setting him up with the busty waitress. Barney struggles and finally succumbs to his own libido; in the final scene, he makes a passionate speech to Lily about why it's better to choose bimbos than Robin. He convinces Lily that the whole thing with Robin was a temporary infatuation - she storms out - and he just about has us convinced, too...until he turns on the TV and simply looks at Robin on her news show.
Most of season four has followed along the same lines, with Barney torn between his feelings for Robin and his life as a loose bachelor. In 4x05 ("Shelter Island"), at Ted's (failed) wedding, Robin knocks on Barney's door with a bottle of liquor, only to find that Barney is busy with not one but two other women. It's worth noting that although she remains largely clueless to Barney's feelings for her, Robin is the one who first attempts to initiate a second encounter. In 4x12 ("Benefits") Ted and Robin start sleeping together again; Barney throws a series of jealous fits and finally says "I love you" to Robin, only to have her completely misinterpret his declaration.
He does this a lot.
At this point, Lily and Ted seem to know that Barney's in love, but Robin has demonstrated a frustrating lack of awareness. Is she in denial? Is she really that clueless? Is she, as so many of us have hoped, struggling with her own feelings for Barney? The writers have promised us that there will be some sort of confrontation will occur between Barney and Robin before the series ends. They now face the monumental task of trying to balance Barney's libertine charm with the possibility of something more serious.
If the writing gods do decide to venture into the territory of an actual relationship, there are a number of ways to play things out. Barney and Robin could end up being no more than a fling, something short-term, either because Robin really doesn't return Barney's feelings or because Barney decides he's far happier with one-night stands. It could be Barney's first introduction to a real relationship, with the two of them being a couple for a period of time and then going their separate ways. Or it could be long-term, the one, the only; if it is, I see two possibilities. The first is that Barney and Robin have a very liberal and open relationship, possibly monogamous and possibly not, where Robin travels the world and Barney keeps on going to strip clubs. The second is that they both finally reach an age where they want to settle down and marry and possibly have children; it's been known to happen even to playboys. Those are two extremes, of course, and there are almost an infinite number of relationship paradigms that combine the two.
At this point, I'd be happy if Robin woke up and smelled the Barney-has-feelings roses.
Or, six reasons why you, the fan, should ship Barney/Robin.
o1. They're friends.
And friends make the best lovers. We already know that that they like the same sorts of things and that they enjoy spending time together, and in addition we get awesome scenes where they play laser tag together.
Robin: My father was a cigar fanatic. It was the only way to get his attention.
Barney: Father issues. Hot.
Robin: Yeah, I know. I was this close from being a huge slut.
Barney: Slut would've been better, but I'll settle for bro. Especially now that Ted's with Victoria and can't drink. Because he's pregnant...because he's the girl.
Robin: Come on, Ted can't be pregnant. You need to have sex to get pregnant.
Barney: What up! Freeze-frame high five!
Suits are cool. Exhibit A.
o2. They have chemistry.
It doesn't hurt that they're gorgeous people played by gorgeous actors who also happen to have an insane chemistry, despite the fact that one of them is a gay man and the other is pregnant and engaged.
Barney: This is bad for you too, you know. How are you going to feel when he sees you without any makeup?
Robin: I'm not wearing any makeup right now.
Barney: Holy crap, you're beautiful!
o3. They're compatible.
They have similar interests, even more so than the rest of the group, and they want similar things from a relationship. Robin wants to travel, Barney does travel; Robin is dedicated to her career, Barney must be dedicated to his career to get an office like that; Robin is wary of traditional relationships, Barney scoffs in the face of traditional relationships.
Barney: But I have thought about it for three seconds, and it makes a lot of sense. We both think the marriage-commitment thing's a drag. We both want something casual and fun. And we clearly get along really well.
Robin: Wow, that actually did make a lot of sense.
o4. He's completely, head-over-heels in love with her.
There isn't much Barney won't do for Robin. He goes against the entire life he built for himself just to win her attention.
Lily: Barney, you're going to have to stop screwing around if you want to be Robin's boyfriend!
Barney: Woah, woah, woah! A-ha-ha. Boyfriend? I don't want to be Robin's boyfriend.
Lily: Well, what do you want, then?
Barney: I don't know! I just want to be with her all the time. I want to hear about her day and tell her about mine. I want to hold her hand and smell her hair...pfff! But I don't want to be her stupid boyfriend.
Lily: Barney, what you just described is a relationship between a boyfriend and a girlfriend...and a pretty clingy one at that.
He might love tacos, but he doesn't want to date them. Gosh.
o5. She's good for him.
She knows how to handle him; he doesn't walk all over her likes he does his bimbos. Barney tends to have two kinds of relationships with women; either the relationship is sexual and he runs as soon as the night is over, or the relationship is platonic and he shows respect. Robin presents a unique opportunity for Barney to have a sexual relationship with a woman he cares about for more than sex. It's pretty clear that he thinks she hung the moon, and at any rate Robin is not going to let him run all over her. Her personality is forceful enough to match his and keep him in check when he needs it.
She likes him exactly as he is, but at the same time she makes him want to be better. When he's with her, she's all he wants.
Barney: ...I want ice cream.
Robin: No. You're not having ice cream for dinner just because you're sick.
Barney: But my throat hurts!
Barney: I hate you!
Robin: Oh. [starts to leave]
Barney: Don't leave me!
o6. Um, they're AWESOME.
And for no other pairing is this a more valid reason.
Barney: You're the most awesome person I have ever known. Well, second most awesome.
Robin: Right, of course, the first being you.
Barney: No. No, the first is this guy I know who lives in something called the mirror. What up!
"Stopped watching" is a euphemism.
I first started watching How I Met Your Mother for one reason and one reason only: Joss Whedon. Or rather, I started watching because so many Whedon alumni were involved; when Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof guest-starred in the same episode, I was hooked. Barney I fell in love with almost immediately, because it's impossible not to love Neil Patrick Harris in any role he plays; the character was funny and over-the-top and magnetic, the sort of person I'd like to have for a friend. For the most part I floated through the show, watching when I caught it, but with no real eye to the fandom. There was one day I woke up and realized that I wanted to be Robin Scherbatsky, but it wasn't until the very end of season three that I got caught up in the pairing. When Barney shot Robin that look in the hospital, I grabbed my computer and logged on to LJ. There's something incredibly romantic about two such unconventional people falling for each other; Barney and Robin - for me, at least - just click.
The fandom as a whole is expanding at a rapid pace. Probably the biggest stronghold is barneyrobin, and a more welcoming and friendly group I have yet to meet. Barney/Robin is the main pairing for the fandom; some ingenious fan coined the nickname BROtp (alternately BRotp or brOTP), the only ship name I've ever embraced wholeheartedly. BR = Barney/Robin, OTP = one true pairing, bro = bro...it's clever! Clever and awesome.
barneyrobin - The main hub for the pairing.
ninjareport - The main community for HIMYM.
howimet - Another general HIMYM community.
himym_fic - The main fanfiction community for HIMYM.
him_tbbt_100 - Drabble community for HIMYM and "The Big Bang Theory."
- CBS Official Site - The place to catch up with the latest full episodes.
- Barney's Blog - Maintained by CBS and usually updated after each new episode.
- 75 Skills Barney Stinson Has Mastered by holy_whatever - PG-13/R, complete in five parts. Hands-down my favorite HIMYM fic.
- Metal Heart by the_spin - She’s never heard a love story like this one. Adult, complete in three parts. Okay, I lied. This might be my favorite. Absolutely gorgeous writing.
- How His Friends Became Her Friends by boundbyspells - "She knew from the moment she met Ted that he was one of those guys where, if you date him, you're dating his friends, too." G, oneshot. I like this story not only because it offers an outsider's perspective on Barney and Robin, but also because it involves the entire group, and you can't have one without all five.
- In Your Honour by idioticonion - Robin tries to save Barney from himself. AU Season 4ish set after 4.9 The Naked Man and written before 4.10 The Fight was aired. T, complete in three parts. idioticonion is one of the most prolific authors in the fandom, and her stories tend to portray a slighter darker Barney than the show.
- Leave No Man Behind by Clio - "So can I have your coffee table?" "What?" "Like you can bring all your stuff with you to the Casbah." "The Casbah is in Algeria. I'm moving to Morocco" "Whatever. So can I have your coffee table?" PG-13, oneshot. The one story where Barney and Robin get married and it actually seems believable and in character.
- Five Things Robin Scherbatsky Doesn't Do by fearlessfan - Robin doesn't fall in love with Barney -- except for how she totally does . Barney/Robin, with spoilers through the fourth season, although the most recent plot points play out differently in this story. T, oneshot. Wonderful character voices; it's nice to see a slightly more aware Robin.
- 'A' Game by svilleficrecs - He's in love with her. Real, true, stupid, head over heels in love with Robin Scherbatsky. NC-17, oneshot. Stylistically one of the better stories in the fandom, and the best expansion on the time between "Sandcastles in the Sand" and "The Goat" that I've read yet.