race and ethnicity

Racial & Ethnic Disparities

This show is characterized by its main five characters Ted, Barney, Marshall, Lily, and Robin which are all white adults living in New York City. There seems to be a very limited portrayal of Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or other population figures. The U.S. 2005 census shows a division of races of Whites 72.4%, Blacks 12.6%, Asians 4.8%, American Indians and Alaskan Natives 0.9%, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 0.2%, people of a different race 6.2%, and people of two or more different races 2.9%. The U.S. 2005 census also shows a division of ethnicity where out of the above percentages, 8.7% of the Whites, 0.4% of the Blacks, 0.1% of Asians, 0.2% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, 0.0% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 6.0% of people of a different race, and 1.0% of people of two or more different races are Hispanic or Latino. That is a total of 16.4% Hispanics in the United States. This is very different than how the show portrays any of the statistics.

http://www.hastac.org/groups/race-online

Within New York as a state the 2005 census shows a division of races of Whites 74.98%, Blacks 18.26%, Asians 7.18%, American Indians and Alaskan Natives 0.99% and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 0.19%. The New York 2005 census also shows a division of ethnicity where out of the above percentages, 13.31% of the Whites, 2.66% of the Blacks, 0.15% of Asians, 0.32% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and 0.07% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are Hispanic. That is a total of 16.51% Hispanics in New York. Why has the show been structured with a 100% White main cast instead? Why only on rare occasions is there a person of a different race or ethnicity shown?

Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 1; 5:05
Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 1; 5:05

The Bartender, Carl, seems to be in various episodes and can possibly be perceived as Hispanic, because the actor playing his role is latin, but the audience was never told of Carl’s ethnicity or background.

Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 11; 2:31
Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 11; 2:31

Memorable times about someone of a different race/ethnic background is the recurring limo driver, Ranjit, who is always available for his favorite group of friends. He is a minor character that is developed throughout the entire series of HIMYM, but he is treated as one of the pack-it’s nice to see the interactions between the many different characters.

There are black individuals seen in many episodes but none are ever represented as anything other than Barney’s friends, or better said-women he takes home. An important background character that is Black is the bridesmaid that Barney chooses to hook up with at a wedding in Episode 13, “Drumroll, Please.”

Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 13; 1:05
Screenshot from Netflix, Season 1: Episode 13; 1:05

The demographics shown in HIMYM are not real U.S. or New York representations; whites are not the predominant majority of this country. The producers could possibly have set the show up this way because TV viewers prefer to watch these kinds of shows with white characters living the “American life.” It has often been said that we are what we watch and it could be for that reason that the producers chose an all white cast- to attract common, middle class, white adults to follow the sitcom. It may be that producers did not believe other races and ethnicities to be as important to attract, but demographics would point to that audience as a large participant of TV viewers in 2005. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Share your comments below!

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