Reaching the Everyday Viewer on a Personal Level

By: Morgan Gruber

John Fiske and John Hartley  question how television reaches the everyday viewer and what impact television has on the people who are watching its lives in their essay, Reading Television. Television is enjoyable because people can relate to what they are watching on a personal level. How I Met Your Mother is a good example of this, because the characters and their story lines are all easily relatable to the typical viewer

Something that Fiske and Hartley celebrate about television is how it mirrors reality, but also shapes the reality we live in. They applaud this concept because in their opinion, it helps us better see the society that we live in. In How I Met Your Mother, this idea is extremely relevant. One of the main setting places In How I Met Your Mother is MacLaren’s Pub where a group of Best Friends, Barney, Ted, Lily, Robin, and Marshall, are commonly found sitting around a table at night with drinks. Every one of these characters represents some sort of stereotype, thus immediately mirroring reality. While it could be seen as mocking reality, Fiske and Hartley would recognize these overly stereotypical characters as a means of helping us understand the real life versions of these characters.

Fiske and Hartley pose the question, “how does television reach everyone?” Well, How I Met Your Mother is a perfect example to validate and answer this question. Television reaches people because viewers can see themselves in the characters they are watching on TV. The five main characters in How I Met Your Mother are extremely relatable. Barney is the womanizing, narcissistic guy with a sensitive side. Marshall is the hard working, insecure, naïve and happily married guy. Lily is happily married to Marshall, but she is a dreamer and has aspirations which she feels get pushed aside due to her marriage. Robin is the girl that has ‘daddy issues’ which leaves her with having problems committing to people and letting people in. Last, Ted is the hopeless romantic who has spent his entire life searching for the woman he will marry.  Throughout the show we see friendships grow stronger and we see relationships fail. We feel the Love between these characters and we understand the heartbreak that they sometimes experience.

These types of characters are people that we all know, thus Fiske and Hartley’s understanding of television as a bardic medium can be applied here. The performance of these characters, even though they are played up stereotypes, represent the society that we live in today. Stereotypes may be over exaggerated, but they’re true and every group of friends has different personality stereotypes.

Ultimately, How I Met Your Mother supports Fiske and Hartley’s analysis of television. Fiske and Hartley see TV as a clawback- Television’s attempt to draw its subject matter closer to society/back to the central medium. The relatable characters in How I Met Your Mother allow this.

Works Cited

Fiske, John, and John Hartley. “Chapter 6: Bardic Television.” Reading Television. London: Methuen, 1978. 85-100. Print.


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