Category Archives: Textual Analysis

The “How I Met Your Mother” Finale: A Textual Analysis

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First and foremost, MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.  You’ve been warned.

With the series finale now a month behind us, fans of the hit CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” have had some time to cool off.  For the previous three textual analysis entries, I’ve done them all on shows that I’ve seen very few (if any) other episodes of the show.  So this one is going to be a) longer, b) a little more focused on the nine-season span of the show, and c) totally filled with spoilers and personal opinion.

But this is a good thing.

In the finale, in case you missed it or live under a rock (I’ve already warned about spoilers twice!), Ted Mosby is the best man at Robin Scherbatsky and Barney Stinson’s wedding.  He’s gone through the entire ninth season in flashes forward, flashes back, and all living in the same weekend in the timeline of the show.  After Robin and Barney’s wedding, Ted leaves early to move to Chicago in the morning, and meets the titular character we’ve seen all season, whose name we finally discover, is Tracy McConnell.  Awesome.  We learn of the Ted and Tracy having children, finally getting married, and moving into the home Ted bought a few seasons back.  Robin and Barney get divorced, and Barney goes back to his old ways of scamming girls nearly half his age into sleeping with him.  Tracy gets sick and passes away through a “long” sickness (read: about 15 seconds of viewing time), and dies, confirming the suspicions of a huge number of fans.  

But it doesn’t end there.

Ted’s kids, patiently sitting on the couch for nine years, are irritated.  Their mother has been dead for six years, they insist, and it’s time for Ted to move on.  They’re convinced Ted just told them a really long story about how he is still in love with their aunt Robin, and encourages him to call her up.  Blue french horn in hand, Ted does, and the series ends the same way it started, with Ted standing outside Robin’s door on the hail-Mary of all romantic gestures.

I’ve overcome my initial rage, and in the past month, it’s dulled more to general dissatisfaction.

My biggest issue with the end of the series comes with the fact that, building an entire season up to how Ted actually meets the woman he falls in love with and has his children with, and spends the happiest years of his life with, just to kill her off 20 minutes later is lame.  It’s insulting to fans who have watched the show for nine years (or who have watched the series up to a point and joined in along the way, of course) because the show runners have made a promise of “here’s how Ted ends his quest for love” and then robbed us of the satisfaction of seeing him end up happy with the character you’ve promised when you decided to title the show “How I Met Your Mother.”

Similarly, killing off the mother was mostly expected, but having Ted pursue Robin for the x-th time is just getting tiresome.  It’s like Ross and Rachel in Friends, except with many more backslides and messy hookups.  You spent an entire season building up the marriage of Robin and Barney, with each experiencing doubts and overcoming them, and then tear the entire thing down in the first 10-15 minutes of the finale.  What’s the point of setting up this entire season when you’re going to wreck the entire central event of the season?

I guess the central theme of the show is that love isn’t easy.  It’s never a story book ending the way every other medium tells us.

And that… that is where the ending is okay by me.

South Park: A Textual Analysis

In class we watched Season 11, Episode 4, “The Snuke.”  There’s a new boy at South Park Elementary, and protagonist Eric Cartman is convinced the new Muslim kid is a terrorist.  At the same time, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is headed to South Park for a rally.  Cartman is sure that the new kid is going to bomb the Clinton rally.  In actuality, there *is* a bomb, that a Russian terrorist has stored in Ms. Clinton’s “snatch” (the ‘technical term for vagina’ according to the CIA in the episode) in order to bomb Boston later on the campaign trail.

The episode is a brilliant parody of a lot of things.  First, the episode is done in the style of 24, where the episode takes place over only one part of a day, and a running clock constantly reminds the audience that time is running out.  I’ve never seen 24, but I recognize the style from a random clip or two I’ve seen.

The next thing that South Park riffs on in this episode is the running political joke of Hillary Clinton being frigid because of her husband Bill’s marital infidelity.  In order to disarm the bomb, one of the agents must go inside her vagina like a cave, and they’re afraid it’s toxic.  One man says “That snizz has not seen action for thirty years!”  The agent gets his head eaten off by some monster inside that the audience never sees.

The children take two lessons away, and they conflict with each other.  Butters says that Cartman’s paranoia was totally misplace just because of his racist feelings towards Muslims.  Cartman argues that his paranoia caused the discovery and prevention of detonating a nuclear device.  These are the same arguments tossed back and forth between politicians, pundits, and every day citizens when we talk about the grounds for going into Iraq in 2003.  This, explains Butters, is why “most of the world actually hates us”–because he feels the United States is misplacing its paranoia and pursuing innocent people in the hope of uncovering something sinister when more often than not it just ends up harassing private citizens.

Something else the episode briefly riffs on is the incompetence of governmental agencies.  There’s a great bit in the middle of the episode where the Homeland Security taskforce leader is told to move over by someone from the FBI… who is then told to leave because the CIA is now in charge… who are ousted by two of Cartman’s friends to be “in charge.”  This passing of the buck is such an obvious satire of FEMA during the Katrina aftermath where multiple agencies tried and failed to be in charge of the situation.

The last thing that South Park really satirizes is the Bush Administration’s usage of torture.  Cartman farts in the faces of the Muslim boy’s parents in order to try and figure out where the kid was.  It turned out that they were telling the truth all along and didn’t know where there son was… and it turned out that he was just at Butters’ house playing checkers.  This speaks volumes about how the showrunners believe that torture doesn’t really accomplish anything, owing from the fact that Cartman gets zero useful information out of the people he tortures with his farts.

Hilariously, the final villain was, in fact, Britain.  The queen used Russian mercenaries to plant and detonate the bomb as a diversion of a large British fleet headed towards the United States.  Upon the failure of the plot, the queen commits suicide.

Sex and the City: A Textual Analysis

Season Two, Episode One, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”  First aired June 6th, 1999.

In this episode, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is down in the dumps about her recent breakup.  Her friends, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) have suggested solutions of their own, and settle on taking Carrie to a Yankees baseball game because “Carrie can have a beer at noon without feeling guilty.”  What ensues is Carrie using her press pass (she’s a newspaper sex columnist) to get to the locker room, is meeting “the new Yankee,” Joe (Mark Devine), and getting him to sign a foul ball he hit to the group during the game.  On a whim, Carrie asks him out.  What ensues is the brief romance of Joe and Carrie, ending in Carrie seeing her ex and breaking up with Joe because she isn’t ready to date again like she thought she was.

There’s a couple themes I noticed in the show, most notably, the fact that, like many shows of its era, attitudes towards sex are becoming more casual, the people presenting these attitudes being women, and the classic “chick flick” trope of not being over a former lover.  

Much like shows like Seinfeld, or FriendsSex and the City approaches the subject of casual dating and sex much more openly than in previous decades, indicating a loosening of attitudes towards sex and a lessening of conservative values that prevented this subject from being depicted as blatantly on TV.  During the episode, one of the women complains of how her boyfriend isn’t as well-endowed as she would like, and the show goes into a humorous montage of her being unsatisfied by him in the bedroom.  While not a sitcom in the manner of Friends or SeinfeldSex and the City plays on a lot of the same late 1990’s attitudes of society.  

I think all the more telling, however, is that this is a show in which four women are the ones to broach the subject of sex.  Traditionally seen as a “male” thing to do, it’s interesting to see a show that ran for six seasons and spawned two movies be so progressive at this time.  By doing so, Sex and the City does a great job of breaking traditional gender roles.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t think, going into watching this episode, that I would enjoy it at all, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a very relatable show.  Especially this episode, in which the main theme is that two of the women reconnect a friendship they felt was slipping by finding comfort in not being over their exes and being able to talk things out together.  It’s a feeling that anyone, male/female/other can relate to, and I think that’s what made this show enjoyable.

Miami Vice: A Textual Analysis

After having watched the pilot episode for class, I chose to do my first textual analysis blog post about Miami Vice.

The story of James “Sonny” Crocket, a Miami PD detective assigned to the vice unit, Miami Vice is, in hindsight, a window into the racism and drug culture of 1980’s Florida.  Sonny is undercover as a cocaine dealer when his partner is killed in an explosion set up by an unhappy kingpin.  Sonny accidentally happens upon Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs of the NYPD who is in Miami undercover investigating the same kingpin, Calderone, and the pair team up, though they are suspicious of each other.

The first thing that jumped out at me as a viewer was the underlying racism that ran throughout the entire episode as an unacknowledged but ever-present theme.  Much of the Miami Police Department is white, with a few Latino officers thrown in for “diversity.”  Every antagonist in the show is Latino, and all of the suspects that Sonny and Rico track down or are suspicious of are of a Latino persuasion.  It’s discovered that there’s a leak in the Miami PD somewhere, and you can bet that the person is probably a Latino, based on the ideas perpetuated by the show.  Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, the Latino rights movement especially regarding immigration reform was at full steam, and continues on today.  It’s interesting to hear the protagonists talk so casually about the illegal immigrants and the drug trade with regards to social attitudes of the time.

Another form of racism is between Rico and Sonny.  Rico, an African-American cop from New York, constantly refers to Sonny as “cracka” and “honkey,” slang terms for white people.  And though Sonny doesn’t really retaliate, it’s clear that he is uncomfortable working with someone who isn’t also white.

The 1980’s drug culture was all about cocaine.  Films like Scarface (1983) and shows like Miami Vice show how huge the illegal cocaine trade was in Miami.  It gives off the impression of a generation of people touched in some way by the drug trade, especially with one officer in Miami Vice commenting that probably 80% of the officers are involved in some way.

Stylistically, it’s clear that Miami Vice was targeted at the MTV generation, especially in its soundtrack.  1980’s staples like Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” are intercut with appropriate scenes in the pilot episode, and in a way, really evokes the heyday of music videos on television, this time incorporated right into the episode.