Monday, May 5, 2014

How I Met Your Ending

A few weeks ago, the television show How I Met Your Mother ended it’s 9 year run. This being 2014, and everyone having access to the internet, it was deemed an instant failure because it either lived up to everyone’s predictions, or it didn’t live up to everyone’s predictions... to be honest with you, I’m not really sure. 

I mean... spoilers for a television show that everyone was mad about for a while... the titular mother died. Everyone was waiting for the big reveal and her appearance was kept secret up until the final season, which was a little silly since she was a character we never saw before. And then, despite the fact that the lead up to the last episode featured a million “Is the Mother dead?” articles, a bunch of people seemed shocked when it was revealed that, yes, she was in fact dead, and the main character was telling the story to his kids to remember her, then about getting permission to move on with another character who’s meeting started the whole show.

I thought it was cute.

Of course, since some people didn’t like it, and this is 2014, one of the first things that happened was that someone took the art that someone else created, and altered it because that’s what they wanted to see. Then it hit the internet, and everyone liked it, and the end.

I have a problem with this.

I don’t have a problem with someone deciding they don’t like something... that’s pretty much what the internet is for. It creates a magic identity shield so people think they can say what they want without the fear of people actually hearing what they think. That’s why if you go into a Youtube comments section about an adorable puppy sneezing, it will eventually devolve into a racist rant against the President or a poorly cited conspiracy theory about how all puppies were waiting for the mother to die on How I Met Your Mother.

I have a problem with the recent trend to take someone else’s art and change it because “you didn’t like it.” 

One of the final scenes of How I Met Your Mother featured the two kids that have been listening to the main character, Ted, tell the story for 9 years. Despite the fact that we have been watching for 9 years, through the magic of television time, these kids have only been listening to the story of how many women his father had sex with before meeting their mother for an afternoon. As a result, the adorable kid actors aged to adorable adult actors. So, the scene that featured the kids had to be filmed years ago, before they started aging. Which means this ending, that everyone hated, was the ending the writers of the show were building to since day one. (Or day whatever they did to film that particular scene. Which also means those kids knew the whole time, and didn’t spoil it... good for them.)

So, here we have creators of a show that worked hard for 9 years to build a narrative, and because someone didn’t like it, they decided to change it.

But that’s what seems to happen lately. An entire internet industry has been built on taking art that someone else creates, and either changing it or pointing out flaws that don’t really exist in their minds. We have the “How This Movie Should have Ended”. “Honest Trailers” that point out the “flaws” in each movie. It’s getting to the point that putting something out there at all is a brave act, because people that can’t create are going to take it and mess it up to their own liking. 

Let’s also take a little movie that Disney released that was kind of obscure, you may not have heard about it. It’s called Frozen. I know, I know... there hasn’t been much press about it so bare with me. About halfway through the movie one of the characters sings the big show stopping number called “Let it Go.” Now, I joke about the obscureness of the movie, but there’s a real chance you have never heard the real “Let it Go.” Why? Because there are literally a billion parodies of the song out there. Everyone has tried to not only cover it, but some clever people have added their own lyrics, voices, and whatever, changing this song to whatever they want. The first million were amusing. Now it’s time to stop. Please. Everyone.

Also, on that, there’s only one guy who did parodies well, and that was Weird Al. All of you, creating the Frozen Parodies... you’re not Weird Al. 

Creating something is difficult. Putting out there was a hard thing, because it’s going to be judged and not everyone is going to like it. Believe me, I know, because I try to do it a lot, and I know that not everyone enjoys these posts. I know not everyone thinks I’m as cute as I think I am. And I’m pretty damn cute. But it’s gotten scarier, because of that constant threat that this work will be taken and changed because someone dislikes it that much. Or likes it, in the case of Frozen, and wants to be the person discovered for creating the one funny “Let it Go” parody.

As for something like How I Met Your Mother... the idea that she was dead was floated around years ago. And I liked it. And I was impressed with the fact that they thought ahead to film scenes years ago to make sure everything fit together. But here’s the thing, if I didn’t like it, I’d chalk it up to, “oh, well, these guys who worked hard on a show for 9 years went in a different direction than I would have” and I would have picked up a book or done something where I created my own art. Not taken someone else’s away from them. I'm not saying you can't like it. I'm just saying you don't have to change what the artist wanted.

1 comment:

  1. Specific thoughts on the HIMYM Finale: (Keep in mind, I’m not dwelling on this and lamenting the end of show a month after the finale. I know I won’t watch the last season again because it wasn’t very good. Most of my HIMYM thoughts are what I was thinking about a month ago.)
    If you groaned every time Ted went back to Robin over the past four seasons, as I did, then you would understand why I was so dissatisfied with the ending of the show. I was so sick of Robin and Ted that them getting together in the end is the worst ending for me. Ted became rather annoying over the course of the show, seemingly obsessive and pedantic and easily my least favorite character on the show. He was redeemed during the final season through the flash forwards with the Mother. They were sparkling and romantic, the best part of the season. I would love to watch an episode just of Ted’s moments with the mother. Everything else had an air of stretching the season. In the end, I didn't want to see Ted with anyone else, let alone the person he had tried and failed with over and over and over.
    IF they were my friends, I'd tell Ted and Robin to stop. You aren't good for each other. I'm going to shut up about this eventually.... They had an ending in the can that they didn't have to use. They could have decided that they ending didn't work (as I think it didn't.) I suspect that since they went to that stupid well over and over that they didn't realize it had diminishing returns. In the hypothetical TV movie version of the show, I expect we will hear that Robin and Ted broke up again, realizing it STILL doesn't work. The writer/creator of the Dawson's Creek finale realized that Joey should end up with Pacey not Dawson which was the original intent. These things can change. By not changing as the story evolved, they didn't listen to where the story was taking them.
    Art and Interpretation:
    I understand your stance about criticizing art. Believe me, I’ve done a ton of productions, large and small, and written some, so I know how the critic can focus on something that was beyond the productions control and miss what was great about a production. I don’t agree about changing what the artists wanted. Art has become less sacred to me as I’ve done so many classics, especially art in the service of entertainment. Sometimes cuts need to be made. I’ve seen interpretations of works many times to varying degrees of success. Most of the interpretations don’t last or are a novelty (My current production of The Magic Flute with Japanese style costumes and staging is amazing, but every production won’t and shouldn’t do the same.) They are seen as transitory and the original work lasts longer. Occasionally, they can become the touchstone of how the work is interpreted. Did you know Mahler reorchestrated Beethoven’s 9th symphony? The towering genius that is Beethoven’s 9th symphony. His work is sacred in the classical community and most people agree Mahler’s editing is an improvement. Often, great art takes perspective and a work can revised on greater reflection. It took Sondheim more than a decade to get “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981) right. I love the 1992 version of the show, it is the version that was just done on the West End with the last two years. With the place in our culture that television holds at the moment, how different it is from changing/cutting Shakespeare, Mozart, Verdi to changing Carter/Bays’s HIMYM?
    Also, by pulling something apart, you can learn how to create better yourself. It can be part of the analyzing process. Fitting new words to song like “Let it go” is easy when you are going for cheap jokes, people have been doing it for centuries. It can also teach you something about lyric writing. So, next time instead of sitting in the shadow of someone else’s work, you can create your own.