Wednesday, May 2

Robin Scherbatsky is my power animal.

Two weeks ago, Flavorwire came out with a list of 15 of the most powerful women characters in TV:
Apparently, when you raise your little girl as though she’s a little boy, the result looks something like Robin Scherbatsky. A TV reporter (like Murphy Brown!) who’s worked her way up from puff pieces to hard news, she’s determined to focus on her career, repeatedly declaring her lack of interest in marriage and family. It gets more complicated from there, but even through disappointment and heartbreak, Robin remains one tough lady.
And while people debate over the exclusion of Xena and Dana Scully, I am glad that Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother made the list.

Yes, Robin Scherbatsky has not battled gods and monsters or been impregnated by aliens. And yes, I love Xena and Dana, too. Or even yes, sometimes HIMYM seems like it's an overlong joke, stretched so much that I'm tempted to not wait around for the punchline. But, Robin, OMG.

A lot of jokes have been made at the expense of Canada and her Canadian-ness. That its culture pings a decade too late, or all that plaid and maple syrup. But it teaches a girl to be tough and not be afraid to lose her teeth at ice hockey. And while Robin has had her start as Ted Mosby's Candidate # 1 The One, she surely has been more than that over seven years.

Lately, the creators of HIMYM, Bays and Thomas, seem to saddle Robin with all manners of struggle. She has a deep dark past as "Robin Sparkles." She's been stuck in shows with dead time slots (hello, 4AM Metro news), worked a stint in Japan. Later she realized that if she really wanted to pursue a more solid career, she would have to take steps toward it. She quit her job and took on one that had her hustling research work.

Robin has always said that she doesn't really want to get married and have kids. It's a declaration that raises a lot of eyebrows and questions in television and in real life. Why don't you want kids? Who will take care of you when you grow old? I like it that Robin is brave enough to say this out loud, and shrug and say, I want to be a super awesome career in journalism, and travel the world and be an Olympic pole vaulter.

My favorite--and ultimately the most heartbreaking--HIMYM episode ever is "Symphony of Illumination" (7.12). It departs from the traditional HIMYM opening, that of Future!Ted narrating to his future kids in 2030, and instead has Robin telling her own future kids the story of how she told their father that she was pregnant. Later in the episode, Robin discovers that she is not pregnant, and that she is unable to have kids. She carries the burden of this discovery all throughout the episode, but tells her friends that she found out she couldn't be an Olympic pole vaulter.

This was of the moments in HIMYM that made me believe in the show again. A lot of comedies work based on an established formula (the gang taking on an adventure, with crazy back and forths and playing with flashbacks and flashforwards), or because characters are a type and tend to be static, i.e., Ted's main concern is finding The Mother, or Lily and Marshall with married life and having kids, Barney will always be a womanizer (though that seems to be changing as well). HIMYM has almost perfected their formula (although that too is running a bit thin, or stretched might be the better word), but they've had their breakthroughs of blending comedy with a harsh, side piercing dose of reality. (Marshall's Dad dying was one. This was another.)

But the creators have gifted Robin with a whopper of a character conflict. While Robin has outwardly stated that she does not wish to have children, having that option taken away from you really is just devastating. It's impossible not to be changed by this discovery about yourself. It's something that will affect all future connections and decisions she makes.

While HIMYM can still have the zany back and forth, future and flashback adventures of this particular circle of friends, one can't help how all that would be colored by Robin's recent understanding of herself. No doubt Robin will carry on, as Future!Ted's voice over tells us that while Robin will never be an Olympic pole vaulter, she will have a brilliant career as a journalist, and even as a matador. She will live a full life.

And for me, that makes Robin the most dynamic and interesting character in the series--and even in
all of television--a place that still somehow questions how a woman should live her life to make it worthwhile.

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