Monday, March 31, 2014

Celebrating HIMYM? Splendid!

Kids, I'm going to tell you an incredible story.  A story about How I Met Your Mother

Tonight the series finale airs for one of my favorite sitcoms.  I'm convinced I subconsciously forgot to wear mascara today, because I didn't want to ugly-cry it off during tonight's HIMYM viewing.  I didn't start watching the show when it premiered in 2005, but I think I picked it up in the 3rd season, catching up on previous episodes through Stacey's DVDs.  I've been hooked ever since.

I think one of the reasons I love it so much is because when I started watching it, I related to the characters.  They were about the same age as me, they weren't all working insanely high paying jobs with little experience (except Barney, PLEASE.).  Through the years we've seen the characters all go through some pretty dramatic changes, and I like that.  Because your twenties and thirties are full of change, at least in my experience.  I love that the characters always come back to each other because they are the family they've chosen.

Also, I love Marshall & Lily.

I love that for the duration of the series, the writers have given us so many quotable moments, so many callback jokes, so many high fives. 

I wanted to do a Top 10 list of my favorite episodes, but that was just too difficult, so I had to set some parameters for myself.  Below are my favorite episodes from each of the nine seasons, plus my all-time favorite episode.  Spoilers abound, yo.

Season 1 - "Zip, Zip, Zip"
Marshall and Lily abandon their plans for an anniversary weekend away in favor of a low key weekend at home.  This weekend includes a Quantum Leap marathon that makes my heart, well, leap.  Unfortunately they get stuck in the bathroom while brushing their teeth as Ted and Victoria return to the apartment.

Ted and Victoria are finally ready to sleep together, and the build up to the main event is full of cheesy lines like "I wanna know you, like know your soul."  After Lily and Marshall finally make it out of the bathroom, they mimic the absurdity of Ted and Victoria's conversation, including Lily asking Marshall, "What makes you cry?"

In the same episode, Robin agrees to be Barney's wingman for the evening for his "Bro-ing About Town."  This is some lovely foreshadowing for future seasons and also includes the Freeze Frame Five:

Season 2 - "Slap Bet"
The gang finds out Robin refuses to go to malls but she won't tell them why.  Barney is certain that Robin starred in a porno and sets out to find evidence.  He and Marshall enter into a Slap Bet, with Lily as Slap Bet Commissioner, about the real story behind Robin's past.  To throw them off the scent, she creates an elaborate lie that she got married in a Canadian mall.  Through Barney's search, we find out the truth is that Robin was a Canadian teen pop star named Robin Sparkles.  We are then treated to the masterpiece that is "Let's Go to the Mall", and it is truly magnificent.

This also begins the anticipation for the remaining slaps between Marshall and Barney, as Marshall won the right to slap Barney in the face, as hard as possible, five times throughout eternity.

Season 3 - "Spoiler Alert"
Marshall lost the password to the website where his bar exam results are posted.  Meanwhile, everyone in the group finds out their annoying habits through moments of clarity from their friends.  Lily chews loudly, Robin says "literally" all the time, Ted is a corrector, Barney has a whole slew of issues, and Marshall sings about the mundane things in his life, including but not limited to paying bills and doing laundry.  Robin points out that sometimes he sings nonsense, but since it's always so catchy, the rest of them end up with the ditties stuck in their heads.  For example:
AOBCD8663 turns out to be the missing password, and Marshall can finally find out that he has passed the New York bar exam.  Other highlights include Ted doing ASL, like when he first met Barney at MacLaren's.  I love that Josh Radnor actually knows ASL.

I also find the glass shattering metaphor is so true to life.  Once someone's annoying habit has been pointed out, it's all I can focus on.

Season 3 Honorable Mention - "Sandcastles in the Sand" because Robin Sparkles, y'all!  And the video is jus so magnificent with James Van Der Beek reprising his roll as Simon, plus cameos from Alan Thicke and Tiffany.

Season 4 - "Murtaugh"
Basically Ted has his Murtaugh List of things that he is too old to do anymore.  Barney accepts a challenge to complete the entire list before Ted can complete Barney & Robin's list of "old folks" things.  Hilarity ensues.  Also, Marshall starts coaching Lily's kindergarteners at basketball, and they don't have similar teaching philosophies.

My favorite quote from the episode is when Barney says, "My ear hurts so much and I can hear it," after his self-pierced ear becomes infected.  Barney and Robin attending a rave was also pretty spectacular.

To this day, I still laugh out loud at the teen wolf playing against Lily & Marshall's kindergartner basketball team.  It's so absurd! Lily's request that the kids make him feel welcome despite the fact that he looks different is great.

By far the best part of this episode, for me, is how they tried to hide Alyson & Cobie's pregnancies with flowy shirts, laundry baskets, basketballs & guitars.  The entire second half of the season is pretty spectacular because of that.

Season 4 Honorable Mention - "Naked Man" because it works 2/3 of the time.  And I love the callback to this episode in season 9.

Season 5 - "Say Cheese"
Marshall has planned a great birthday for Lily, but Ted throws a wrench in the plan by bringing a girl he just started dating to the intimate party.  Also, Robin tried to get Barney to take a bad picture.

Anyone who knows me knows that Lily's love for her birthday rivals only mine.  I love that Marshall is as excited about Lily's birthday as she is.  He even creates two games for her: Lillial Pursuit and Gilding the Lily.  I freaking love it.

Robin's eventual success at getting Barney to take a bad picture is also tremendous.
Season 6 - "Natural History"
Admittedly, I never liked Zoe.  At all.  And I wanted to like her, but mostly because I went to college with the actress' younger brother.  But no, Zoe was just totally unlikable to me.  Her husband, The Captain, was also pretty ridiculous, but I love that when Ted introduced himself as Galactic President Superstar McAwesomeville, he went with it.  More people should be able to name themselves.

Hands down, the best storyline in the episode is Barney and Robin going through the museum touching things.  Robin carrying around the penguin and saying he's stuffed gets me every time.  Things take a turn for the touching when Barney finds out that the man he called Uncle Jerry as a young child was actually his father.  It's kind of heartbreaking that he didn't have any more contact with Jerry throughout his childhood because of the trouble Barney caused at the museum as a kid.

Season 6 Honorable Mention - "Hopeless" because of the opening sequence:

Also, because "Bad News" is too sad to make this list.

Season 7 - "Ducky Tie"
This is kind a confusing episode, bouncing back and forth between dinner at Shinjitsu teppanyaki restaurant and the Architect's Ball.  During dinner at Shinjitsu Barney bets Marshall that he can complete all the tricks the chef does in exchange for seeing Lily's boobs (now larger due to her pregnancy).  If Barney loses, he must wear Marshall's ducky tie for one year.  While all this is going on, Ted recounts to the group what happened when he ran into Victoria at the Architect's Ball, which he attended with Robin.

I loved Victoria in Season 1, so I was so excited to see her come back in Season 7 (initially - not a fan of her in the rest of her episodes)!  The best part of the episode for me, though, is Robin's constant reminders to Ted to pick up where he left off in the story.  We all know how annoying it can be to be constantly interrupted during a story, and I love that she keeps reminding him to finish.

Season 8 - "P.S. I Love You"
It's Robin Sparkles 4 y'all!  After Robin comes to Ted's defense when their friends say his new girlfriend is a stalker, Barney goes on another hunt for evidence of why Robin feels this way.  It's revealed that she recorded a song called "P.S. I Love You" and was obsessed with a Canadian celebrity.  We later find out the celebrity was Paul Schaffer.

Highlights of the episode include a conversation of Dobbler vs. Dahmer in terms of pursuing a love interest.  As a way of illustrating the difference, Ted uses Marshall and Lily as an example.  The flashback of Marshall playing ukulele to Lily in major (Dobbler) and creepy minor (Dahmer) keys is lovely.  Also, I love any time Jason Segel plays an instrument - especially a ukulele!
The video for "P.S. I Love You" is a fantastic reference to fellow Canadian songstress, Alanis Morisette's video for "You Oughta Know".  Speaking of "You Oughta Know", Dave Coulier has a cameo, as do Paul Schaffer, Geddy Lee, Jason Preiestly, Alex Trebek, Steven Page, and k.d. lang.  It's like the Canadian lottery!

Season 9 - "How Your Mother Met Me"
This season has been a little more disjointed that previous seasons, since it's supposed to take place during the wedding weekend, but flashes back and forward multiple times each episode.  This episode explains what the mother was doing throughout the series till we meet her - all the instances where she and Ted had near misses.  It also starts with the adorable mother-centric opening theme:

This is a pretty amazing episode full of callbacks since we see the last 9 years through her eyes.  I must admit that I cried within the first 3 minutes of the episode when she loses someone close to her.  I cried especially hard when I saw that he had given her a ukulele for her birthday!  We get to see her at the St. Patrick's Day party where she loses her yellow umbrella, which she leaves behind when she takes her former orchestra camp counselor, Mitch, back to her apartment to give him her cello for his underfunded orchestra program.  That's when she finds out that Mitch is the Naked Man from Season 4.

We see how she meets her roommate Cindy during the lecture on Ted's first day teaching.  We see the aftermath of Ted and Cindy's breakup, which leads to Cindy kissing the mother and telling her, "I might have some stuff to figure out."  We see the mother meet her next boyfriend, Louis, after a gig with her band.  There are Save the Arcadia posters in the background when they meet!

We see her meet some of the gang and anonymously buy Ted a drink.  We see her make the conscious decision to move on with her life after a proposal from Louis.  It's all very sweet.

And now...

All Time Favorite Episode!  From Season 1 - "The Pineapple Incident"

After a night at MacLaren's where Ted drinks multiple shots in succession, the next morning is spent piecing the evening together.  Questions Ted needs to answer include how he sprained his ankle, what happened to his jacket, what phone number is written on his arm, who the girl in his bed is, and of course WHAT ABOUT THE PINEAPPLE?!

The each scene of the episode builds on the knowledge of the previous episode.  We learn that Ted gets put to bed multiple times by his friends, each time, returning to the bar and shouting, "I'm back, babydolls!" Throughout the night he repeatedly calls Robin, he sings Cheap Trick to everyone in the bar, and talks about breaking into the zoo because, "I gotta see some penguins, like, right now!"  (I can relate to this feeling.) Danica McKeller guest stars as Trudy, which is awesome, because WINNIE COOPER FTW!

This episode is just full of hilarious moments as Ted recreates what happened the night before.  Easily my favorite episode ever.

And thus ends my love letter to How I Met Your Mother.  Even the episodes that could be better are still good.  I've grown to love the characters, and the actors for that matter, and I'm going to miss them!  Thankfully the show is all kinds of syndicated, and our apartment has two nearly-complete sets of the series on DVD.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fighting Sexism? Splendid!

At the beginning of the month, the American History Teachers' Collaborative held a focus workshop on the history of feminism in America.  It was an amazing day, and we had phenomenal speakers.  Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner gave a joint keynote address in the morning followed by historian Barbara Berg giving an afternoon keynote address.

Via my Instagram

I had the honor of going to dinner with Amy, Jennifer, and some teachers from the AHTC the night before the workshop, and they were just such lovely women.  Their presentation the next day was wonderful and inspiring.  They met while working for Gloria Steinem at Ms. Magazine.  At the end of the day, Amy hugged me.  This person who is amazing and important (and has undoubtedly hugged Gloria Steinem) hugged me!  That basically means I've practically hugged Gloria Steinem.

Via my Instagram

Barbara Berg's keynote posed a couple of really interesting questions that got me thinking about my own life in terms of sexism and feminism.  I have lived a relatively privileged life, but I've encountered sexism since I was a small child.

The first question that got me thinking was "When was the first time you encountered sexism or gender inequality?"

The first time I remember being on the receiving end of sexism was when I was probably 6 years old.  My parents signed me up for instructional league baseball.  In my hometown, there was no softball option for girls that young at the time, so those of us interested in playing either sport had to play baseball.  There were probably 6 or 8 teams in my league.  The league didn't have tryouts, but the coaches all got together to draft their teams.  They tried to split the girls evenly among all the teams, but my team was "stuck" with two girls.

One of the main differences between instructional league and regular little league is that the parent coaches pitch to the batters.  Otherwise, everyone would get walked, and games would take for-ev-er.  As I stepped into the batter's box at my first game, my parents immediately noticed something different about how the coaches behaved.  With my helmet on my head and my hands choked up probably too far on my 14oz aluminum bat, I waited for my first pitch.  My coach took the baseball in his hand, rocked back and lobbed me an underhand pitch.  After I made contact with the ball and ran to first base, one of my male teammates took his place at the plate.  This time the coach sent an overhand pitch toward the batter.  In fact, as we cycled through the next few batters in the lineup, they all hit overhand pitches.  Then Karla, the other girl on my team came to the plate.  Once again the coach lobbed an underhand pitch toward the plate.  It was obvious at that point that she and I were being treated differently from the rest of the team.

After the game, my parents approached the coaches to discuss what they had just witnessed.  The coaches tried to justify their behavior by saying that as girls we would eventually be playing softball and should get used to underhand pitching.  While it's true that both Karla and I would go on to play softball in summer leagues and high school, that wasn't the point.  We were being treated differently based solely on our sex.  At 6 years old, there's not much of a difference in the strength, speed, or agility between the sexes.  Hell, with our hair in ponytails and hidden under ball caps, you couldn't even tell that there were girls on the field!  There was no need to treat the girls on the team any differently than the boys on the team.  My parents assured the coaches that I was prepared to play the same game in the same way as my male teammates.  After that my coaches pitched overhand to both of us for the remainder of the season.

Would I have been any less of a ballplayer if the coaches had continued to pitch underhand to me?  Probably not.  At 6 years old, in a league where everyone bats every inning, and no one is ever considered "out", it's not like I was destined to become the next great baseball player.  The situation did illustrate that even at age 6, boys and girls are treated differently in athletics.

I'm grateful my parents saw the inequality and put an immediate stop to it.  I was never raised to believe I couldn't do anything based solely on my sex, and I think this incident illustrated that for me.  It made a mark on me at a very early age that my sex was not an excuse for anything.

Of course now that I've written about this event from when I was 6, I'm remembering that the real first time I remember encountering sexism was when I was 3 years old and in preschool.  While playing outside on a particularly hot day, I remember the boys in my preschool class were allowed to take off their shirts.  Since I was also hot and sweaty, I tried to take my shirt off as well.  I was admonished by the teachers and told that it was only okay if the boys took off their shirts and not the girls.

Now, I developed early, but I can promise that I certainly did not have boobs at age 3.  Had I taken my shirt off, there would have been no difference between my body and that of my male classmates.  The teacher really should have adopted an all-or-nothing approach to the subject.  Either everyone gets to remove their shirts or no one does.

So I guess that's really where it started for me.  The more I think about it, the more stories from my own history I remember.  I've got a great one from high school that involves Scholastic Bowl, the Assistant Principal, and No Doubt.  Stay tuned for that.

What about you?  Do you remember the first time you encountered sexism?