Did We Ever Know The Real Barney Stinson? – A Fan Theory

So How I Met Your Mother ended about a year ago and we’re still pissed off about it. It stands as one of the most disappointing television finales in history not only in the reveal but the way it was delivered. I don’t think the people of the internet will ever get over it. They’ll certainly never get over their love of quoting Barney Stinson, a role that not only returned actor Neil Patrick Harris to the spotlight but turned him into a national treasure.

Speaking of Barney Stinson, did we ever know the real character?


The answer’s in here somewhere…

Don’t worry, this isn’t another ‘it was all a dream/in a coma’ or ‘it’s purgatory’ fan theory that makes up about 99% of all internet fan theories. This revelation is based on perspective. Before we get to the big reveal let’s consider what we know about Barney Stinson.

Out of all the five main characters Barney is the one who is the furthest removed from reality. Ted is a romantic everyman, Robin a high achieving career woman, Lily is an artist and passionate friend and Marshal is a warm hearted doofus. Barney, on the other hand, is an almost insatiable womaniser who espouses a demented life philosophy. Entire episodes have been dedicated to explaining why they’re friends with Barney in the first place because that’s the most obvious discrepancy with the character. He has nothing in common with his closest friends. Not hobbies, interests or world view. Quite often it feels like they downright hate him.


Not only is Barney an oddity within his social group, he’s an oddity in the world. HIMYM is a pretty realistic show (by sitcom standards) but some things don’t add up about Stinson. His mysterious workplace somehow holds stock in international conflicts and occasionally gets attacked by ninjas. His apartment has science fiction level technologies including a disposable/regenerating bed, a 300 inch flatscreen and a seemingly endless wardrobe. There are a number of plot inconsistencies as well. One episode we learn that he can’t drive, but in a previous episode we see he owns and uses a car. He’s a ladies man with a life size Stormtrooper in his living room. He has alternatively claimed that he never exercises and works out every day. His pick-up techniques require a remarkable level of planning, finances and a supernatural level of luck. His personal morals should have landed him in jail or hospital a few times over.

Barney doesn’t quite make sense, until you take into consideration the premise of the show. Everything in the show is an account by Ted Mosby as he regales his children with the story of – you guessed it – how he met their mother. So perhaps this is just the version of Barney that Ted wants his kids to see.


“But why?” you cry out loud while staring at your computer (weirdo). “What could possibly be his motivation?”

Think about the final scenes of the series. The purpose of Ted’s entire story is to get his kid’s approval for hooking up with Robin. One obstacle he’ll have to deal with is that his kids know Barney, and know that he’s a long time friend of their father, and Robin was the love of Barney’s life. So when Ted tells his whole “I want to bang your ‘Aunt’ Robin, that cool?” story to his kids he casts Barney as a despicable character to justify to his kids (and himself) that this is OK.

As we’ve said, Ted’s kids both know Barney, so wouldn’t they be able to call bullshit on this story? We got that covered. For the story to work, Barney would have to be an exaggeration of the real person, so there’ll be some truth to Ted’s version. And we see Barney develop and mature towards the end of the series, so there is a link to the Barney the kids know.


But wait, there’s more…

As the seasons went on there was one thing that became more apparent. Ted Mosby is a douchebiscuit. He’s pretentious, selfish and has a weird attitude towards women, which leads him to sabotage his relationships because no-one can meet his stupidly high standards and extremely specific criteria. He rarely gives consideration to other people’s feelings, highlighted in episodes such as when he dumps a girl by phone on her birthday, convinces her to go out with him again and then dumps her again on her birthday. He tells his kids some pretty awful stories about his shenanigans…image what he left out of his story!

How I Met Your Mother


Or maybe he didn’t leave them out. Maybe he re-attributed them to Barney. You may remember Barney and Ted hitting a club for St. Patrick’s Day, with it later revealed by Marshal that Ted may have been coming across as a pretty sleazy and immoral person. Perhaps Ted was that person the entire time. He often blamed Barney for his bad behaviour, citing the negative influence and persuasive charm as the reason he was led astray. I suggest that Ted is more like Barney as he lets on to his kids, instead chalking up his un-fatherlike behaviour to Barney.

It would explain why they’re such close friends. It also explains why he would often comment on needing to ‘become the right person’ before he meets their mother. If we assume Ted had more in common with Barney then he would have to change quite a bit before becoming a family man.


Where does this theory leave us? Well, we don’t know the real Barney, just a distorted version who fits Ted’s story. Barney Stinson would be much more toned down, with Ted being more of a willing participant in the womanising and generally poor behaviour we associate with Barney. Keep this idea in mind next time you watch the repeats, see how it holds up!