Tag Archives: Robin Sparkles

From Artifact to Aimlessness: Robin Sparkles in HIMYM’s “Glitter”

From Artifact to Aimlessness: HIMYM’s “Glitter”

November 18th, 2010

I had originally wanted to have this up the day after “Glitter” aired, but I realized that this would be disadvantageous.

Things that are posted immediately after an episode feel like reviews, and I really don’t want to review “Glitter.” It was a pleasant episode of the series, an often silly bit of comedy that I do not consider an affront to my sensibilities or anything. And so, I do not want this sort of in depth analysis into my frustration with the episode to read like a condemnation of the direction the show has taken Robin Sparkles – this is more a consideration of what has happened, and why it moves away from the character’s origin, than any sort of critical evaluation of this strategy (many, after all, seemed to really enjoy it).

What I want to look as is why some people (myself included) felt this was more than a case of diminishing returns. I was underwhelmed by this episode, but it wasn’t because it wasn’t funny. Rather, it was because the elements of satire and parody which defined Robin Sparkles first introduction were entirely absent, both in terms of the kind of humor the episode focused on (the unintended sexual connotation of nearly every comment) and the way in which the character was deployed.

And, as someone who has already written six thousand words on the series’ construction of Canada through Robin’s past, it’s only natural that I’ve got more to say on the issue after this half-hour.

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A Canuck in an American Sitcom: The Spatial Construction of Canadian Identity in How I Met Your Mother

A Canuck in an American Sitcom: A Paper

February 8th, 2010

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of presenting at the 16th Annual McGill English Grad Students’ Conference in Montreal, where I gave a presentation on the subject of Canadian space in How I Met Your Mother. I had a fun experience at the conference, but I was never entirely satisfied with my paper: I thought it was a decent representation of the basic argument I wanted to make, and people responded to the clips and were able to “see” what I was talking about, but the paper didn’t represent the depth of the show’s depiction of Canada. I only had 20 minutes, so my time was limited, but it felt like those limitations were keeping the paper from reaching its full potential.

So, rather than posting the truncated version of the paper, I spent part of my 21-hour train ride home from Montreal adding some additional material, expanding on ideas that were only hinted on before. As a result, the paper has been transformed into something far longer than I had intended it to be, a lengthy treatise written in the form of a journal article but with the focus of a blog post (in that I don’t spend a great deal of time with sources and the like, focusing primarily on the show itself). It’s a bit of a bastardization of both forms, too informal for one and too long for the other, but I think it’s the closest I’ve come to feeling as if I’ve done the subject justice, and as a result I’m posting it here for you to peruse at your leisure – enjoy!

A Canuck in an American Sitcom:

The Spatial Construction of Canadian Identity in How I Met Your Mother

The greatest challenge facing a multi-camera sitcom is creating a world that feels real even when it is unquestionably fake. Although we are almost always aware that the locations in such shows are only sets, that they have been meticulously crafted and designed by a series of people behind the scenes, the sitcom depends on building a relationship between the audience and its characters, and their homes (like Jerry’s apartment on Seinfeld) or favourite drinking establishments (Cheers on Cheers) are important reflections of who they are and how we relate with them. Setting is, to adopt John Fiske’s use of Roland Barthes’ term, an important ‘informant’ that identifies or locates in time and space, but the falsehood apparent in a multi-camera sitcom can potentially complicate this process. However, over time, the fact that these are only sets becomes irrelevant, as the sets become synonymous with the characters who habitate them: Central Perk goes from a strangely well-lit coffee shop to “the place where Rachel, Joey, etc. hang out,” and the locations become synonymous with the show’s reality through their continued presence in the characters’ lives.

However, while this explains how regular sets in which a sitcom’s characters consistently interact gain meaning beyond their initial construction, it has only limited effects on additional spaces the show may introduce. What I want to address is how CBS’ How I Met Your Mother manages to create distinctly Canadian spaces within a series set and filmed in the United States in order to develop the show’s Canadian character, Robin Scherbatsky. Although the audience is aware that these spaces are ‘fake,’ the show’s writers establish a real connection between the spaces and Robin – a journalist who moves to New York to make it big – that establishes her Canadian identity as a facet of her character which can be played for humour rather than as a joke which defines her character. Robin’s actions and mannerisms place her comfortably within an external conception of how Canadians act or speak, but through the depiction of cultural, expatriate and significant commercial spaces, the series develops its own complex image of Canada’s national identity that fuels both comedy and character within its universe, all within the spatial limitations present in the multi-camera sitcom.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Sandcastles in the Sand”

“Sandcastles in the Sand”

April 21st, 2008

Robin Cherbotsky is the perfect example of a character adrift in their own series – ever since breaking up with Ted at the end of Season Two, she has been an unnecessary footnote to How I Met Your Mother. This isn’t to say that she was unwelcome or grating, but you keep asking the question of “Why doesn’t she get her own life?” She’s not dating any of them, we never see her work or go out on her own, and outside of being Lily’s only friend there isn’t much holding her in the group dynamics.

But she does have one thing: Robin Sparkles. Used to great effect in the show’s second season, Robin’s teenaged pop star in Canada self is something they haven’t gone back to for quite some time, but the buzz is building: “Sandcastles in the Sand” is her grand return, and the first time in a while that Robin has featured prominently in the series in any capacity. We flashback to her teenage years in Canada (“Did he take your maple leaf?” and so many Canadian jokes that they needed a fast-forward mid-rant) where we see James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek, seemingly playing an Irish guy as far as I can tell) and really, really, really bad Canadian accents.

For the series, it all boils down to winners and losers as Robin and her old squeeze reunite…but which side of the spectrum are the viewers on considering that recapturing the magic of “Let’s Go to the Mall” is nearly impossible?

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