Scandinavian Stereotypes in How I Met Your Mother

Stereotypes in
How I Met Your
Elsa, Hilkka, and Kerttu Vähänen
ENGA17 U.S. Popular Culture
Fall 2013
How I Met Your Mother
 American sitcom (CBS)
 2005–2014; 9 seasons
 Tells about a group of
friends in Manhattan
 Known for its unique
structure and eccentric
 Pop culture references
and stereotypes
What Is a Cultural Stereotype?
 We apply our existing beliefs
about the members of a
cultural group to individuals
 The less we know about the
other, the more we hang on
to stereotypes
 We see what we expect to
see, and our observations
confirm the stereotype
 Stereotypes are often resistant
to change
Stereotypes in Sitcom
 Stereotypes are useful in
 Stereotypes and the
jokes related to them are
already familiar to the
 The episodes are usually
only 20 minutes long so
the jokes have to be
(Triezenberg 2008)
Some Stereotypes about
 People are tall, blond,
and pretty
 Descendants of Vikings
 Obsessed with tolerance
and fairness
 Well-meaning but naive
 Enjoy winter sports
 Funny accent
Minnesota Nice
 Stereotypical, overall
nice behavior of people
born and raised in
 Also, negative qualities,
such as passive
aggressiveness and
resistance to change
 Often also applied to
neighboring Canadians,
as well as Scandinavians
(shared cultural heritage)
Cultural Characteristics:
Emotionally reserved
Tend to avoid
Season 1, Episode 9: Belly Full of Turkey
 Marshall Eriksen
 St. Cloud, Minnesota
 Population: 64,000 (almost 85%
 Many people of Scandinavian
 Marshall and Lily prepare for
 HIMYM: St. Cloud, Minnesota
(video clip)
The Eriksen Family
 The family members display
niceness exceeding even
natural Minnesota Nice, to
the amusement and
occasional frustration of
Marshall's friends
 Marshall says hello to
strangers in the streets of
N.Y.C., and he is always
very polite (compare
Marshall to the other main
characters, especially
It’s always cold and snowy in Minnesota.
Minnesotan People…
Are tall and
Drink milk
Wear colorful
Traditional Family Values
 Women do the
 Marshall’s mother is a
 Only men can play
 The men also like
regular sports (f.e.
Minnesota Vikings)
Small Town Feeling
 ”People know the
 All Marshall´s friends and
family members are still
living in St. Cloud
 In the beginning of the
episode, Marshall wants
to start a family in St.
Cloud (vs. New York)
Distinctive Local Cuisine
Lily is asked to
prepare ”the seven
layer salad”
”But this is an
American holiday”
The Eriksens
themselves as ”the
real Americans”
Why Is It Safe to Make Fun of
 White Anglo-Saxon
Protestants (WASPs) are a
safe target for humor,
because no one is
currently discriminating
them in real life
 A well-established ethnic
group in the United States.
They don’t need to
struggle for their place in
the society
 The Scandinavian and
Minnesotan stereotypes are
usually represented in a
similar fashion
 The Eriksens from HIMYM are
a good example of the
 The series has also seen
other portrayals of
Scandinavia (f.e. Sven; the
Finnish people who love
Works Cited
 How I Met Your Mother. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last Updated 12
Nov 2013, 01:44 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Viewed 12 November
 Lehtonen, Jaakko. Cultural Stereotypes. Views to Finnish Culture.
Department of Communication, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Viewed 12
November 2013.
 Minnesota Nice. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last Updated 16 Oct
2013, 21:53 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Viewed 12 November 2013.
 National Stereotypes. TV Tropes. TV Tropes Foundation, LLC. Viewed 12
November 2013.
 Triezenberg, E. Katrina. 2008. Humor in literature. In the Primer of Humour
Research, Victor Raskin (ed.), 523-542. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.