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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Edited By Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.
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16. Uses and Gratifications Theory in How I Met Your Mother—True Story

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CHAPTER 16

Uses and Gratifications Theory in How I Met Your Mother—True Story

Linnea Sudduth Ward

The critically acclaimed television program How I Met Your Mother told the story of five friends navigating their love lives in New York City. For nine seasons, viewers saw Ted fall in love—and out of love—with countless women, in his attempt finally to meet his future children’s mother. Close friends were integral to Ted’s story. These included his college roommate Marshall Erikson; Marshall’s girlfriend (and later wife), Lily Aldrin; his “legendary” friend Barney Stinson; and his on-and-off girlfriend, Robin Scherbatsky. Although the series focused heavily on the characters’ roman-ces, it also delved into other topics relevant in emerging adulthood, including the purpose of work, changing parent-child relationships, and parenthood.

One plotline that unfolded throughout the series is Barney Stinson’s relationship with his father. The son of a single mother, Barney never knew his father’s identity. To fill this hole, he developed a parasocial father-son relationship with Bob Barker, the host of The Price Is Right. Parasocial relationships are one-sided, interpersonal relationships between media (e.g., television) viewers and media characters or personalities (Horton & Wohl, 1956). For Barney, Bob Barker filled a paternal void, by providing support, encouragement, and a sense of identity. Barney’s parasocial relationship with Bob Barker can be seen in the season two episode “Showdown,” though this overarching storyline is readdressed at several key points throughout the series (Kellet & Fryman,...

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