Friday, 4 October 2013

Macguffin plot in HIMYM

What exactly is the Macguffin plot device?
It is a plot vehicle adopted by several writers to advance or propel a story forward, a fulcrum in certain cases but which is of secondary importance to the developments in the main story. The use of this plot device was mainly popularized by the famous filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, who used it in multiple creations of his. This device is mostly used in thrillers, detective fiction and suspense stories where the Macguffin is revealed at a critical moment. The same device has been used in several TV seriates where usually the Macguffins are restricted to one episode or to one season. But there are shows like HIMYM who use the Macguffin for the entire set of seasons as a single thread.

How does the TV series How I Met Your Mother overuse this plot device?
The entire set up of the show is based on Ted Moseby searching for his perfect soul mate, the mother of his two kids to whom he is shown to be telling stories in every single episode about how he met their mother. The show is a sitcom and is amongst the very few in the genre which use the Macguffin plot device for the entire stretch of its origin, from the very first episode to almost the last.
The show has reached it’s ninth (and hopefully final) season and it is only in the final episode of the eighth season that the eagerly waiting audience and perhaps the very bored Moseby kids get to actually know about their real mother after hearing hundreds of tales about Ted and his awesome friends. The thrill of waiting to know how Ted meets his soul mate has slowly faded with time as viewers slowly have started to get frustrated by hopelessly waiting for the mystery woman to be unveiled.

The whole suspense element of the arrival of the mother has been stretched so much over the years that many loyal viewers have done multiple speculations about the mother and how Ted met her. The mother’s identity has been lightly suggested and hinted about with small shots of her boots and her yellow umbrella being shows occasionally to keep the audience hooked on to the mystery but never before the season finale of the eight installment did we really get to see her in entirety. Many have speculated that the mother doesn’t origin and Ted might reveal at the end of the series that the kids were adopted and all he wanted to tell them were stories about the fabulous uncles, Barney and Marshall and aunts, Robin and Lily.

The whole mystery behind “the woman” of Ted’s life has been taken so far that people have almost left the hope of even getting to know who she is. It is interesting to notice that the whole idea of the mother provides a mere backdrop, a reason for Ted to tell the tales. It does not add anything to the real show for it is entertaining with the endless antics Barney keeps coming up with, embarrassing tales from everybody’s past, the unexpected Barney-Robin love twist and the ever so cute Marshall and Lily. Finally, as the curtain is raised, we all eagerly wait to see how actually Ted gets to make her his children’s mother.

Swarnali Das


  1. I already know who the mother is but would love to watch. Not getting time :(
    and A new word I learnt today Swarnali - Macguffin plot
    thanks :)

    1. I know as well...but I kinda lost interest in the show, it has started to get extremely repetitive for me. But well I do want to see how Ted actually gets hitched to're most welcome :)

  2. A well written article about a very interesting device writers/directors often use.

    1. Thank you, Debi :) The Macguffin is good as long as it is revealed in proper time else it loses the charm and the viewers are left frustrated.

  3. Hey cool... Thank you for sharing what Macguffin plot is... Ted Mosby has been holding the secret for an eternity now. You are so right about the life of the plot. Until the previous season, we used to be so excited about catching up the episodes aired on Indian television everyday. But now the break from the previous season has been so long plus the show is aired just once a week, so yes the interest is fading out.

    1. Hello there, Anuradha!! I know,right? I used to wait with so much excitement to know the identity of the mother and she never showed up and now that she is finally here, I don't really feel any excitement.


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