What Barney Stinson Got Right (And Wrong) In ‘The Bro Code’

barney stinson the bro code

Nearly a decade after it premiered, “How I Met Your Mother” wraps up tonight on CBS. That means goodbye to Ted Mosby, Marshall Eriksen, Lily Aldrin, Robin Scherbatsky…and saddest of all, goodbye to Barney Stinson, played brilliantly (bro-lliantly?) by Neil Patrick Harris. He was a product of his time — when the show began in 2005, the metrosexual and pickup artist cultures were at their awful zeniths — but even though Barney was a sleazebag, he was a hilarious sleazebag, the bad influence with a heart of gold we all want for a best friend.

Our favorite TV characters must eventually disappear, but literature endures forever — so let’s not forget that Barney Stinson is an author, having published 2008’s “The Bro Code.” We gave it a read in anticipation of the “HIMYM” finale, and found many similarities to Guy Code. Are they the exact same? No, but that’s OK; Superman and Spider-Man exist in different universes, but they both fight for the same noble values. Here are some of the things Barney totally nailed (so to speak) and some points of Code contention…

What Barney Got Right: “When interrogated by a girlfriend about a bachelor party, a Bro shall offer nothing more than an uninterested ‘It was OK.'”
What Barney Got Wrong: “Bros before hos.”

Yes, you keep your boy’s bachelor party details to an absolute minimum. However, in many other circumstances it’s OK (if not imperative) to put your girl first. We’ll let Charlamagne take it from here:

What Barney Got Right: “If a Bro gets a dog, it must be at least as tall as his knee when full-grown.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro doesn’t let another Bro get a tattoo, particularly a tattoo of a girl’s name.”

We fully agree that too many guys have tiny dogs these days and treat them like spoiled children — not respectable canine companions — and we likewise agree that a tattoo of a girlfriend’s name is one of the worst decisions a man can make…but how can Barney say all tattoos are mistakes?

There are countless awesome tats out there, and for every d-bag with a trendy one from spring break, there’s a legitimate work of art on someone else. Besides, if your friend is dumb enough to get a spring break fling’s name inked on his bicep, then he’s too dumb to listen to reason anyway.

What Barney Got Right: “Whether he cares about sports or not, a Bro cares about sports.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro never wears pink. Even in Europe.”

Even if guys are complete strangers, they can bond instantly over sports; without a basic knowledge of baseball, football and basketball, you’ll be a social pariah, which is why it’s never cool to admit your lack of enthusiasm. However, wearing a certain color doesn’t make you any less of a dude — as the saying goes, it takes a real man to wear pink. And if you can rock it like Donnell Rawlings, maybe you’ll even get to hang out with a girl like Melanie Iglesias


What Barney Got Right: “A Bro shall not sleep with another Bro’s sister.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “If two Bros get into a heated argument over something and one says something out of line, the other shall not expect him to ‘take it back’ or ‘apologize’ to make amends.”

You’ve gotta consider your boy’s feelings when making certain decisions, especially when his protective brotherly instincts might come into play. That said, guys are going to piss off each other off occasionally, and amends must be made. As Jordan Carlos said in “Guy Code” season three, “It takes only two words to apologize to a man and they’re not, ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s, ‘We good?’”

What Barney Got Right: “A Bro shall seek no revenge if he passes out around his Bros and wakes up to find marker all over his face.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro doesn’t grow a mustache.”

If you fall asleep at a party and you’re not technically in a bed, your friends can mess with you however they see fit. However, when it comes to Face Code, we just can’t agree with Barney that no guy should grow a mustache. Yeah, it’s unseemly on most dudes, but what about Nick OffermanErnest HemingwayMark Twain? (“Inglourious Basterds” wouldn’t have been the same with Brad Pitt killin’ Nazis clean-shaven.) Some faces were made for Movember.

What Barney Got Right: “A Bro must always reciprocate a round of drinks among Bros.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro doesn’t sing along to music in a bar.”

You don’t want to be the cheap bastard who won’t purchase the next pitcher. That’s just greedy, selfish and inhuman. But if you drink enough of those pitchers and a killer song comes on the speakers, feel free to let your voice be heard — on the condition that all of your friends are already singing along first.

What Barney Got Right: “Bros do not share dessert.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “If two Bros decide to catch a move together, they may not attend a screening that begins after 4:40 PM. … Appropriate seating arrangement for two Bros: Bro — [empty ‘we’re just Bros’ seat] — Bro.”

Yeah, splitting a scoop of ice cream with a friend will make guys’ night out feel like a date. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with catching a midnight premiere of that action movie you’ve both wanted to see for months. And movie seats aren’t like urinals — a buffer zone will make it weirder, not less so. That’s not only homophobic, it’s homie-phobic!

What Barney Got Right: “If a chick inquires about another Bro’s sexual history, a Bro shall honor the Brode of Silence and play dumb.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro never spell-checks.”

Obviously, you don’t run your mouth about your buddy’s past partners to a prospective one. But that’s because you’re playing dumb — if your text messages and emails to a girl are riddled with typos and grammatical errors, you’re going to look like an idiot, not exactly a quality women find attractive.

What Barney Got Right: “[A] Bro never brings more than two other Bros to a party.”
What Barney Got Wrong: “A Bro never divulges the existence of the Bro Code to a woman.”

We can’t argue that a party is more fun (and less B.O.-befouled ) when the gender balance is, at the very least, half-female. Similarly, Guy Code isn’t meant to be a sausage fest. Just take it from Damien Lemon at the 1:00 mark below, replying to a viewer angry that ladies now know our ancient customs:

So, Barney, even though we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, our Codes have enough common ground to call you “brother.” We’ll miss you, man — you were legendary.


Photo Credits: CBS/Picture Group

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Marty Beckerman (@martybeckerman) is the associate editor of Guy Code Blog