Few celebrities in history have had an easier time coming out of the closet than Neil Patrick Harris. After admitting that he was gay in 2006, there was hardly any lasting shock, scorn, or embarrassment of any kind. This despite the fact that for a couple years prior to coming out, he had already been in the process of reviving his career by playing a straighter-than-straight cooz hound by the name of Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother.
Rather than being discredited, NPH’s star has grown vigorously since coming out of the closet. His Barney Stinson character is so popular that people have no problem forgetting he’s gay, and have sort of combined the character and the actual man into pop culture’s most benign and beloved fake ladies man. And on top of all that, his rise has been a benefit to us all.
Here are six ways Neil Patrick Harris has made life easier for straight guys…
He’s Broadened the Limitations of the Man Crush
Used to be, a man-crush was only plausible to project onto a certain kind of male archetype. This archetype, while able to be represented by a whole range of people, usually stuck to a lifestyle that revolved around banging hot chicks, dunking, drinking scotch, stealing expensive artwork, eschewing politics, smoking cigars, never working out and still having a six-pack, hunting exotic wildlife, growing an unironic beard, and having 99 problems without a bitch being a single one.
NPH does some of those things, too…and is openly gay. But that’s immaterial, because man-crushes don’t have to be based in reality, so the fact that his whole qualification as a man-crush boils down to a made-up TV persona (Barney Stinson) is also immaterial. This duality between his on-screen persona and his real life allows guys to cultivate a man-crush without feeling weird about his sexuality. A first in American society? You bet your sweet ass, it is.
He’s Redefined the Rules of Bromance
Used to be, a bromance was a sacred platonic union between two straight dudes, only. Gay never entered into the equation because it was presumably a whole new can of emotional worms just waiting to be opened. Some people (and by some people we mean yours truly) used to say this protected the integrity of the bromance in that it brought about less complications.
But we can no longer assume in good conscious that the subtext of every would-be bromance between a gay guy and a straight guy is the gay guy getting a chance to check out the straight guy’s schlong the next time they go to the urinal together at halftime, and the straight guy wondering if he’s secretly gay for letting it happen.
This is because NPH is so damn good at playing the frat house wingman, it’s almost as if he removes any doubt that a gay guy can just be one of the guys, too.
He’s Normalized the “I Have Gay Parents” Situation
A kid who has gay parents is still easy pickings for schoolyard bullies. Targeting the kid with two dads doesn’t carry the same weight or prospect of some kind of messy hate crime litigation as targeting the kid who might be gay, himself. It’s a clever little sidestep—a loophole, if you will—that allows assholes to keep being assholes.
But NPH is a gay parent, himself. He and his partner have a son, and that son in all likelihood won’t ever have to worry about being crucified for having two dads, because one of his dads happens to be NPH. That’s a don’t-mess-with-me trump card no amount of LGBT pride parades or ACLU legislation can provide.
For now, that’s just an isolated case, but no more than interracial marriage was once an isolated case, until celebrities like Sydney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr. started plowing through white women like it was their job and helped make it not such a big deal.
He’s Eliminated Being Self-Conscious About Dressing Like a Pimp
Screw Don Draper. Screw him and his skinny black ties. Nobody on the planet rocks a suit better than NPH. If Don Draper and The Most Interesting Man In The World could disregard the laws of biology and have a baby that had some kind of X-men superpower that allowed his skin to be a suit, that baby would grow up to be NPH.
If it’s not a funeral, a wedding, or a job interview, odds are the average dude would only put real work into looking sharp if he was trying to somehow be ironic and make a statement about society’s insistence on formality, true rebel that he is. But most of the time, the irony swings the other way, causing things like jean shorts, flannel, and hipsterism to proliferate.
What separates NPH from rappers, business moguls, British royalty, or any other subculture that traditionally epitomizes and upholds style is that he’s not really connected to any of those things. Even among actors, he’s more of an everyman who just happens to wear the shit out of a suit. This makes other guys who aren’t involved in any subculture that demands style less afraid to suit up.
He’s Demonstrated that Knowing Magic Will Help You Get Laid
It’s not just a coincidence that damn near every time NPH does a late night interview, he gets asked to do some cornball magic trick. Neither is it a coincidence that the producers of HIMYM insisted that a penchant for magic be written into his Barney Stinson character.
On the surface, it might not make a whole lot of sense. But when you think about it, who doesn’t like magic? And anyway, it’s all about misdirection, illusion, trickery, and a willingness to suspend disbelief—basically all the elements that go into the art of the hookup. Knowing magic might mean that half the work will be done for you as long as you have a live rabbit and a deck of cards handy. Or maybe they’ll just think you’re a weirdo, but because of NPH, you won’t care about that either, because…
He’s Made Being a Misogynistic, Chauvinistic Creeper Socially Acceptable (or Probably Just More So Than It Already Was)
If you’re a straight guy and watch HIMYM, there’s about a 90% chance Barney Stinson (and by extension, NPH) has become your personal hero by now. Barney’s a serial womanizer who prefers to prey on women with transparent self-esteem issues.
He has a set of rules he follows, written down on a manifest called—no joke— “The Playbook” (observe), to get these women to sleep with him that are mostly predicated on lying like a ninja and being a subtle dickhead at the same time. He’s mostly apathetic about marriage and the social obligations of settling down and having a family, so he doesn’t care if he makes a total ass of himself.
It’s beautiful to watch, and also about 90% of the reason HIMYM is as popular as it is. This win-win process he perfects gives true creepers, mild degenerates, and amoral poonhounds the confidence to stand up and shout “Yes I fucking will get drunk and hit on that hot girl that’s impossibly out of my league!”, and hot girls everywhere sit down, shrug, and say “Meh…at least this will give me a laugh.” That’s called synergy, probably.