By Carys Frost
I’m sure many of you have binge-watched Friends episodes, laughing at the same old jokes, crying at the same old moments. However, having been given a new life on Netflix earlier this year, two decades after it debuted on NBC in 1994, many viewers have declared the hit 90s sitcom problematic. Having expressed concerns with regards to its plot lines, many millennials have been offended by the show, claiming that it contradicts the values of today’s society. According to viewers, the show is sexist and homophobic. Its frequent body shaming and lack of diversity in characters have also been pointed out. Perhaps it was a sign of the times or a lack of consideration on behalf of the show’s writers that shaped the problematic storylines, situations and characters. Viewers are now questioning if the Central Perk gang really are there for us.
I’m sure those who have watched the show can recall the recurrent scenes in all 10 seasons featuring ‘Fat Monica’. The gang consistently remind her of her overweight days, making cruel remarks with regards to her size. In a scene where the main cast sit to watch her old prom video, Joey Tribianni exclaims ‘Some girl ate Monica!’. Surely as her closest friends, such offensive remarks shouldn’t be made? Is this indicating that it’s ok to make jokes and body shame others, even your best friends? Yes, we understand that she was ‘fat’ when a teen, but she was happy and content with herself; she embraced her appearance, which is what everyone should do. YOU GO GIRL!
When watching, did you ever notice that there are only two people of colour featured in the show? Yes, that’s correct. The only non-white Americans that appear in the series are Julie, an Asian woman that has a romantic relationship with Ross in season 2, and Dr Charlie Wheeler, a palaeontologist who takes an interest to Ross and Joey in the ninth season. Does this depict the show as white supremacist? That’s up to you to decide. However, as a multi-cultural diverse place, we cease to get an accurate depiction of New York City.
As a viewer, have you ever considered the sexist remarks made on the show? There is a whole episode dedicated to Joey’s love of his brand-new leather shoulder bag. The gang laugh at him, proclaiming that it’s ‘a woman’s purse’ – but it merely is a normal bag. NO NEED TO STEREOTYPE GUYS! Also, remember that time Ross asked, ‘Why is my boy playing with a Barbie?’ He accuses his lesbian ex-wife and her partner of forcing his son to play with the doll. Is this such a bad thing? I think not. Ben is having fun and being imaginative when doing so. This scene stands hand in hand with the LGBT comments featured in the show. Throughout the series, Chandler is constantly overly-sensitive to others’ perception of him as too feminine or being ‘gay’. Chandler always feels the need to defend his sexuality having been mistaken for a ‘gay man’ and being increasingly uncomfortable with this. Is this due to homophobia or just a case of feeling self-conscious? There are also frequent comments made about the homosexuality of Ross’ ex-wife, Carol. The most shocking being when Ross begins to believe that Carol is going to ‘steal’ his new girlfriend Julie from him. Crazy right? How about those frequent references made to Chandler’s transgender father who is a drag queen at a Las Vegas club? Chandler’s mother jokes about whether or not her ex-husband is able to hide his genitals in a dress. Inappropriate isn’t it? Let him be himself and be proud of him regardless of his personal choices.
Matt LeBlanc, who plays Joey in the show, has recently defended these problematic allegations saying, “I’ve heard those rumours too about people taking pot shots at Friends, but I don’t want to get into that. I disagree with all that”. He declared that “Friends was about themes that stand the test of time – trust, love, relationships, betrayal, family and things like that.” Could it be that viewers are overlooking the true nature of the series? After all, friendship and love are at the heart of this iconic show. It is unfortunate that some of its aspects did not stand the test of time and have deeply insulted new viewers. How do you feel? Do you deem Friends as problematic?
Photograph: GreenteaLori via Flickr