This month marks the 25th Anniversary of FRIENDS and as such, the internet is being bombarded with articles, merchandise, pop-up events and enough FRIENDS content for the next 25 years. Though plenty are excited to celebrate this TV show, the conversations surrounding it have also brought up some great points. The main one being: FRIENDS is problematic.
A Buzzfeed article and an EW article, are just two examples of what has been circulation on Twitter this past week. Though major points are being made, points that I very much agree with, I have a rebuttal.
I found FRIENDS the Summer before I started High School. My life had just imploded with a personal family situation; I was absolutely lost and completely depressed. This was before I could define my depression and when my family was getting ready to move from one city to another. I was dropped into a school where I knew no one and lacked the confidence to attempt to connect with my peers; FRIENDS was my happy place. If I’m being ignorantly-honest, I didn’t notice the many many issues that the show carries. I was lost in the funny, in the quirky and in the “WE WERE ON A BREAK” moments.
I held on to FRIENDS like my safety net as I stumbled through High School. I have rewatched every single episode more times than I can count and can recite almost every episode word-for-word. Truth be told: the episodes still make me laugh, even when I know which joke is coming next.
Sure, once I allowed myself to take a step back from my obsession with it, I very clearly saw its problematic ways. FRIENDS is homophobic, misogynistic, fatphobic and extremely white. Ross alone is a character with traits that border someone who gaslights girlfriends for fun. Joey is the king of cat-calling. Chandler’s relationship with fat-Monica and his father who happens to be a Drag Queen give much to think about. Monica put on a fat suit and became the “hilarious” punch line. Rachel gives up her dream job for a toxic relationship. Phoebe is perfect and I don’t want to hear another word about it.
The point being, every single episode of FRIENDS contains extremely problematic content; but you’d be hard-pressed to find content that premiered in the 90’s that doesn’t contain problematic themes. Maybe I’m being naive by choosing to continue to watch this show with rose-colored glasses, but maybe my heart continues to crave the feeling that FRIENDS brought me when I first found it. Maybe sometimes I need the familiar “How You Doin’?” to remember that I survived what I thought to be the worst time of my life. Maybe we can allow people to enjoy things that were created in the past, while we continue to work towards making better and more inclusive content now.
There’s a high chance that choosing the “ignorance is bliss” approach is the wrong one, but nostalgia is a dish best served without a side of knowledge.