This Is Why 'Friends' Doesn't Deserve All The Millennial Backlash
It’s pretty significant when a show is still being discussed and watched over 20 years after it first aired. Unfortunately for die-hard fans like myself, Friends has been receiving a whole lotta backlash, accusing characters like Ross and Chandler of being homophobic, and pointing out cases of sexism throughout the series. But we can’t ignore how popular the show is, which is why I feel it my responsibility, nay, DUTY to defend it.
A fellow writer of mine described Friends perfectly with a single word – ‘cosy’. It’s one of those totally inoffensive shows (until recently) which follows the lives of 6 lovable characters as they find their feet in their twenties and thirties. It addresses sex, relationships, roommate politics, friendship politics, parenthood and even the smaller things like how to be a proud pet owner (and I’m not talking about crazy Eddie’s goldfish).
It might seem obvious, but this show is the best (and funniest) lesson you’ll ever learn on how to be a bloody great mate. And thus I present my main defence of this magnificent show…
It shows the immeasurable value of friendship.
Screw the misconception that guys don’t talk to their mates about personal shit. It’s not all about downing beers at the pub and chatting about who they shagged last week. The characters of Chandler, Joey and Ross, after much dithering and awkward guy hugs, restore women’s faith that men are sensitive, complex souls who can feel as intensely about relationships as us gals do.
Take the pros and cons list. Although it was a barbaric exercise which I imagine would have caused much offence over the past few weeks, it was Joey and Chandler’s way of helping Ross face and organise his feelings. It ended reeeeeeally badly, but let’s not dwell.
And it doesn’t stop at feelings, Chandler and Ross help Joey be more creative with his career in acting and take time out to read his script for him. Then there is always the time when they treated their ‘oily’ T-Zones as a sign of unbreakable bromance.
Now seems an approriate time to tackle that episode with the male nanny. This is the episode which sparked the most Ross hate. Whilst Ross is totally unapologetic for his views on how a man should make a living, his admission later that he was reprimanded by his dad for staying indoors with his toys rather than playing outside ‘like a normal boy’ fully explains his backwards views.
It’s not Ross’ fault, just his super traditional upbringing.
Chicks Before Dicks
We’ve all been stood up by a mate who would rather swan off on a lovely date rather than watch Netflix in bed with a 6-pack of doughnuts and it never feels good. But the loyalty between Phoebe, Rachel and Monica is truly heartwarming. I could recount endless times when the characters stayed in with a pitcher of Margaritas and chatted feelings, but this picture sums it up perfectly.
In dresses that symbolise a lifetime commitment to a partner, they’re chilling out with each other in them. Who says a friendship isn’t as important as a marriage, eh?!
It seems pretentious to learn how to be a feminist from a book- it should be apparent in your day to day activities and choices. Phoebe (who else?) inspires a sudden surge of independence in Monica and Rachel, saying “There’s wind and the wind can make us Goddesses. But you know who takes out wind? Men, they just take it… because they are the lightning bearers.”
What follows is Rachel’s refusal to fit in with Ross’ schedule and the girls admitting to one another when they sabotaged the other. What follows is total forgiveness and support.
It’s the same with their careers. Remember when Phoebe and Monica’s catering business goes bust because Monica decides to follow her true dream of being a professional chef? Phoebe lets go of the business by putting Monica first. In turn, Monica writes an extensive list on what Phoebe can do with the delivery van instead (ice-cream van anyone?)
BE YOUR OWN WINDKEEPER GALS
Blimey, I feel so empowered.
Friendship Group Incest
Oh it’s a bloody nightmare isn’t it?! When two mates from one friendship group hook up it can only go one of two ways – their relationship is flowery, the stuff dreams are made of and it brings a group even closer. Then again, it can mean the group is (pardon my French), fucked.
You know which one I’m talking about. Ross and Rachel obviously! When discussing their relationship, the words ‘we were on a break’ seem to escape my lips. Indeed, I believe that those living in the farthest corners of the Earth have heard these hallowed words.
It’s true, they do go through some tough shit and it does threaten the future of the group, but the group ain’t having none of it. They are forced to be ‘civil’ with each other after their messy break-up ‘otherwise that’s it for us hanging out’. And they actually sort their shit out and make it work for everyone else! One of the many examples when the future of the group is put before individual tiffs.
It seems unbelievable that they know anyone outside of their group, but I promise they do. Apart from Mike and Richard, the relationships from outside the group are a bit skewed. May I remind you of Janice, Joshua, Mona, Emily to name but a few.
Interventions are part of any friendship- when your mate is going a bit cuckoo it’s good to bring them back to Earth. The series sees many an intervention with the group assuring Ross that Emily is a power-hungry, jealous maneater and that Janice is just stark raving mad and that Chandler was just desperate.
Whilst we’re here, let’s discuss Richard who has drawn a lot of criticism as his relationship with Monica apparently resembles something decidedly Weinstein. I would argue that Monica is obviously the most mature of all the group and should probably be with an older man anyway. It’s true that Tom Selleck does carry some of that smarminess characteristic Sean Connery as Bond. He was an unfortunate casting. But it’s interesting to see the group date a variety of people and experiment in their youth.
Without Chandler encouraging Rachel to quit working at Central Perk, promising her that ‘the fear’ will force her to find a better job, she might still be there today. Without Monica fashioning Joey a foreskin, he would have never been in with a chance of getting that coveted role.
In your twenties and thirties it would be impossible to say that your career isn’t bae, or at lest sub-bae. It would also be impossible to say that the group aren’t there for each other in the event of a career crisis. Take Rachel’s conundrum with Joey when he admits to having feelings for her and she uses a job problem to break the ice, telling him ‘my boss tried to buy my baby’. I mean, wtf was she thinking, but it did prompt Joey to barge into her place of work and challenge her boss. The team also rally behind Phoebe after she is sexually assaulted at work, a theme that is so relevant today with the scandals that are shaking Hollywood.
And whilst careers do get in the way of friendships such as Rachel moving to Paris, Chandler moving to Tulsa, Ross boring the group with his Paleontology lectures and the unbearable song Smelly Cat, it would be unrealistic of the show to pretend careers are not a priority.
And after all these years, we still don’t know what Chandler’s job is.
So there you have it. This is why we keep coming back to the show. The relationships in the show are not simply 2D like so many are in modern sitcoms. We love watching the group evolve, fall apart and rally together in a hilarious fashion. Of course there are things that don’t translate well with today’s standards, but it was the first show to show an LGBT wedding and gave much fashion inspo for us millenialls.
Let’s just take the show for what it is – a harmless, ‘cosy’ sitcom.
Were you disappointed when re-watching Friends? Or are you still a die-hard fan?
Images via NBC