The 90s were an interesting time. They gave us grunge music, the Spice Girls, and some … questionable fashions. The ’90s also gave us one of the most beloved TV series of all time. Friends debuted in 1994, and was an instant smash. We’ve likely all seen every single episode (several times), and many of us can recite the dialogue and jokes from memory. But how does the series hold up? Even though the 90’s weren’t all that long ago, it really does feel like a completely different time now. And, as it turns out, some of the jokes and themes in the show are pretty problematic when viewed now.
Friends was about the lives of a 20-somethings living in New York City. There was coffee, romance, coffee, fighting, more coffee, major life-changes, and more coffee.
We followed along with Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey as they hooked up, un-hooked, fell in and out of love, lost jobs, got married, and had babies. We laughed, we cried, we screamed at the TV when Ross slept with the copy girl and Rachel found out. Who among us didn’t lose our shit when Monica and Chandler fell in love? Is there anyone who didn’t sob when Ross opened the door to find Rachel standing in the hallway? Or when Monica demanded Rachel take a pregnancy test at her wedding, and Phoebe tricked Rachel into thinking it was negative to find out how she really felt about it?
For all the times Friends made us laugh and cry and yell and throw things, it will forever hold a place in many a heart. But that doesn’t mean the series was without many, many flaws.
For starters, it was quite possibly the WHITEST show on television. New York City is a vibrant, multicultural city, and we didn’t see a significant cast member of color until Aisha Tyler joined the show in 2003 (Ross’s girlfriend Julie, played by Lauren Tom, had a small story arch in season 2). Then, there were the jokes. The fat jokes, gay jokes, trans jokes, sexist jokes. Hearing them now, and realizing how those themes played so prominently in the plot for many seasons, is pretty cringe-worthy.
For millennials in the UK, many of whom are watching the series for the first time after Netflix started streaming it in the country, it’s hard to look past how problematic the show is in modern day.
I was a uni student in the 90s so looked forward to rewatching Friends on Netflix over New Year. But I agree – the ‘fat Monica’ and ‘gay Chandler’ ‘jokes’ feel very out of place now. And was Joey *always* that bit creepy? Disappointing.
— Christine Carr (@ChristineCarr) January 4, 2018
It’s difficult to re-watch something from 10 or 20 years ago and not spot some issues with how certain topics are addressed (or not addressed). And there’s no reason to NOT still love the show. But it helps to recognize how times have changed, and how what people found funny 20 years ago wouldn’t be a laughing matter now.
It would be interesting to see shows like Friends re-made in the current political and social climate. What a different show THAT would be!
(Image: Facebook / Friends (TV Show)