The sustainability of comedy classic t.v. show, Friends

Sarah Buchmann

This September marks the 25th year since the popular 90’s sitcom, Friends, aired. 

Friends remained on air for 10 seasons and quickly rose to international fame. 

Netflix announced that Friends would be added to their online library in 2015 and younger generations joined the “fandom” and indulged in the hype of the show. 

But with the resurgence in popularity, viewers began to see Friends in a different light.

The show’s most prominent running jokes have absolutely no place in today’s society and culture. 

“Fat Monica” was a gag that fat-shamed Courtney Cox’s character, Monica Geller. 

The show’s creators placed the actress in a bodysuit with extra padding, wrote scripts making fun of failed dieting plans, and creating subplots of how Monica remained a virgin until her 20’s (because apparently you can’t have sex if you’re fat). 

There’s also the infamous dancing – audiences in the 90’s thought that it was hilarious how Monica was completely oblivious of how her body fat jiggled whenever she busted a move. 

Maybe people were nervously laughing about the way Monica saw herself with no real filter and loved herself the way she was, but the gag has not aged well.

Friends is also under fire for the way it handled LGBT characters and sexuality. 

One of the main six characters, Ross, starts the series having just gotten a divorce. 

Why? 

His ex-wife, Carol, finally came out as a lesbian. 

This was the punchline that was used constantly throughout the show. 

In the Thanksgiving episode titled “The One With Chandler in a Box” (season four), Monica lashes out at the rest of the gang by summarizing their past mistakes. 

She labels Ross as “married a lesbian” and Phoebe as “fell in love with a gay ice dancer”. 

That’s not the only example of homophobic jokes in the series. 

Chandler’s dad was made fun of for being a drag queen in the fictitious drag show, Viva Las Gaygas. 

The character Charles Bing, while being described as a man in the show, was played by actress Kathleen Turner and his sexuality (be it transgender or a gay man drag) was never fully addressed by the show, except to get some laughs. 

There are other numerous instances of anti-gay jokes across the series: Ross refusing to have a male nanny, Joey being teased for using a work bag that looked similar to a women’s purse, Ross being uncomfortable with his son playing with a Barbie, Chandler being incredibly offended with the mere suggestion that he might be gay… The list goes on and on. 

And yet there is still more! Friends normalized the idea of having completely unhealthy, problematic relationships. 

Joey is sleazy, and when looking for a roommate in season six, puts out an ad in the paper saying “Wanted: female roommate, non-smoker, non-ugly”. 

Monica dates her father’s friend Richard Burke, who is 21 years older and has known her since she was a baby. 

At one point, Monica seems to realize that it’s awkward, as she says, “I mean, I’m dating a man whose pool I once peed in!” (Season 2, Episode 15). 

Even the ever lovable Chandler had his own faux pas, by “escaping” his relationship with Janice by pretending he was moving to Yemen (Season 4, Episode 15). 

Rachel and Ross have an infamous relationship with ups and downs, including, but not limited to: cheating, manipulating other romantic relationships in order to be together, getting drunkenly married in Las Vegas, and having a child together but waiting to tell Ross that he is the father. 

In today’s society, their relationship would be considered emotionally abusive and unstable. 

The only one of the gang who doesn’t seem to have clear relationship problems is Phoebe, but then again she doesn’t have a steady boyfriend who lasts more than a few episodes until she meets Mike in season nine. 

Friends has aged poorly – and despite the cute moments and memorable quotes, there is no denying that it could not be aired in 2019 without some major rewrites and changes. 

Plotlines and minor characters would be cut, the laugh track and gag lines would be completely altered, and the premise of the show would most likely be about millenials struggling with student debt rather than sitting around in a coffee shop and ignoring their jobs. 

I guess no one told the writers that life would be this way.