With its addition to Netflix, Friends has now become a fervent topic of discussion. The will-they-won’t-they storyline of two lobsters and the smelly-ness of a cat is arousing new debates amongst regular users of the streaming service. In particular, the seemingly out-dated and sometimes unsavoury jokes and themes have drawn fresh conversation between new and older viewers. I, as a long-time addict, wanted to drink in the fat of this Friends-soaked cackle and add my two cents into the stew of debate.
When looking into the black mirror between one episode and the next, something caught my attention: “The One with/where xxx.” Each episode is named accordingly; with xxx relating to the amusing activity and/or dramatic plot twist the six New Yorkers encounter. This title is perhaps appropriate to friendship in real, off the four-cornered screen life as well.
People have a habit of labelling their friends according to one particular trait or characteristic. In a group, typically, you can look around to find that other members prescribe each individual a defining habit and orientate the group dynamics accordingly. The given label tends to dictate how the individual interacts with others and the role they play within social circles.
Sometimes people reject their selected quality, whilst the group persists in typecasting personalities. Other times (and more frequently) people assume their token trait, wearing it as a shinny badge and, in extension, embellishing it as a self-filling prophecy. We become ‘the One who xxx” with xxx relating to how our friends characterise and, in the process, compartmentalize our behaviour.
For example, you can have the One who’s sporty, the One who’s funny, the One who’s lazy, the One who eats too much, the One who eats too little, the One who’s weird, the One who’s annoying, the One who’s clever, the One who’s dumb, or even the One who’s political. There seems to be an abundant amount of xxx, but why is it that people are indefinitely defined by their ‘The One who’?
Take the Spice Girls. You have Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice and Posh Spice. Each girl is given a specific personality trait and are asked to live up to this trait in their dancing and daily life. Ironically, the band did not conceive these nicknames, but they derive from a lazy journalist unable to remember their real names. They are, therefore, characteristics certified by somebody else. Like in life, it is interesting how this external rationalisation of people’s personalities sticks and comes to coordinate the way in which individuals express themselves, like a Thanksgiving turkey on one’s head.
Of course, the systematic labeling of the Spice Girls has commercial as well as cultural explanations. However, what about in the off-screen and off-stage world, where people are hung, drawn and remembered according to a specific characteristic. Is this fair? Or is this just human nature?
Do we need to hand out certain traits in order to compartmentalize friendships, like an elaborate game of Guess Who? Is this a way of categorizing, celebrating or reducing our friends? Do we as people like being defined in such simple terms, in order to compartmentalize ourselves and ensure that our plastic head remains flicked upwards?
Yet people are, in reality, multi-dimensioned and multi-layered. They adapt to their environment and evolve overtime, being very difficult to put into concise 27-minute episodes. Yet, “the One Who xxx” keeps rearing its head, placing people into neat, little boxes.
I guess the real question is: What is your “the One who xxx” and do you accept it?
Edited by Angelica Beier