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5 Times ‘Friends’ Was Actually Really Problematic

Before I begin, I’d like to make it clear that “Friends” has been one of my favorite shows for a really long time. I’ve been (sadly) watching and re-watching the show since high school, and it only got worse when they put every single season on Netflix. I go through phases of watching it, but lately it’s been on every day in my house — and honestly, I’ve realized that it’s actually pretty problematic. There are a lot of jokes, storylines, and dialogue that would totally be unacceptable in 2018. I mean, these things were always inappropriate, but the ‘90s and early 2000s weren’t quite as politically correct. With all that said, here are five instances where “Friends” was pretty problematic.

5. Body-shaming occurs way too often

Assuming anyone reading this has watched the show, the whole Ugly Naked Guy sub-plot is used as a comedic tactic for when things got a little too serious. He lived across from Monica and Rachel and, as his name suggests (because no, the writers never actually gave him a name), he’s always naked. But here’s the thing: He’s a constant source of body-shaming due to his size. Every single character on “Friends” was always super skinny and beautiful (I mean, have you seen Jennifer Aniston?), so the writers would just use this character as an easy way to make jokes about someone not in the friend group, specifically using his physique as the punchline. Monica’s weight in high school is also a common joke over the duration of the series — when Chandler finds her bathing suit from her teenage years, he asks if it was used to cover Connecticut. Rude.

4. Chandler’s dad

Throughout the series, we learn a lot about Chandler’s traumatic childhood. More specifically, we learn that his parents divorced when he was quite young because his father was apparently gay and sleeping with the pool boy. Eventually, it’s revealed that his dad also does drag at a show in Las Vegas. When we finally meet Chandler’s dad, we never find out if he’s formally transitioned to a woman or not. Instead, he becomes the butt of a multitude of transgender jokes.

Bonus problematic detail: Rachel makes a joke about looking like a “transvestite” after Ross does her makeup in one episode. I can’t even begin to explain why that’s an issue.

3. The one where Ross’ hyper-masculinity shines through

In one episode, Ross’ son, Ben, decides he wants to play with a Barbie instead of G.I. Joe. In an effort to prove some stupid masculine nonsense, Ross basically loses his mind as he tries to convince Ben, his two-year-old son, to play with a G.I. Joe action figure. Who the hell cares, Ross? Let your child play with whatever toys he wants. It’s not that big of a deal, man.

2. The way women are referred to/treated

Women are constantly treated and talked about pretty poorly throughout the series. Joey always looks at women like they’re some kind of game (and is known for sleeping with girls and never calling them back), and even chose one as a roommate just because she was attractive. He always makes inappropriate comments and jokes toward Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe, some of which include asking for a threesome or oversexualizing their friendships. Chandler stereotypes his ex-girlfriend, Janice and Ross… well, Ross is just the worst.

1. Where are all the POCs?

“Friends” is about a group of people living in New York City during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Manhattan is famously known for its diversity, especially in regards to ethnicity… so, may I ask, why is basically everyone on this show white? All of the main characters are straight and white. We don’t really see many minorities until the later seasons, with Joey’s and eventually Ross’ girlfriend, Charlie. But still, how did this show manage to go ten years with such a limited amount of POCs in the cast?


Melissa Lee

Oswego '19

CC Melissa is a senior journalism major with a double minor in creative writing and political science at SUNY Oswego. She loves music, makeup, dogs, and napping. 95% of the time she can be found drinking way too much coffee or finding new music on Spotify.
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