Once upon a time in my high school, I overheard a group raving about how ridiculously funny the show Friends is. But there was the one person in the group who absolutely despised it, and they received a ton of criticism and backlash for their opinion of the show. After discovering the show on Netflix, I did what any curious cat would do – binge-watched it!
As soon as I did, the show started to show its true colours. Of course, I took into account that this show was made in the 90’s and the people behind the show were in their 30’s to 40’s. But I still don’t think there’s any excusing the misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and sexist jokes. They should have been able to witness the waves of feminism, the rise of various minorities and be kind enough to not poke fun at them.
Chandler, for example, is often ridiculed for his traumatic childhood. The expression of emotions by any of the male characters is made fun of and they’re afraid of being “like women.” Chandler’s father is the centre of many jokes, often made in regards to being Chandler’s role model. When Ross and Rachel have a baby, they soon look for a nanny and they come across Sandy the nanny who makes Ross beyond uncomfortable. Throughout their interview, Ross asks Sandy if he’s gay or at least bisexual, and this is highly homophobic and sexist of him and the producers to add into the show. I don’t find jokes like these funny in the slightest. They do more harm than good. Dismissing these kinds of jokes and underlying messages and themes harm the vulnerable minorities being targeted.
The show only had one person who had a different culture than the rest of the group, and that was Joey. Coincidentally, he is portrayed as a dumb playboy who barely has his life together. Joey’s family is portrayed in the same fashion. Don’t even get me started on the lack of diversity in the cast overall. It’s the 90’s! Globalization was in effect and people were immigrating in high numbers all over North America. On the other hand, he was a womanizer and people actually found it laughable how he forgot who he had slept with. The double standards! Joey was allowed to be offended when a woman supposedly didn’t remember him but it wasn’t okay the other way around.
The fat-shaming was also what I found incredibly low. Ross went to a therapist because he had dreams of his little sister eating him. I don’t find that funny either. Ross is a problematic character himself, and his behaviour and jokes that stemmed from him weren’t humorous at all. He was insanely overprotective of Monica when he discovered her relationship with Chandler.
Oh, the toxic and fragile masculinity! I’ll never forget the episode about the satchel Joey got from Rachel. He was constantly being berated about “becoming a woman.” Ross was obsessing over his son choosing to play with a Barbie over a G.I Joe action figure.
I could go on and on and keep listing everything wrong with this show. It’s a great one to watch when you feel like turning your brain off. But it’s really the worst.