Ah, the quintessential sitcom of the 90s! Friends was and probably will always be a beloved show, one that will doubtless stay in syndication for our entire lives. It was nominated for a total of 62 Emmys and topped the ratings for its entire run. But while we were laughing and having heated debates on whether or not Ross and Rachel were really on a break, there are some of the things we might have overlooked on our first watch of the series.
Okay, so this one we noticed the first time. But rewatching the series in an era where Orange is the New Black, Parks and Recreation, and Broad City run the comedy world, it’s just glaringly obvious at this point. You could probably count the number of speaking roles by people of color on your fingers.
2) Monica’s Body Image
Throughout the run of the show, we hear about how in high school, Monica was really overweight. Rather than including some diversity in at least the body shapes of the three female characters, the show uses this as Monica’s “tragic” backstory. She was “fat,” but somehow miraculously lost all that weight before her mid-twenties when the show starts. This is also used repeatedly to make fat jokes at Monica’s expense. Was seeing Courteney Cox in a fat suit during flashback episodes hilarious? Okay, many of us might have laughed. But were all those jokes okay? No. Even Monica discusses how being “fat” was horrible and being “thin” is great. The fatphobia was on display in the scenes where they talk about Monica’s past weight issues without any regard for how those opinions effect Monica, or the young women in their audience.
Between Joey and Chandler’s bromance and Ross’ ex-wife who turns out to be a lesbian, there was literally no end to the casual homophobia in the show. That’s the striking thing: it normalized harmful ideas about masculinity, rather than truly celebrating the (usually adorable) friendships between Ross, Chandler, and Joey, which they definitely had the opportunity to do. Don’t believe me? Check out this lengthy YouTube video in which every instance of that homophobia is cut together:
Late in the show’s run, we were introduced to Chandler’s father, Charles Bing or “Helena Handbasket,” who headlined a Las Vegas drag show entitled “Viva Las Gaygas.” It’s never made clear whether his father is transgender or a cross-dresser, but even when not on stage, the character is costumed in dresses and coded as feminine. Their first appearance on the show can be seen at 32:35 – 35:36 in the above video. What could have been a heartwarming storyline of Chandler and his father overcoming societal stereotypes and reconciling became an endless stream of transphobic and homophobic jokes told by nearly every other character on the show at their expense. They perpetuated the ignorance about gender fluidity instead of subverting it.
5) Ross is the Ultimate “Nice Guy”
We all ship it, but let’s back up for a second: Ross liked Rachel since they were in high school. He was the “nerd” with his head in a book who didn’t approach her, and Rachel was the head cheerleader who was boy crazy for every boy but Ross. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Ross being in the dreaded “friend zone” and feel frustrated with Rachel until they actually get together. He’s so nice and friendly, why wouldn’t Rachel see that?! Not that Ross does anything to show Rachel how he feels but stumble over his words and pine away to literally everyone else but Rachel. Then, we’re meant to believe that Ross and Rachel are meant to be together. Throughout their relationship, and especially in times where they were a couple, Ross was someone who did not trust Rachel, who did not believe in Rachel, and who did not listen to Rachel.
But hey, the bloopers are priceless.
Were you a fan of Friends? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Written by Shelby Rosten