Let me confess to one guilty pleasure. ‘Friends’ have welcomed on my screen again after a six year break. Even if I know funnier, smarter, and better acted movies and series, I still catch myself enjoying those fellas. And Netflix helped it a bit.
I might think that within those six years I have become smarter, and more mature, and my taste got more sophisticated, but the joy of clicking on ‘next episode’ is still out there. Hence the ‘guilty pleasure’ category.
It’s been sooo many years, it’s not even worth debating why ‘Friends’ and not anything else. Hugely popular and hugely commented on, nothing to add. The universal message of six individuals hanging out together, joking together, falling in love, divorcing, having lots of casual sex – you can’t go wrong with that, can you? It was cool in the 90s, was cool in the early 00’s, it’s back on today, and probably will be even cooler in hundred years.
Or will it not?
‘Friends’ were written in times when people were much less sensitive about stereotypes. I’ve just finished an interesting lecture given by BuzzFeed (a very everything-friendly website) readers. Most of the comments were positive, no surprises, but there a few very serious statements saying that the producers are racist, homophobic, and sexist. Poor them, they didn’t see that coming twenty years ago…
Even if you never watched ‘Friends’ and you have no idea who Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Monica, and Joey are – don’t worry, keep reading.
Let me write down the hurtful stereotypes.
- Monica loves cleaning and Joey is a one-night stand king. Gender stereotypes have place in every episode, starting from the very first one. And yes, Monica had some promiscuous moments and Joey fell in love at some point (after ten years of being on air), but still – how hurtful! It took twenty years of strenuous research to know that ALL women are messy and ALL men love exploring their romantic side. Anything else is a lie. And so unfair. Also the sexist jokes among the three boys would never take a place in real life. Men don’t talk about women’s breasts anymore because they’ve lost their visual skills. That’s so 90s…
- Ross and Chandler are homophobic. Even though they never said anything directly negative about the LGBT community, we know they were because they also didn’t show much love towards them. They had quite bad experiences (Chandler’s father came out as a transgender and Ross’ wife came out as a lesbian just before giving a birth to their first baby) but still, the unfriendly attitude was unnecessary. Oh, and stereotypes – again! Everyone thought Gunther was gay because of his fluorescent shirts and fake tan, and he wasn’t! Do you also remember that male nanny who loved his job, and cried and at every occasion, and was super handsome? Ross, out of his jealousy, dared to ask if he was gay. And we know he was alone with his thoughts. And despite both Chandler and Ross having good relations with gay representation later on, we remember every single bad thing they said to hurt.
- American ignorance. The amount of jokes on British accent? Uncountable. Their xenophobic nature couldn’t be missed. And Joey’s knowledge about other countries outside America was just ridiculous. It’s very unfair because Joey represented every single person living in the USA and the producers should have been more careful. Also, the xenophobia leads to…
- … the amount of black on people on the series! Or any other race. Even though there were a few throughout the series (mainly girlfriends of Joey), but you can tell the producers put them there just to shut everyone’s mouths. What they should have done, they should have created the main protagonist according to census. Only 72% of Americans are white. That’s much less than 100% of white people in the group of ‘Friends’. Today it’s almost outrageous to put so many people of same races and sexual orientation at same time.
- Monica was fat and unpopular. She was also desperate to lose her weight and she did.. because she didn’t love herself. Obviously, every obese person is obese because it’s their choice. Monica should have worked hard on self-acceptance rather than weight. It’s very hurtful to those who want to stay obese and love themselves no matter what. At some point, Monica even asked Chandler would still be interested in her if she hadn’t lost her weight. The next episode proved that he would be but still – the question from the ex-fatty was inappropriate. Oh, and the word ‘fat’ was overused in the sitcome too.
Those are five main stereotypes I picked. There are hundred more but I’m not good with them, really. I must say, while watching ‘Friends’ I caught myself thinking ‘wow, that wouldn’t work today’. Even though the series seem to be quite vulnerable and purely for entertainment, most of the conversations taken place wouldn’t happen today. I don’t believe anything was hurtful. In fact, some of the stereotypes might have hit me personally, if I really wanted to believe that. Maybe they will when I lose distance to everything what surrounds me.
We could ask the producers to make today’s version of ‘Friends’. I’m sure it’d be still funny, still witty, still sarcastic, but probably less realistic. Chandler was never even close to Pete Griffin from ‘Family Guy’ in terms of racist or homophobic jokes, but we still try to interpret his innocent jokes as a punch toward individualities. We are all individualities, let’s not forget that!
I am going to miss a good, stereotypical joke. A joke that doesn’t offend you but helps you to look at things with much needed distance. And distance helps you to fight with real cases of homophobia, sexism, or racism because you’re able to recognize those.
In case you think I belong to same team as ‘Friends’ producers, read what I had to say about some really bad, stupid, and hurtful jokes from a few weeks ago: http://hatersky.com/2014/11/13/lets-laugh-at-dapper/