Last week I finally finished watching Friends on Netflix. I had seen bits and pieces over the years, and I knew the basics of the show, but I this was my first time watching most of the episodes. Like many sitcoms, it’s a nice fluffy piece of television that is easy to keep watching.
To be honest, I didn’t love it.
Shocking, I know. It wasn’t all bad. There are lots of funny parts, and I laughed every time Phoebe made a Regina Phalanges joke. It was entertaining, sure. The chemistry in the cast is undeniable, and I did enjoy seeing all of their crazy antics. I don’t want you to think I spent so many hours of my life watching something I hated, because I didn’t hate it.
But there was a lot in the show that bugged me. Fat Monica, the constant mocking of Chandler’s and Ross’ “feminine” qualities, Phoebe’s marriage, and Ross and Rachel’s relationship all drove me nuts. Friends is an older show–it started more than 20 years ago–and I have a hard time distinguishing between what has aged badly and what is actually bad. If it aired today Friends would be a very different show (oh wait, we’ve seen that.) I think we can forgive certain things since it was made in a different time, but I think it’s still important and interesting to talk about it.
Let’s start with Fat Monica. The body positivity movement has taken off in recent years, but there is still so much hatred and scorn out there for anyone who doesn’t fit our society’s very particular idea of beauty. Why is it such a joke that Monica likes food? Why is it so “funny” to see her dancing in fat suit? I’m fat, and sometimes I like to dance. Should I feel even more self conscious about that than I already do? Weight is obviously an incredibly complicated issue. All I know is, this left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad I’m not the only one feels this way.
The other issue that’s been on my mind since I finished watching is Phoebe’s marriage. I love Phoebe, and I love Paul Rudd. But…why did they have to get married? It was so refreshing that Phoebe was never looking for a husband. She wanted to make her music, hang out with her friends, and have fun. Then, she picked Mike. I never hated them as a couple, and people change. Lots of people decide in their 30s that they want to commit to a long term relationship. I was so excited when Mike told Phoebe he didn’t want to get married, but he wanted to stay together. It is a valid life choice that makes plenty of people happy. We saw happy marriages and unhappy marriages on the show, why not present a completely different way of doing things? I know a marriage is a nice, neat way to put a bow on the show and call it a day, but I wish they had taken more chances and done something more interesting. Over at Pajiba Sarah Carlson talks about a similar issue television is having with characters having children.
Did you have any issues with Friends? Do you think they should all be forgiven since it’s older, and the world was a little different back then? Let’s talk about this!