Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers from all ten seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
A week ago Netflix announced that it would not be running all ten seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S on its platform. Fury sparked across the world which resulted in Netflix investing a 100M dollar contract to have it playing throughout the course of 2019.
So why was there so much outrage when an over-hyped show like F.R.I.E.N.D.S was threatened to be taken down? Over the course of years, many have come to notice on the ludicrous amount of cheap humour catapulted at the expense of marginalized communities. Many will perhaps brush off this issue with the fact F.R.I.E.N.D.S is a decade old and that is why it lacks diversity or sensitivity to real social issues that threaten the lives of millions but the show overall lacks characters of colour, enforces toxic masculinity, fetishizes lesbians, romanticizes abusive relationships etc.
These are just a few of the many things wrong with F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The entire plotline of the six best friends Ross and Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Rachel Green, Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani is laced with several layers of homophobia, fatphobia, transphobia, toxic masculinity etc and is no excuse despite its year of creation or cheap humour.
In another episode, a male nanny is hired for Ross’ daughter Emma and Ross shows his discomfort with him and even goes on to ask him whether he’s gay. The male nanny is also portrayed as someone overly sensitive —another harmful stereotype of gay people.
Ross Geller’s sister, Monica was obese in her last years of high school. Her body becomes the subject of ridicule and embarrassment throughout the show when a flashback shows how her own current husband ridiculed her for her weight and implied it was impossible for him to be attracted to him. Monica, seeking revenge and plotting along with best friend Rachel Green, goes through a “glowup” where she loses all her weight and is portrayed as someone beautiful.
Throughout the ten seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Monica’s weight is the subject of ridicule and shame and furthermore enforces the idea of how one can only be beautiful if they are thin and skinny. Monica’s fatness as a teenager is constantly dehumanized and used as something embarrassing of her past. When the gang watched an old prom video of hers, Joey yells out, “Some girl ate Monica!”
Chandler Bing, Monica’s soon-to-be husband’s father was first shown as a gay drag queen and then later as a trans woman. Throughout the show, Chandler’s own mother makes jokes of her ex-husband not being to fit her own genital in her own dress. Chandler is constantly joked of being gay, something he’s shown embarrassment or annoyance throughout the show. On one episode, Chandler’s co-worker attempts to set him up with a fellow male worker and the entire episode is him just proving he’s heterosexual.
Chandler’s father is constantly used as a laughing stock throughout the show. When Chandler sees her dancing on stage, he asks her, “Don’t you have a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?”
There are also instances of relationships with massive age gaps when Ross dates his own student who was a mere twenty years old. Ross is decidedly controlling of his girlfriend and very insecure about their age difference. When she tells him she’s going off to spring break, Ross thinks of the how barely contained young adults are and worries about whether she’ll cheat on him. Monica, his sister, also dates her father’s friend, Richard, who was decidedly twenty-one years older than herself. Richard was Monica’s father’s friend when she was a mere child.
On another episode, Joey discovers the overall greatness there is to shoulder bags. The entire episode continues to mock him and degrade him for something so simple. None of the characters can go five minutes without reminding him it’s a “woman’s purse”. Perpetuating the idea that clothes and styles have a certain gender bias to them is harmful in so many ways as well.
Ross and Rachel’s relationship throughout the series is inherently emotionally abusive. The duo falls apart when Ross cheats on Rachel and struggles to take responsibility for his choice until the very end of the show. At the very last episode, Ross realizes his true feelings for Rachel just when she is to leave for her dream job in Paris and confesses, begging her to stay with him. At first, seemingly romantic, the gesture is somewhat questionable.
Despite the entire series consisting of ten seasons, only two characters of colour play minor roles throughout the show – both being Ross’ girlfriends. Apparently, people of colour in New York were incredibly rare in the 90s.
These are just a few of the instances where F.R.I.E.N.D.S has been incredibly toxic and harmful. Perhaps watching the show when you were young allowed you to skip these instances and not think twice about it – but growing up, being exposed and being aware of your own lack of privileges makes you think twice. The fact it was made in the 90s may be an excuse for allowing it to be shot but considering that the entire plotline is basically derived from the mainly black cast show Living Single, which was aired at the same time, one can marvel at just how white privilege has allowed the cheapest of humour to thrive even for decades.