If Joey ever asked me “Whatcha doin‘ ” my reply would be “not watching a problematic sitcom for the sake of nostalgia.”
F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is one of the most popular American sitcoms that aired from September 1994 to 4th May 2004. The show has inspired lives, people and even cafes. Not having friends who love the series is very uncommon. The TV show co-created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman is still telecasted on channels like Comedy Central. It was a significant but problematic part of my childhood. I watched the first season of the series with my cousin and I found some of the jokes, comments and concepts spiteful. Now that I look back as an adult, I understand why I disliked F.R.I.E.N.D.S. right from the day I started watching it.
The men in FRIENDS could never be my friends because of their rampant sexualisation, fetishisation and homoph*bic behaviour. Whether it is Joey’s constant sexualisation of almost every woman he comes across or his consistent fetishisation of lesbians and women who prefer women, the men of the show seem to be misogynistic.
Making fun of lesbians because of their sexuality is not funny, it’s disturbing, problematic and demeaning to the couples and the individuals themselves.
Monica was fat-shamed quite a few times throughout the show. Fat-shaming her former self and over glorifying her weight loss further made this series anything but funny. The scene of Rachel’s sister commenting about Monica’s former body or the love story of her and Chandler while Chandler only loving her when she was acceptable and thin give us a very wrong perception of weight loss and love. People who weigh more deserve love and affection like any other person.
Monica’s mental health issues too are laughed upon. Her compulsive behaviour portrayed as ‘quirky’, ‘relatable’ and ‘OCD’ makes it harder for any viewer to laugh because mental illness is serious; trivialising and demeaning it will not help the person.
The dinosaur-loving nerdy man whom we were to relate with, expressed his idea of the binary gender spectrum, disregarding non-binary individuals. He was unfunny and people didn’t conform to his idea of being a man or a woman.
Be it his discomfort with his son playing with barbies or his presumption that a male nanny had to be ‘ gay’, his problematic comments stems out numerously throughout the series. According to Ross, not conforming to gender stereotypes makes you a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Drag queens might not have been celebrated back then like they are now but that in no world justifies how these group of ‘friends’ reacted around Chandler’s dad with their condescending behaviour and trans humiliating jokes. Chandler’s Dad deserved better as a character.
Hiring an under-qualified assistant because he is cute and has a nice butt is wrong on a lot more levels. Not only is she objectifying the person but also demeaning his work ethics and skills. Although this wasn’t the only time the show has projected characters giving someone credentials because they were aesthetically appealing. Such incidents spring throughout the series.
Remember when Ross pointed out about the books on homosexuality when he went over to his ex-wife’s house? Thank god she left him because being stuck with a homoph*bic man as a queer person is one of the biggest nightmares out there.
The discomfort, the degradation, the demeaning of Carol and Susan showed us how being a lesbian in the sitcom was funnier than the jokes in the sitcom.
The harassment of Phoebe by Paolo in Season One is hurtful and uncomfortable to watch and then the reaction of the friends is very dismissive as well.
Instead of acknowledging her assault and supporting her at first, what we see is how all of them are more involved in what Rachel would think of her boyfriend cheating. This scene dismisses sexual harassment at the workplace completely. The entire episode was uncomfortable and to an extent scary and unreal to watch and the nonchalant behaviour of the events afterwards only made it worse.
Along with these, the show proceeds to show us a lot more problematic things like the casual borderline sexual harassment, Ross trying to sleep with his cousin or Joey’s blatant sexism which can’t be ignored regardless of the time it was released.
This popular sitcom may be a staple to many regardless of the problematic bits but as a queer individual, it seems to be distasteful and cringe-worthy.