It had to be said. By no means are we saying FRIENDS isn’t a good show or unworthy of the popularity and acclaim it earned. As far as comedy show aesthetics go, FRIENDS had a lot going for itself. It had a great cast. Some very solid and genuinely interesting storylines. Most importantly, as comedy shows go, it is still very funny and enjoyable to watch.
Checkout: This FRIENDS quiz if you’re a hardcore fan!
All the way from its release in the 90’s to now, it has earned the position of more of a cultural icon. And perhaps the time of origins of the show can be blamed for this but in plenty of ways, the show was quite problematic.
Rachel and Ross’ Relationship
Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching has one main issue that is Ross and Rachel’s relationship. It was the longest-running plotline in the show. However, it is hard to stomach how the romance managed to engage the audience despite its problematic nature.
The relationship and the subsequent breakup gave birth to the still running ‘break v breakup’ debate. This is just one example of how toxic their relationship was.
Ross had had feelings for Rachel since they were teenagers? And while that did add to their whole buildup, it was still slightly creepy to witness. Which of course could be the reason behind why he was so obsessed with her.
He didn’t trust her, and despite her constant reassurances, was convinced she was involved with her coworker. He also never showed any support for her career. Even though she was finally doing something worthwhile, he expected her to put their relationship first.
And it’s not like Rachel was any better. She was unnecessarily rude and hateful towards Ross’ girlfriend Julie, despite the fact that she had dated (Paulo) and shown interest in numerous guys herself.
She also went out of her way to jeopardize any relationship he had whenever her feelings resurfaced. I mean, she convinced one of his girlfriends to shave her whole head out of jealousy.
FRIENDS featured a number of hilarious running gags that became fan favourites over time.
These included Ross’ being the favorite child, Phoebe’s ‘Regina Phalange’ gag, her songs, none of the friends knowing what Chandler’s job was, Monica’s ”I KNOW” and of course, her weight.
While her weight loss was meant to represent her coming of age and character development, it was just in bad taste and hence one of the reason Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching.
Her eating disorder had been representative of a number of serious issues, from regular teenage awkwardness to insecurity issues from always being the sidelined child.
However, this eating disorder was not treated as an actual problem but instead as a joke.
Her losing weight became the turning point of her life, automatically making her more desirable. Which is a bit of a terrible message to send to the audience.
Moreover, all of her friends used to constantly make fun of her previous weight.
Even Chandler, who she marries later on in the show was shown to ridicule her over her weight.
Transphobic and Homophobic Jokes
Another one of the running gags on the show was Chandler’s past and his parent’s divorce. It was shown to be the root cause for a number of his underlying issues like his smoking, commitment issues, resorting to humour as a coping mechanism and so on.
Personally, I feel like Chandler’s character was one of the most well-executed characters on the show. The way the whole ”funny guy” trope was linked to deep, childhood trauma was not only very well executed but also very convincing. A child who comes from a broken family does tend to have a lot of unresolved issues, almost all of which were represented very well on the show.
However, up till his parent’s divorce, the representation seemed to be fine. But when it came to the representation of Chandler’s father’s transition and life as a trans woman, the show did very poorly.
While the intent might have been to promote acceptance through humour, the general execution did not represent it as such. Chandler was constantly shown to be ashamed and embarrassed by his father. He used his humour deflection strategy to make transphobic jokes about his own father. Even other characters (like Chandler’s mother) made a number of digs at his father, that came off as plain mean rather than funny.
The show does take a shot at the representation of homosexuality in a positive light. Ross’ first wife, Carol was shown to be a closeted lesbian, who later comes out and marries another woman. She has a child with Ross and the three co-parent him
And as far as that goes, the representation of the three raising a child is generally well done. (Read https://lithub.com/so-was-friends-homophobic/ for a more in-depth analysis of this)
However, going with the tide of time, a lot of homophobic jokes are made. Chandler is usually the butt of such jokes since he was always confused to be gay. Why that was, I never quite understood.
Perhaps it was because out of all the male friends he showed the least ‘manly’ traits. Apart from being stereotypical, the fact that Chandler was ashamed of being mistaken as homosexual was incredibly offensive and a poor attempt at humor.
Sexist and Stereotypical Humor
Sexist humor was a constant running gag in the series. From perpetuating and promoting stereotypes to downright objectification, FRIENDS had it all. When Joey starts to develop interests that are deemed as ‘feminine’ he becomes the butt of all jokes in the show.
He buys a unisex bag, very similar to woman’s handbag and suddenly its the funniest thing ever. When Joey is shown carrying the bag, Chandler refers to him as ”Mrs Tribbiani”.
Ross, in general was a problematic character. He had a problem with Rachel working, used to hog his parents attention like a child and was inherently sexist. He had a problem with Ben, his first child with Carol playing with a doll. Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching can be another factor of this.
His only reasoning seems to be the fact that Ben is a boy and hence cannot play with dolls. The whole episode follows him trying to stop Ben from playing with the doll. While this is not only enforcing gender roles but also an acute sense of toxic masculinity that Ross always seemed to display.
He also seemed to have a huge problem with hiring a male nanny. He naturally assumes a male performing a ‘female’ job would insinuate that he is gay and then downright asks him that.
This episode follows a range of homophobic and stereotypical jokes being thrown at the male nanny for displaying a certain sense of sensitivity, traditionally linked with females. Because stereotypical, homophobic jokes are funny apparently.
For a show titled ‘FRIENDS’, one would expect a great emphasis on friendship itself. However, four out of the six friends end up together. And while there is nothing inherently problematic or wrong about that, it just is not quite reflective of good platonic relationships. The only two FRIENDS who stay just friends are Joey and Phoebe and even then a possible romance is constantly hinted between the two which hits as another reason of Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching.
So, Should You Still Watch ‘FRIENDS’?
Depends. If you are not easily offended and can tolerate certain tone-deaf jokes, then yes. Besides, the show’s comedic contributions cannot be denied. It gave the world excellent episodes like ‘The One Where No One’s Ready’.
And other than that, in today’s bleak world, a good laugh seems to be the only option. So, if jokes in bad taste don’t particularly upset you, go for it. However, if you are someone who takes these things seriously, do not. hence note Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching for you.
Jokes centred on sensitive topics such as fat-phobia are generally very off pitting and a comedy show can end up ruining your whole day.
While we fully acknowledge that FRIENDS indeed had its moments and gave us a good deal of memorable characters and jokes, it did have its ups and downs. Not to attack anyone’s favorite show, since it is quite hard to deny FRIENDS’ nostalgic value, the hype revolving around the show is insane.
It’s a solid show, and we would still recommend it for a good laugh. However, the problematic nature of the show must be acknowledged, and doing so will not reduce its value. so out of these reasons of Why FRIENDS Isn’t Worth watching, which one could you relate to?