I tried a few times back in the 1990s to take in an episode of Friends, but just couldn’t get through it. It seemed an entirely mediocre offering, and I could never understand why it was so popular, except I suppose as a prequel to the super-charged self-absorption of the coming of age millennial generation. At its peak it attracted as many as 52 million viewers.
But maybe I have to reconsider, and take in episodes now available on streaming video. Because the show was apparently so bigoted that only Archie Bunker could have liked it. (And I am sure that somewhere there must be photos of Friends cast members with a certain celebrity New York real estate wheeler-dealer.)
Millennials watching Friends on Netflix have expressed reservations about the popular sitcom’s storylines, describing it as transphobic, homophobic and sexist. . .
[S]ome millennials found LGBT plot points left them feeling “uncomfortable” – for example when Chandler was paranoid about being perceived as a gay man or made mean-spirited jokes about his cross-dressing dad.
Sexism seeps in when Rachel hires a nanny for her daughter Emma, but Emma’s father Ross can’t handle the fact that the nanny is a man. Ross takes it one step further to being homophobic by asking if he’s gay. . .
Friends still may be of people’s favourite series, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t problematic in 2018.
Hugo Rifkind of The Times of London isn’t having any of it, and correctly notes that the fuss is mostly about virtue-signalling:
Friends has arrived on Netflix and people who apparently never saw it before are going nuts over how offensive it is. . .
For this show to be declared problematic then is itself problematic. . . There is a hunger today to find the flaw, to be the one who says “that thing you think is fine is not fine, and I am a better person than you for noticing it”. You aren’t. You’re a prig and bore. Yes, maybe there’s a mote in my eye. Some eyes have those. No need to gouge them out.
The funny thing is, once upon a time—and that time was only last year—some writers thought Friends was a harbinger or milestone of the Fall of Western Civilization:
You may see it as a comedy, but I cannot laugh with you. To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. . .
Yes, my theory is that Friends may have triggered the downfall of western civilization. You might think I’m crazy. But to quote Ross: “Oh, am I? Am I? Am I out of my mind? Am I losing my senses?”
It’s not a terribly convincing effort (read the whole thing and you’ll see, but trust me you’ll want those minutes back), but it’s more compelling than the PC whiners. Besides: Just wait till they get a load of All in the Family re-runs.
P.S. Maybe we need a sequel, which TV Guide will describe thus: “Middle-Aged Friends. Sitcom about aging post baby-boomers (previously known as Gen-Xers until they were swallowed up by the X-Files) who moved to the suburbs and became Trump voters. Produced by Steve Bannon.”