Are we still friends with ‘Friends’?

Megan reminisces about one of her favourite TV shows, defending it from critics who find the sitcom ‘not progressive enough’.

Friends. Often thought of as an epitome of the classic sitcom, it has brought joy to the my heart and countless others over the years. How sad I was when the TV powers that be removed Friends from E4, a feeling only overcame when I received the complete boxset for my next birthday.

Goodness knows how many times I have watched all ten seasons, and to this day, it never gets old for me. This year, it will have been 24 years since the show started and 14 years since it ended. It’s quite scary how much time has passed since Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross have graced the small screen.

However, when Friends was added to the Netflix line up this year, it seems that people had forgotten just that: how long ago Friends really did air. Whilst there has been an overall buzz of excitement at Netflix’s new addition, which has shot to being one of the most popular programmes on the streaming service, there are some whose reactions to the show this decade have been overtly negative.

Social media has been rife with posts hinting at Friends’ seemingly homophobic, sexist and fat-shaming tendencies. From Ross’s denial over his son Ben playing with a Barbie, to Chandler’s ‘gay jokes’ and Joey’s womanising, the modern day community has not shied away from criticising Friends.

Whilst I accept that these would be valid points if Friends was a sitcom released today, the fact is that it is over 20 years old now, and since then times have changed. There has been far more awareness in recent years on such topics. How on earth were the creators of Friends supposed to predict the future?

What’s more, people seem to blaming every single issue of Friends on the cast, when this is not the case. Actors get given the material which is included in each episode. Yes, there might be some improvisation involved at times, but the vast majority of the content comes from the script.

What frustrates me even more is that modern sitcoms still show the likes of racist and sexist tendencies, and no one kicks up half the amount of fuss as they have done with Friends. The Big Bang Theory is always making jokes about Raj’s Indian heritage or Penny’s sexual history. How often do you read about complaints over this though?

For me, Friends will always be the show that can make me laugh at the end of a stressful day. The endearing relationships between the group, coffees at Central Perk, and all round light-hearted times with these famous six will forever be something to admire. Lighten up, people. There’s enough darkness in the world at the moment, without having to unnecessarily dissect a show that was innocently created to bring happiness.

Megan Harrison

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