So I recently made a mortal mistake- I rewatched F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I hadn’t revisited the show since I watched it as an awe-struck 13 year old who immediately wanted to take off for NYC as soon as she finished three seasons of it. But the two month long summer vacations strike, and what did I do? I decided to watch all ten seasons of it again. Why? Because I was reeling from the sadness that had enveloped me as soon as I finished watching Parks and Recreation and I needed the comforting hug of an old acquaintance- and I thought FRIENDS would do that. Wrong move.
First let’s talk about some generally worrisome facts about F.R.I.E.N.D.S:
- New York City is only 40% Caucasian, and yet through and through the cast and the background characters are all consistently white and straight.
- Despite being ‘revolutionary’ in some ways (by featuring a gay wedding and mentioning trans folk in subtext back in the 90s), the treatment of LGBTQ+ members by the six main characters is blatantly homophobic- Chandler’s dad is constantly misgendered and what’s worse, scenes with Helena Bing are always, always accompanied by freakin’ laugh tracks.
- The fragile masculinity. Full stop. Remember the Nanny episode? Remember when Ross loses his ‘salmon’ shirt? (salmon, you guys! not pink! ugh! how can you possibly confuse the two indistinguishably similar colours?!) Remember when Joey has to wax his eyebrows and can’t do it because of his judgmental ‘best friends’? Remember when Ross doesn’t want Ben to play with a Barbie doll because he doesn’t want him to ‘turn gay’? I could continue, but let’s move on.
- Ross Geller
The first three points are disturbing, but I want to talk particularly about Ross Geller. Ross is the backbone of the group- he is Monica’s brother, Rachel Green’s on and off love interest, and Chandler Bing’s college roommate and best friend.
Ross has had a crush on Rachel since high school, and he doesn’t make a secret of it. On Rachel’s first night in NYC, he tells her that he’s always liked her, and she replies that she already knows. Ross does the proper thing here by asking her if it’s okay if he asks her out sometime. Good boy, Ross. Too bad you couldn’t behave the same way through the seasons.
Rachel in the meanwhile sees other guys, notably Paolo, the attractive Italian who lives in the same building. Ross is jealous of Paolo’s good looks and lilting accent, and he makes no attempt to hide it. He makes fun of Paolo’s limited knowledge of English, and calls him a ‘crap weasel’ to the face.
Now cut to Mark, the guy from Bloomingdale’s, who Rachel works with. Despite being in a relationship with her, Ross believes that Mark’s friendly behaviour is simply an attempt to lure Rachel. Ross doesn’t trust her when she repeatedly insists that he is only a friend.
Now cut again to when Rachel and Ross have had Emma, and Rachel decides to have a night-out with Phoebe. She wears a decidedly low-cut dress and Ross has decided that he will have none of it. She’s had his baby, how dare she think that she is a sentient, independent woman who can dress how she wants and go where she pleases? Ross is seriously displeased that Rachel is acting independent of his will. And when the guy Rachel met at the bar calls their home phone, Ross destroys the message he leaves because he doesn’t want Rachel to see other guys.
To say that Ross is jealous and possessive is a tremendous understatement. He sees people as his own– when he finds out that Monica and Chandler have been seeing each other secretly, he flips. It’s his SISTER! Forget that she is Monica Geller, an attractive woman in her late twenties with a promising career as a chef. Nope, she is Ross’ SISTER, and nothing more. And speaking of possessive. When Ross and Rachel get married whilst drunk in Vegas, she immediately wants an annulment. And what does Ross do? He doesn’t get one and tricks Rachel into thinking he did. Is that supposed to be a move that screams ‘I’m eternally in love with you and this is my only way to get married to you’?? Because all it does for me is reinforce how disgustingly controlling and sneaky Ross really is.
He is terribly insecure about his masculinity.
If you search for the word ‘hypermasculinity’ in the dictionary, you will probably find Ross’s name next to it. The man cannot do a thing without wondering a thousand times whether it will affect his machismo.
He cannot get a tan without thinking if it is a traditionally feminine thing to do. He can’t wear a pink shirt without insistently calling it salmon. When Monica tells him to wear a little makeup to detract from his teeth-whitening debacle, he becomes aggressive.
Obviously, it is not all Ross. Joey and Chandler can’t hug without hesitating at first. Joey can’t get his eyebrows waxed without ridicule. He can’t knit with Janine without Chandler mocking him.
But I do not find Joey or Chandler as problematic as Ross. Joey and Chandler’s only flaw seems to be their exaggerated masculinity, while for Ross, it seems to be one of his many, many flaws.
If you would like to read more on this, I’d recommend Rhiannon Thomas’s excellent article on her deconstruction of Ross Geller, or Anna Mardoll’s fantastic piece on the same.
Readers, if you loved something as a child, be it a book, a TV show or a movie, rewatching/rereading it as an adult may not be the best idea. Leave it as it is, because revisiting it will only drastically alter your opinion of it.
Also, do tell me in the comments below if you have started disliking something you liked as a child after you rewatched it.
See you soon!