Quoted from Metro Online
Actually, Friends isn’t problematic or homophobic – here’s why
“No, Friends wasn’t being offensive.
I was 16 when Friends first came to Channel 4, and it was, for many people my age, the life we all wanted. Never mind the fact that Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and the others were trapped in unfulfilling jobs, frequently broke, and unlucky in love. They had each other, and they got to hang out in plush, rent-free apartments and swanky coffee houses. Fast forward almost a quarter of a century (if that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will) and times have changed.
Friends is now available on Netflix – and it hasn’t gone down well with many viewers, who take issue with the show’s slant on weight issues and homosexuality. I’m afraid it’s left me scratching my head as to why.
Let’s unpack the supposed homophobia first. Yes, Chandler is paranoid about being mistaken for a gay man, but it’s not because he deems it unnatural. It’s simply because he fears it’ll harm his prospects with women – something that was borne out on the multiple occasions he failed to make any impression on someone he’d met, simply because they thought he was gay. There’s nothing wrong with that. The New York dating scene is a dog-eat-dog world and the comedy comes from misunderstanding, as much good comedy does. Chandler has numerous difficulties with his love life – and if you count them up, his occasional lapses into butch misogyny land him in hot water just as often. If anything, the conclusions drawn about Chandler’s homosexuality are themselves the subject of quiet mockery – they’re mostly made by straight people, who make all manner of assumptions based on quaint stereotypes, most of which are subsequently challenged. Conversely, the gay man who Chandler encounters in ‘The One Where Nana Dies Twice’ knows he isn’t gay. Years later, the same thing happens again, where Phoebe’s ex-husband shows up to tell her that he’s not actually gay, despite the fact that (in her words) he throws ‘such great Academy Award parties’. She was wrong – just as Ross was wrong when he assumed that Susan would ‘convert’ his wife-to-be Emily. She doesn’t, and Ross is left with egg on his face.
Why not bring up a stereotype if you want to deconstruct it?
Joey was a jerk with women. We knew that. But there was only one way to challenge it, and that was to show him in action. Come the end of the series, he’s the only one who’s still single.
Don’t tell me that they didn’t tackle these issues head on. Friends held a same-sex wedding at a time when such things were comparatively rare. And yes, Ross never quite dealt with the fact that his wife was a lesbian, but honestly, are we really judging him for that?
Friends challenged the age gap by having Monica fall in love with a man old enough to be her father, with the relationship only coming to an end because of differing priorities. She wanted kids – he’d already been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and then cleaned it after the baby had vomited on it).
Monica’s weight issues are another matter. She was happy being the size she was and only opted to lose weight because of the jibe of a cruel teenager who later apologised. That’s not body-shaming, that’s just real life. Lest we forget, in a series six two-parter, The One That Could Have Been, we’re dropped into a parallel universe in which Monica is still fat – and in which she acquires a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Chandler, who simply doesn’t care. While we’re on that subject, Joey’s father may have piled on the pounds over the years, but that hasn’t stopped him from messing around with two women (one of whom is, somewhat mercifully, Joe’s mom).
There are other accusations that Friends is too white and middle class – but that’s the environment the writers were familiar with, and the one they wanted to pick, so why on earth are we now holding that against them? Or is it really the responsibility of every lightweight sitcom to be as politically correct as possible, purely for the sake of appeasing a few angry Twitter users with too much free time on their hands?
Friends wasn’t a programme about issues. This isn’t Diff’rent Strokes. There were no Very Special Episodes. It was a bit of silliness for a Friday night.
If anything, the problem with the show was that it eventually stopped being funny. The writing became lazy once it was fathomed out which jokes were working better than others, and the regulars all became bland caricatures of themselves – hence Joey, by the time series 10 rolled around, had become completely stupid, simply because that got the biggest laughs. Friends finished with a limp finale, a shadow of its former greatness, but that had nothing to do with the supposed bigotry foisted upon it by a smug, holier-than-thou contemporary audience. It was occasionally sneering, and it resorted to some appalling cultural stereotypes when they went to Britain, but it usually got a laugh, and did so without being obnoxious. So stop telling us that Friends is ‘problematic’ simply because it doesn’t represent the world as it is now, or even as it should be. Of course it doesn’t. It never did. Seriously, could that argument BE any lamer?“