It has been more than two decades since the show producers originally aired the first episode, and more than a decade since the last episode, but something about the sitcom ensures people still talk about it, either in a good way, or bad. Yeah, bad – you read me right.
As a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan myself, when I saw post after post like this, and this, I googled a bit to find out, why people feel what they feel. We have different tastes after all, so it’s perfectly normal if what I enjoy, is something others could come to dislike.
I learnt that many disliked Phoebe’s character, as they felt she was rude in her remarks, her principles didn’t hold any value to her, had no real connection to any of them, etc. That the show could have done away with her. I was flabbergasted at first, mainly because so many people I know love Phoebe the best.
Other criticism was pointed towards the flaws in the story-line: Ross not noticing Ben during Monica’s wedding, none of Phoebe’s family making it for her wedding, no proper closure with Phoebe’s father, etc.
While I could agree with certain points, the points themselves felt like a bluff, they were not why we played the game in the first place. Ergo, I’ve decided to play my deck:
The Straight Flush: F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is just a show and no one is going to take it a little too literally. Coming from a country where PDAs are not taken lightly, and speaking about sex is considered a taboo, we all know to take things with a little bit of salt, especially if it comes on a TV screen. I am sure rest of the world thinks so too 🙂
The Full House: To go against my own word, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is not just a TV show, it is a sentiment. Despite all the flaws, quirks, and inadequacies, which I barely noticed, what fans like me perhaps relate to are the finer things that the show stood for.
Chandler: “Honey, I don’t love you because you’re organised. I love you in spite of that.”
[Ep. “The One With The Secret Closet”]
Yes, we don’t look for perfection in things we love, we look for the little things, and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. had that in plenty.
The Four of a kind: Phoebe might be a little rough around the edges. Despite a difficult childhood that forced her to be independent: a father, and mother who abandoned, another mother who committed suicide, a twin who was wildly different and uncaring, one could say she did pretty well for herself. In spite of a murky past, she still believed in the world around her. While it shaped her to be a little blunt, it also made her caring, sensitive, with high regard for principles and values.
Did she struggle in keeping up with her moral compass? Definitely, yes. I can myself point out a dozen episodes, where she oscillates between what she aspires for, and what she gives in to. But isn’t that life? Where all of us are competing against our own potential? We fall, fail, make mistakes, yet remain optimistic in turbulent times, because deep down, we truly believe.
She is definitely not a misplaced, or unnecessary character. She represents that part of us, that part of society that struggles, and hopes all at the same time. Her seeming eccentric theories is what we all seek today in philosophy, therapy, alternate healing, or spirituality, albeit in a refined way.
Not wanting Joey to know that the chick and the duck died, telling she is pregnant when Rachel didn’t want to get under the light, having triplets for her brother, giving up her maid of honor title to Rachel during Monica’s wedding preparations, giving away her bank’s freebies like phone to people on the streets, helping Ross to confront Rachel in the last episode, speaking in French to the casting director and asking him to make Joey feel better… I could probably go on, but I guess I have made my point.
Phoebe was kind, funny, and the sort of friend who always cared to stay in touch despite the distance, and dissimilarities. She let us know that there is always a silver lining. That there is always more to the story, we just need to be open enough. And Phoebe always was open to life 🙂
The Straight: Chandler was not the perfect guy, or so it would seem, but every time that Chandler stood up for Monica, he proved the theory of ‘perfect guy’ wrong. In his own ways, he lets us embrace ourselves for who we are.
For each time that people remarked Monica settled for Chandler, he came back to prove us that Chandler would any day be the best husband a girl could ask for. Be it the candy episode, stopping Rachel’s fight with her sister, making up awards for worst massage, or re-defining high maintenance, we knew we learnt a thing or two from him.
Not all of us might have the right social skills, or the perfect family to set us right, but he lets us know we will pick ourselves up along the way. That for love, friendship, and finer things, you never worry about the money. That when the time comes, somewhere along the way, the right kind of people will come in. The kind of people, who will support us in our newer paths.
That all deficiencies, past anomalies, and embarrassing mistakes will cease to exist in matters of love. He makes us question the norm in his own subdued, eccentric, and sarcastic way.
The Flush: Joey’s love for his friends needs no external validation. He was a great friend, and we knew it. What we also knew was that he was a dumb, inept actor, whose food and sex drive knocked everyone out of the park. He probably taught us what not to do in romantic relationships, and what to do in platonic ones. Neither ill-luck with the few people he loved, nor constant money troubles early in the career, stopped him from giving his all to friendships.
Joey, the food lover, giving up meat for Phoebe, or kissing her on her 31st, standing up for Rachel to Mr. Treeger, wanting his friends Chandler and Ross to enjoy their cup of coffee, with not a care about the bullies, keeping secrets that his friends didn’t want him to share – showed us his tender side, his loyalty.
Joey, like all other characters, had flaws. But at the end of the day, he would make us say, if I had one friend like Joey, I am covered for life. Because we know, he would go any lengths to be with us, like he did with Hugsy 🙂
Three of a Kind: Ross. Enter the nerd. The article on Medium talked about how he was shamed all through out the seasons, just because of his intelligence. I completely disagree. Every character in the show was laughed at, Ross was no exception. That’s all there is to it. In the episode “The One With The Cat”, Chandler says, “Maybe this is one of those times when he is not right?”
Others: “He is?”
Chandler: “No, no. He is right.”
This precise conversation lets us know that they respect him for his views. They might not be interested in the area of his expertise, in comets, or in the smell of gas, but they all think he is smart, funny, kind, and especially right.
When you see him getting a bike for Phoebe, missing his own TV show in Discovery for Rachel, or when he stands by Carol during her wedding with Susan, he showed us the kind of tenderness one has for love. He taught us when it is love, it never goes away. That it would give us the kind of strength to walk down the aisle with the person we love, just to get them married to someone else.
[I also cannot see how it is typecast as homophobic? Not just him, the entire ensemble attended the wedding. They probably made jokes, it’s a sitcom, but they are joking about everything and everyone. Rachel made fun of the Indian accent. I am an Indian, and I am definitely not offended. They are joking about the English as well, yet they have a huge fan following in England.]
Ross showed us how to be passionate in a career even if we’re the butt of all jokes. To be hopelessly romantic, even when we suck at it. To stand our ground, let go, or even fight: for love. To be 30, and love our mother like we’re 12. To be there for a sibling that didn’t get the right attention back home. Most importantly, to have the constant zest for learning and awareness, even if we can’t talk about it in Central Perk.
Two pair: Rachel: Labelled as the spoilt one in the group, who transitioned from being a careless, pampered, daddy’s little girl, to an independent, self-sufficient, and organised woman, she lets us know when we have the right company, they will cheer us on, as we venture out to fly into the world all by ourselves.
That they will stand by us through our highs and lows in love, life, and career. That they will spoil us even more by giving us those presents in our wishlist.
That we might not have started it right, we might not have had a head-start, but we still hold the reign in our hands, and we can steer it right, provided we choose, and take that leap of faith.
By not letting Monica know that she heard her conversation with Chandler, and hugging her instead to let their relationship remain secret, by getting that pizza delivery girl’s phone number for Ross, by having a free mad run as Phoebe was hurt, she showed us the kind of things we do for our loved ones.
One Pair: Monica. The forever hostess | Planner | Organizer | Clean freak. Call what you will, but she donned many hats, all too easily. It probably comes with her temperament, and interests, but we all need someone like that in our lives. While we all love our free-spirited, independent ways of living, something about warm food in the oven, and a place that you call a second home lights up life.
She made Thanksgiving food year after year for her 6 friends, and even custom made few dishes to each of their liking. That’s no easy task. Just for her festive feasts, and everyday meals alone, she scores a ten.
She knew her priorities, and was ready to let go, even when all within her screamed otherwise. She let us know that there is love even after a tough break up. She also laid the sexist stereotyping to rest, as she fell for a seeming ‘unlikely’ guy. ‘Nuff said.
High card: The Show: The Chandler-Monica duo even dealt with the sensitive issue of infertility, rather well, and that of adoption. That is what I like about this show, they neither showed a rosy picture of their lives, nor a happily ever after for ’em all in the end. Joey was single. Ross and Rachel could still go on an another break. While we had a closure, they also left it hanging. Just like life.
As we saw the six characters hang out day after day together – talking about love, life, and passion, cracking their ribs at an old joke, nursing each other’s bruises, or simply choosing to stare at the dimly lit crimson sky waiting for a comet to pass by, they let us know – buddies like that are the ones with whom we would drink all our drinks with.
Of ups and downs, hopes and heartbreaks, tears and teasing, flaws and frivolities, love and laughter, promises and parting: the show had it all.
While the fans did hope for a reunion, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. showed us that sometimes the glamor is in the hiding. The winning is in the losing.
That our courage, our queer laughter, our ability to stay awake as we listen to a late night friend’s rant, our random acts of kindness, all of these alone don’t make us ‘US’; our idiosyncrasies, our fears, our failures, the quest for unknown, all of this, and much more make us ‘US’. To that F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was a testimony!