Everyone by now has heard the news that the entirety of Friends has been brought to the millennial’s new best friend Netflix. Good news right? Now even those without a TV license can have the show running in the background whilst you do other things. If you thought this is a good thing then I’m sorry but the internet has spoken and you’re drastically mistaken.
A number of articles have been springing up of late about how a newer generation discovering Friends for the first time are outraged by the shows blatant lack of respect for the LGBTQ community.
Chandler’s transexual Dad has a number of jokes made at her expense including the ever infamous line where Rachel goes up to a woman in a black dress named Amanda and goes “I get it, a man…duhhh” The crowd loses it, the pre-recorded laughter added to the mix to really make the joke a zinger.
Furthermore, there’s a scene in which Ross is unhappy with his son Ben playing with a Barbie doll because…well…that’s a girl’s toy isn’t it? Boys should be playing with G.I.Joe’s or Action Man or something like that, toys that scared a generation into thinking their genitals would just become skin coloured, smooth slabs when they eventually hit puberty.
Don’t forget about the body shaming, remember Monica used to be fat in the ever tiresome flashback scenes. Her dancing around and eating cake, hilarious right?
I’ve never been a huge fan of Friends, it’s always been easy watching but never made me laugh out loud, it was just sort of something familiar, like your racist Grandad or that dog you grew up with that shit everywhere. endearing? sort of I guess, funny? not really (Although my Grandad has been hilarious on occasion)
My personal tastes aside we have to remember that Friends is over 20 years old and attitudes were different.
The first episode of Friends aired on the 22nd of September 1994. Some people reading this weren’t even born in 1994. I myself would have only been 2 years old when Chandler and Co hit our screens. Society was an entirely different place, world-changing events like 9/11 were to take place in a whole other decade, Bill Clinton was still president and The Simpsons was still considered an amazing show. Percentages of those who identified as trans were nowhere near the numbers they are today with the number of those going through with treatment rising yearly.
When you go back and rewatch old shows it’s easy to get hung up on things that seem shocking by today’s standards. Chuck on an old Disney film and see the stereotypical depictions of certain ethnic characters. If you really want an uncomfortable watch, settle down for an episode of Love Thy Neighbour, a show that first aired on April 13th, 1972. The attitudes towards ethnic minorities are enough to make die a little inside, however, I watch these shows with the understanding that this was just what it was like at the time. You have to remember though that these shows were popular for a reason, they identified with huge majorities of the public, thus showcasing a popularly held view.
We need to use shows from our past as cornerstones to show the progression of society and growing acceptance of everyone as a whole. Bitching about it on Twitter isn’t exactly going to do anything. It’s not like you can go back in time and change the script and public attitudes. Instead, celebrate everything that has come since. For example, Paris Lees became the first openly transgender woman in history to be featured in Vogue UK this year. This comes off the back of French Vogue featuring a Transgender Woman on its cover for the first time ever in 2017. As Lees herself put it “look how far we’ve come”
Change takes time and a lot of effort but surely we should be proud of where we are at now and push for more in the future, not be angry about where we have come from and the fact Ross doesn’t like Barbie.