“It’s back! It’s back!” The screams of joy could be heard a mile away. Lazy students, mid-20s, and yearning for nostalgia shed tears of joy a few weeks ago when Friends finally became available on Netflix. Happily, they could revisit their childhoods, rewatching those half recalled episodes that filled their after school evenings as a kid. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Well, anyone with half a critical eye. Friends has been heralded as a cornerstone of sitcoms and young adult life. But is it? While we don’t doubt that it’s been influential in the development of sitcom structure, we do take issue with its take on issues. Homophobia, degrading women, sizeism, white-centric, and having weird ways of dealing with mental health are all on their roster… And they don’t discuss any of it. While we understand that Friends was from a time when these things were still being used for humor’s sake, now is the time to break it down. Why is Friends actually the worst? Read on.
15 It's a character driven show...with bad characters
In a show that gains most of its humor from the characters, it’s surprising that they aren’t actually all that great. None of the characters are likable in any way, and it’s especially unclear as to why any of them like each other. Everyone is mean to everyone else! While teasing is totally valid (and expected) in most relationships, this show takes it a little far. While we know two of them are siblings and everyone else is dating (at some point in the series), it’s super strange to think about how they’ll call each other gay and stupid. Maybe that’s just our preference for friendships, but we prefer people who support us. And in our shows, we like interesting plots. The biggest reason Friends sucks is because it follows the characters. It’s about their relationships and misadventures. If you like them, that’s pretty interesting. But we feel it’s too difficult to love them. Why? Well...
14 They’re whiny
Everything they do is complain, complain, complain. They are like children, but in their mid to late 20s. They do not seem to know how to make good choices that do not have us going “huh”? With Rachel being the biggest whiny character of them all. And also, for example, Phoebe staying on hold for 24 straight hours. Who would do that?! It is ridiculous, and even more so ridiculous that she wracked up so many fees in tolls with it without knowing. Overall we are not impressed with these poor choices. But more than that, we’re not impressed with the poor responses to the choices. You’d think that an adult would have more of an adult reaction about their item breaking, but no. They’ll whine about it, make an effort to fix it, whine about that effort, and then whine and complain about the results of that effort, and then give up. YUCK!
13 They’re annoying
If the whininess was not enough, they are also just annoying people. Obnoxious and difficult to understand, sometimes the language code gets us riled up. While Friends is interesting because it helped to establish the overblown delivery method which is common in sitcoms now, it was super annoying when it first came out. None of the heightened realism we see in contemporary sitcoms is there. Instead, we see a group of young adults over emphasizing weird words and not really listening to each other. It is a constant battle of one-upping with comedic lines and quick timing, which makes it look like we are watching a show about those class clowns in high school. You know, the kids that were “always on”? Everything was a joke to them, and it got really old really fast. There was never a time where they would just be serious for a second. That is how we feel about these characters.
12 It takes a lot to pick up on the comedy
A lot of the humor in this show is subtle. It comes from knowing the characters and knowing their backstories, and laughing along with them when the going gets rough. Unfortunately, this means that you need to have watched the show enough to understand who these people are. You need to watch enough to get who is hooking up with who, who has had the weird life experiences, and who is dealing with a lot in their lives. Only through this thorough harvesting of information are you then able to understand why the inconsistencies, choices, and hook ups are funny. If you are someone that likes physical gags or intellectual humor you will not find it here. This show is all about gossip mongering and the inherent humor in that, which makes it really daunting to get into. After all, you need to know the people you are gossiping about!
11 The misogyny
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Yes, we know. Most shows from this time have some level of inherent misogyny. Because it was in the writing rooms and production rooms, it’s only natural that we see it on TV. However, what we see is pretty rough. The boys are lustful and a little scary in terms of their sexualization of everything. Monica is reduced to being only valued because of her body. “Fat Monica” shouldn’t be a separate person from “Monica”. She shouldn’t gain worth just because she lost weight. It’s a harmful reduction of women’s values to be solely based on their bodies. That’s gross! While we don’t expect the show to ever change (it’s been released and wrapped up for many years now), we do expect people to look at it with a grain of salt. Don’t accept these as romantic or clever. See what the power dynamics of Friend’s humor are actually saying, and see if there’s any parallel in your own life.
10 The fat jokes
In case you didn’t pick up on it from literally every other episode, Monica used to be fat. Her friends rip on her constantly for being the fat one in high school, and she doesn’t say stop. She partakes too, resenting her past self and perpetuating the idea that you only become a real character after you lose weight. Friends itself doesn’t take issue with this or do anything to disprove it. In fact, Friends seems to push this idea that Fat Monica is not a real character. She serves as a comedic device, filling in backstory with humor and fodder to make fun of. There’s one scene where they get to watch a VHS of Monica getting ready for prom, and not only is it made out to be a joke, but it’s also ripped on (“Who ate Monica?”, etc) We’re super not cool with this, and think that Friends should update their policy on body positivity. You know, if it were to be redone.
9 Making PTSD into a casual joke
Phoebe had a traumatic childhood. While we do not hear much about it, we know enough to say that it is pretty unlikely that she would be as well adjusted as she is. Especially not without years of therapy and support. It is also likely that she would be dealing with some form of PTSD. Her life was pretty heavy up until we see her now, and she is not supposed to be all that much older than everyone else. We have a big issue with the writers giving her lines talking about watching her mother take her own life, and then having the character she is talking to brush it off with a “you can’t use that to get the last blueberry muffin”. It trivializes everything she has gone through and makes us think that they have constructed the backstory as a humor device, with no regard for how it would actually affect the character.
There’s a lot of layers to this one. Not only does Chandler have a backstory about his gay father, but there’s also a lot of open jokes that use gay as a punchline. There’s one episode where they make fun of people for dancing… Saying “Have you turned gay yet?” Super not okay. Chandler is a big problem in this regard as well. As a kid he was embarrassed by his father; this is something important that the show could have had a great discussion about. Talking about familial acceptance, how his mind has changed as he’s grown up, how he dealt with kids at school in a time when he would have faced teasing or bullying about it. But no! Chandler continues to bash and mock his dad, and doesn’t even invite him to the wedding, when his dad had done nothing wrong. There’s no tragic backstory here, just Chandler’s homophobia. And that’s no joke, nor should it stay as an unchanging plot point.
7 It’s “nostalgic”
In a lot of cases nostalgic just means “I vaguely remember this from my childhood so I am going to make an effort to watch it now and pretend I’m having intense childhood happiness flashbacks”. Do millennials born in the 1990s actually have memories of watching Friends? Maybe a few of the older folks who had family members, siblings, or older friends would remember episode details. But we’re willing to bet that it’s not actually a hugely important cornerstone of your childhood life. It’s also not the best thing to be nostalgic about. Between the weird fashion and the poor taste jokes, we don’t really know why anyone would want to be nostalgic about it. It’s a little cringy, and kind of makes us think of ninth grade yearbook photos; hilarious, great to revisit now and then, but we’d love to kill it with fire if given half a chance.
6 It’s from the 90s
Need we say more? A lot of the issues we’ve taken with this show were actually just issues we’ve had with shows from the 90s over all. The cultural zeitgeist of the time was one where gay jokes were okay, demeaning women was prevalent, and racism was still overt. To be honest, not tons has changed. While we’ve moved forward with working towards dealing with these issues in today’s society, shows like this and their popularity prove that there’s still a love for the past. To wish to stay in that culture means to stay within the difficulties of that culture. While we don’t think anyone is actively watching it and wishing they could be a mid-20 in the 90s, we do think that it’s problematic to tear something out of its context and put it back up today. As long as we remember there were issues then and issues now, maybe watching Friends isn’t such a bad thing. Just don’t go derogatorily calling things gay, okay?
5 It’s super white
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While many shows (okay, most shows) in the 90s in North America were super white, it still needs to be mentioned as problematic. Just because it was a given of the time does not mean we can support or defend it now. It is great to see shows nowadays pay more attention to diversity in their casting, but there is still a long way to go. POC representation on TV sitcoms is low even now, though it is great to see shows like Empire and Fresh Off the Boat getting great ratings and lots of love. There’s never too much diversity, and we’re excited to see more. But in the 90s? Diversity was slim to none when Friends was really at its peak. While we can’t only fault Friends for lacking in the representation, since lots of the popular shows were lacking, it doesn’t mean we can ignore or excuse it.
4 It sets us up for unachievable dreams
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Let’s talk about their lifestyles. In this hyper real life they are all living, each of them has fashionable clothes, perfect hair, always enough food, and majestic apartments. Sure, we know housing prices have risen over the last few years, but certainly not this much. There is no way they each could afford their own one bedroom top floor of a mansion style apartment each of them have right now… And especially not now, when the housing prices are literally through the roof. It is just not achievable. Growing up and watching these people goofing off and seldom working but still owning/renting these fabulous places makes us think that that is the norm, and we should aspire for similar apartments. Maybe it is our bitterness coming out, but we kind of hate Friends for making us want all these things we just can’t have. Realizing that they are close in age to you after rewatching te series really does set you up for wishful thinking.
3 They don’t act like “friends”
These people are actually really mean to each other. Like… Remarkably mean to each other. Phoebe seems to get made fun of a lot for being dumb, or for making poor choices, and for making an effort. They all want to keep each other in the same bubble, which doesn’t allow for any room for improvement. We also get a little angry when we see each of them talking about the other ones. It seems a little malicious, like the gossip is all they have to talk about. We also dislike their ways of “supporting” each other. Instead of giving each other high fives and words of encouragement, all we see are friends putting other friends into negative situations. Remember when they made that bear dance all night? Yeah, real friends don’t do that. Real friends get each other a drink after a bad day at work. They don’t show up and make their work worse!
2 It’s impossible to get away from
Check your Facebook Newsfeed and you will see at least one post about Friends. Usually, this post is something to the effect of “Oh my gosh! Just started watching!” This means you can look forward to weeks and weeks of follow up posts about how hilarious, delightful, heartwarming, and important Friends is. YUCK. While you can just link your friend to this article, you are probably safer to quietly scroll on. You will get away from the Friends Frenzy… Until you see someone else posting about it. With the resurgence of its popularity, it is hard to get away from it. Especially now that we are in a digital gossip age. People love to talk about other people, and Friends is the perfect way to fill that void. Their lives are interesting enough and removed enough to keep the small minds occupied, on and off social media. Quoting one of the characters here "stop the maddness!"
1 It’s impossible to get into
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We will say one nice thing about Friends. Despite all it’s flaws, it’s done an okay job perpetuating a storyline about several friends that doesn’t make sense at all. The writers have done a good job holding on to and developing story lines that don’t make tons of sense most of the time. They’ve got tons of content out there, but it’s not like any of it is easily accessible. In order to understand the later seasons, you have to watch the earlier seasons. But the earlier seasons are terrible, even according to the people that like Friends. Maybe this is the real reason we hate Friends: we’re bitter about the fact it’s so daunting to people who haven’t grown up with it. There’s just too much! Maybe one day the essential episodes will come out, and Friends will seem a little less scary. Until then, we’re okay saying that Friends sucks.