Friends, Part 3: The Girls and Chandler

I’ve been sharing my impressions of Friends after watching it from start to finish for the very first time. You can read observations on the show as a whole in Part 1, and Joey vs Ross in Part 2. This week I’m writing about the girls.

I don’t quite connect with Rachel. Excellent analyses of this character have already been written. I’m only here to share impressions. I don’t have any major complaints about her. I think she’s well-written, and I get why other people love her, I just…eh. Maybe the well was poisoned by decades of hearing people gush about Jennifer Anniston, whom they saw as the sweet, respectable, safely feminine girl-next-door worthy of all good things in a way I felt they didn’t see me. That I found Rachel the least relatable character and Ross the least appealing, yet still got sucked into their trainwreck of a love story and cried at its happy ending, is a testament to how great Friends‘ writing and showrunning was.

Phoebe is everything. Remember I said I had seen a few nonconsecutive seasons before while I was bedridden and binging whatever daytime basic cable had to offer? Phoebe was the one character whom, even without the context of a greater arc, I immediately liked. I would happily watch a show that was just about Phoebe. I could relate to her Weird Girl vibe so much, and I love how she still fits seamlessly into this kind of basic friend group and ends up in a stable marriage on her own terms.

Monica is my cinnamon roll. I will protect her from her garbage family with my life. Plenty has already been written about how the fat-shaming in Monica’s story doesn’t hold up today, but modern shows are still putting skinny actresses in fatsuits to contrast unacceptable and acceptable versions of their bodies, and it was as cruel then as it is now. The difference is that, thanks to the internet, people have a more accessible platform to point out its cruelty.

Beyond all that, I really like Monica for all the things that annoy the other characters about her. I like how hyper-organized she is, and how she knows exactly what she wants and goes after it according to a perfectly itemized and cross-referenced plan. Her competitive spirit is awesome and hilarious. And who wouldn’t want to spend a couple nights at Hotel Geller?

I guess it makes sense that I like Monica so much, because out of all the Friends…

I am Ms. Chanandler Bong. It’s taking me forever to type out this paragraph because I can’t stop laughing. As much as I related to Phoebe, the Weird Girl, Chandler Bing is the Weirdest Girl. Expressing all emotion through snark? Check. Torn between drives for creativity and stability? Check. Allergic to sentimental attachment? Check. But paradoxically wants to find a soulmate and never have to go through the ordeal of falling for a new person ever again? Double check. On a more serious note, I think if I had been born fifteen years earlier, I would have had hang-ups about my bisexuality into my late 30s similar to Chandler’s.

It’s hard to wrap this up because there’s so much more I could write about Friends. And again, I can’t really even say I loved it. But I do understand now why this show and its ensemble are so iconic, and why people are still watching, quoting, and analyzing it over 25 years after it began. I’ll never know how I would have felt about the show if I had followed it as it aired. As is, a Netflix binge was a fun way to experience these friends’ journey into the new millennium and to look back on my own.

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Friends, Part 2: Ross, Joey, and the Friend Zone

As I said last week, I watched Friends from start to finish for the first time ever during the last few months of 2018. You can read my overall impressions of the show in Part 1. I planned to write some thoughts on each character this week, but I only got as far as Ross and Joey because I had a flu, so tune in next time for my thoughts on the girls and Chandler!

It’s hard to like Ross in the age of internet fanboy misogyny.

You guys, I wish I could like Ross. I love brainy, awkward introverts. I love characters who are logic-oriented and also hopeless romantics. I love characters who love the things I love. But I see so much in Ross Geller that led to the misogyny problem we have in modern geek culture. I feel like if Ross had been born 15 years later, he would be a Red Piller bitching online about “ethics in gaming journalism.” I’d like to think I could enjoy the character and his romance with Rachel without this baggage, but I think his insecurities about her career and his disregard for her feelings would turn me off in any decade.

As a counterpoint, here’s a positive analysis of Ross’ character by an excellent feminist channel. I highly recommend all their Friends character profiles.

To my surprise, I don’t hate Joey.

Yeah, he’s a womanizer, but I never got the sense that he was doing anything coercive with his many, many sexual partners. There were some women who wanted more than a one-night stand when he didn’t, but it didn’t seem like he was trying to make them think he wanted more. And he is a good friend to Phoebe, Monica, and Rachel without expecting the friendship to turn into anything more. For the few seasons he’s interested in Rachel, he doesn’t act like he’s entitled to a romantic or sexual relationship or like she’s doing him wrong by not providing one.

In fact, now that I think of it, the friendzone scene exemplifies why I’m more okay with Joey than Ross. In the first season, Joey explains the concept of “The Friendzone” to Ross. Joey says that Ross is in Rachel’s friendzone because Ross presented himself to Rachel as a potential friend, not a potential partner, so Rachel responded in kind. She categorizes Ross as a friend because he hasn’t told her he’s in love with her. This is pretty much the opposite of how we use the term today. Joey isn’t commiserating with Ross, or denigrating Rachel for considering Ross her friend when that’s all he’s made any effort to be. He’s blaming Ross for not being honest about what he wants sooner. Which is…true, and if this were still how we used the word “friendzone,” I might actually consider it a useful term.

Would I date Joey Tribbiani? Heck no. But this show is about friendship, and between Joey and Ross, Joey is the guy I would rather have in my friend zone.

Next up: Best Geller and everyone else who has shared her impossible apartment!