In honor of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S reunion that I didn’t even get to watch, let us reminisce the time when the famous 90s sitcom tackled serious issues. Though the show had a lot of laughs over its 10-year run, it tackled a lot of deep issues as well. Although it has remained off the air for years, it has become popular lately. Ever since it arrived on Netflix, a new generation of fans (who overlook decade-old offensive jokes) started to love the show. Many storylines from the show actually deal with rather deep, serious, or complex issues. Although they sometimes don’t handle these issues in the best way, they did address them.
F.R.I.E.N.D.S: The One Where The Show Tackled Serious Issues
As much as we would like to say that the world has matured, hesitation still exists from men when it comes to showing affection with each other. In popular media, men always have to remain macho and show little emotion. However, when it comes to the show, the opposite seems to be true – especially when it comes to Chandler and Joey. The two best friends always hug it out on countless occasions over the show’s ten-year history. It also shows a nice illustration of how F.R.I.E.N.D.S could go against norms and embrace what true friendship revolves around.
One of the more memorable plotlines on F.R.I.E.N.D.S involves Phoebe’s selfless act of carrying Frank Jr. and Alice’s babies. The idea of Phoebe becoming pregnant came out of Lisa Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy. Producers wanted to find a way to incorporate her pregnancy into the show and the surrogacy plot… however strange it may sound… made the most sense. Of course, this touches on the real-life struggles of couples trying to conceive. Aside from that, this also speaks to unconventional fa mile beginnings – surrogacy, adoption, and one-night stands all played roles in kicking off families while F.R.I.E.N.D.S remained on the air.
With a surprise from many, Season 8 introduced Rachel’s pregnancy – with Ross being the father. Sure, there wasn’t any doubt that he would be in the child’s life. However, with no romantic relationship between them and no prospect in sight, we had a glimpse of a single mother. The first inclination of this involved Janice speaking to Rachel about her own experience about raising a child on her own. From there, F.R.I.E.N.D.S managed to convey the difficulties of Rachel’s solo journey.
Three minutes into the F.R.I.E.N.D.S pilot episode, we meet Rachel Green. She spent her life living off her parents and decided to marry into money. When her wedding day finally arrived, a gravy boat triggered an epiphany about her life and she walks away from it all. Having relied on everyone else to sustain her, Rachel’s decision to abandon all of that and go out on her own became one of the most relatable things that people experience. It can feel terrifying to walk away from all of that in favor of doing what’s right for you. Like Monica said, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”
The world of 2001 remained a considerably different place. And, admittedly, if F.R.I.E.N.D.S aired today, it would probably be canceled due to the jokes we now realized are offensive. However, there are times that F.R.I.E.N.D.S discusses the topic properly – just like when it came to Chandler’s father. We learned early on that Chandler’s dad had left his mom for the pool boy. When we finally meet him, the character headlines a drag show in Las Vegas as Helena Handbasket. Although the portrayal didn’t age particularly well, it still became an inclusive move for its time.
Back in the second season of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, we see Monica’s younger self. However, it wasn’t until the Thanksgiving flashback episode where we saw what Monica was put through. Chandler referred to her as fat which badly damaged her confidence. F.R.I.E.N.D.S has been roundly criticized for its fat jokes and for good reason. And, this episode showed us how hurtful someone’s words could be in relation to body image. Kudos to the writers for showing us this more vulnerable side to Monica.
nontraditional family types
Years ago, the idea of a family consisted of a mother, father, and children. However, the show chose to embrace the idea of dismissing the norm. The show gave us a blended family with Ross’s son, Ben. He became the child of two mothers and a father – something rarely seen on television at the time, coming from an era that remained less accepting of such things. This became a more modern direction to examine the family unit.
Today, the idea of same-sex marriage became less controversial than it would have been in 1996. Surprisingly though, Carol and Susan’s wedding episode didn’t actually make much of a blip on the blowback radar. Only two network stations prohibited the episode from being aired – one in Texas and another one in Ohio. And, NBC just received four complaints via telephone. Regardless, it still remained a groundbreaking territory. Even so early on in the show’s run, the producers of the show embraced the idea that love is… well, love. Carol and Susan gave us a perfect example of this.
When Monica and Chandler decided to have a baby, you could have expected the story to turn out as it did. We find out late in the season that due to medical reasons, they may never conceive a child. Although there are many couples who could relate to this, it became a case of art imitating life. Courteney Cox who played Monica had experienced fertility issues with her then-husband David Arquette. Thankfully, Monica and Chandler choose to adopt.
Which one is your favorite? Let us know!
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.