Being one of the most famous and beloved television sitcoms, it really made itself a classic. Filled with many running gags and recurring jokes, the six characters solidified their names as the sitcom legends. But the show is not perfect, it has problematic tropes and offensive jokes that may seem normal back then. We can even say that if the show would air now, it would not be well-received by people.
Looking back, it would be nice to point out how the show includes controversial tropes and character portrayals. This is to help avoid the adaptation of insensitive remarks by the viewers.
With this, here are some of the problematic running jokes on F.R.I.E.N.D.S. that needs development:
Carol and Susan’s Relationship
When talking about Ross’ failed relationship, they always bring up Carol and Susan as the butt of the joke. Yes, it is the truth that Carol left Ross for another person. But without her sexuality being mentioned, there would be no punchline from the main characters. They believe that Ross was the reason for pushing Carol on the verge of being a Lesbian. It is wrong since sexuality is not a choice. There was even an instance that Rachel pertained to Carol’s last name as “Lesbian”. This proves that the LGBTQIA+ community has come a long way before being without making fun of.
Feminine = Gay
Another problematic trope in the show is about mocking men being feminine. From Ross being uncomfortable with having a male nanny, up to his son, Ben, playing with a Barbie doll. His fragile masculinity led him to condemn men who are doing “feminine” acts.
Joey, on the other hand, doesn’t mind defending his sexuality. There was even an episode where he got a shoulder bag and everyone just mocked him, especially Chandler. Another instance is when Joey had a new roommate, Janine, who likes having flowers and decorating the apartment. This made Chandler uncomfortable upon seeing Joey engage in Janine’s hobbies, even joking and calling him a woman.
Chandler, while being fragile in his masculinity, is also being treated as a laughingstock by other characters. His femininity leads other people to accuse him as gay, making him really uncomfortable and annoyed. This really put him in the position of being defensive of his sexuality. We should remember that men could do “feminine” things without questioning their sexuality, they are totally different things.
Objectification of Women
When talking about women, the guys’ discussions often tend to objectify them. There was even a conversation about men being nice to strange women. They believed that men are only nice to women only because of sex. Plus, their rampant sexism is enough to show their problematic sides.
Another instance is when Ross saw Rachel through the window naked in her own apartment. He concluded that this was Rachel’s way of seducing him and inviting him over. When it was just merely her way of enjoying the apartment all by herself.
Monica struggled with this for as long as she could remember. Being obese when she was younger, this made her feel the need to change herself to fit in. Other people, even her own family, body-shamed her ever since she was a child. They treated her as a girl who just constantly eats and was just a sidekick of a “hot” person.
Many situations revolved around treating being fat as a shame. Chandler even broke up with a woman because she was fat. But also one of the most offensive “jokes” is their portrayal of a man who lives across the street, even naming him the “Ugly, Naked Guy”.
Helena Handbasket’s Mistreatment
While the show was inclusive of bringing a transwoman the show, this did not excuse them for mistreating her. They introduced Charles Bing, Chandler’s father, who transitioned later on and acquired the name Helena Handbasket. Helena was never given the chance to express her identity, she was just mistaken as a drag queen. The characters just didn’t find the difference between the two. The cast, especially Chandler, referred to Helena as “him” and even made jokes about her genitalia.
Marta Kauffman, the creator of the show, clarified later on that Helena was indeed a transwoman. Acknowledging that they lacked deeper knowledge about pronouns and sexuality back then.
While the show keeps on shipping Ross and Rachel, their backstory has many flaws. When they were younger, Ross wanted to express his crush on Rachel. During a party, Rachel got really drunk and went on to sleep in the bedroom. Ross, seeing this as an opportunity to take advantage, ended up kissing Monica instead since it was really dark. His plan may have not gone according to what he wanted, but the intention is still there. Ross still intended to kiss Rachel without her consent.
Do you agree? Tell us your opinion on these running jokes.
Peter Thaddeus, who prefers to be called Deus, is an aspiring story-teller since he believes in his ability to do so. His hobbies include curating through the hottest ukay finds, re-reading the Percy Jackson series, and he loves being updated about everything related to Pop Culture. That is why he always makes sure to bring an extra spice in everything that he writes. Deus makes sure to uncover the real tea in the entertainment industry.