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could friends *be* any more problematic?

We interviewed people watching Friends for the first time to get their nostalgia-free take on on the show many hold so dearly.

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Jan 18 2018, 12:59am

The recent addition of every episode of Friends to Netflix has brought with it a cacophony of internet furore. While previous reruns of the much-loved sitcom had been resigned to late night background noise or rose-tinted memories of 90s nights in, the show’s inclusion on the usually forward-thinking Netflix has shown just how out of touch it feels in 2018.

Homosexuality is regularly the punchline. Chandler’s transgender parent is repeatedly ridiculed. Oh, and here’s a quick refresher on how many POC were in the show in case you’d forgotten (we say ‘quick’ because there were practically none).

Friends’ problematic subplots aren’t exactly unusual when it comes to other hit 90s shows. The Problem with Apu is a documentary investigating The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, and how he perpetuated offensive stereotypes about Asian and Indian ethnicities. The recent meme-ification of Sex and the City’s #WokeCharlotte highlights just how decidedly un-woke the show is.

A lot of us still love Friends, but how would we feel if began airing today? Would it still stand as a good show in 2018, or is our judgement blurred by a heady haze of nostalgia? We scoured twitter to find people watching Friends for the first time and got their fresh take on how it holds up now.

Hey Annie, how you doin?
Oh stoppppp.

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How much did you know about Friends before you started watching it?
I knew a little bit about it, but only because all my friends have watched it and get frustrated when I don’t know that they’re quoting it.

And what are your impressions now?
It’s fun, easy-watching and all the gals wear really good shoes.

Who’s your favourite/least favourite character, and why?
I reeeeally dislike Ross. What an awful character. I was told I would start to like him by season 2, but I’m 9 seasons in and nothing has changed my mind. He’s controlling, disrespectful, and brings everyone else down when he’s feeling insecure. It’s hard not to love Phoebe. She’s ace! The other guys aren’t very nice to her though, so it’s hard to imagine that they’d really be friends.

What would you say is the most problematic element of Friends in 2018?
There is so much of it that just doesn’t sit right today. Monica is repeatedly shamed for being overweight and women are constantly sexualised by all the male characters, which gets frustrating to watch.

Is there any scene or quote has stuck out as particularly problematic?
There is an episode where Ross and Rachel hire a male nanny that stands out as problematic. Ross is super irritating and projects his own insecurities the whole time.

Is there any part of the show that’s redeemable?
It’s not all bad! To be honest a lot of the episodes are quite self-reflective and make an attempt to comment on the issues raised.

Does it make you laugh?
There are lots of silly one liners and funny jokes, so it does make me laugh.

Finally… Were Ross and Rachel on a break?
Technically yes!! But that doesn’t excuse what Ross did.

Hey Dan, how you doin?
I'm good thank you.

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How much did you know about Friends before you started watching it?
I'd caught the end of the odd episode before other shows started on TV before, so I know [SPOILER ALERT] she gets off the plane!

And what are your impressions now?
I'm currently only at the beginning of Season Two but I'm liking it so far. I'm a big fan of sitcoms with a lot of episodes that I can watch over a couple of months. I've not long finished That 70's Show.

Who’s your favourite/least favourite character, and why?
My favourite character is probably Phoebe. She's just an interesting, odd human being, although I love how Chandler is the "funny reply to the situation" guy. My least favourite is Ross, because much like Ted in How I Met Your Mother, his overall story is, "Help, I'm in the friendzone."

What would you say is the most problematic element of Friends in 2018?
Definitely the homophobia. The way they treat Carol and Susan is like a pretty normal relationship and most of the lesbian jokes tend to be more aimed at Ross, not the fact that they're lesbians. However, the attitude towards gay men seems to be the total opposite, with a whole episode dedicated to "Haha Chandler might be gay". It's like lesbians are ok, but gay men are not.

Is there any scene or quote has stuck out as particularly problematic?
I've not reached the episode yet, but I know there's a point where Ross doesn't want his son to play with a Barbie because that's a "girls toy", which also plays into the homophobia.

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Is there any part of the show that’s redeemable?
Definitely, overall it's a very funny show and I'm sure people watching it can enjoy it but understand that some parts of it are problematic. I've seen a few people complaining about the people complaining (the usual snowflake term is thrown about), and I don't really understand how these people can react in such a negative way instead of just accepting that parts of this show are problematic.

Does it make you laugh?
Yes, I loved Ross' monkey Marcel, and most of Chandler’s comedic responses to things, and I'm sure I'll laugh more as I progress through the show. I feel like if I didn't, I'd have stopped watching by now.

Finally… Were Ross and Rachel on a break?
As far as I know they were on a break, but they hadn't broken up, I'll have to get back to you on that one in the future.

Hey Alisha, how you doin?
How you doin?

How much did you know about Friends before you started watching it?
I would watch reruns of odd episodes when there was nothing else on but never in any order.

And what are your impressions now?
It is my cosy watch every time I have a spare second program. Netflix had their timing just right putting it on this month!

Who’s your favourite/least favourite character, and why?
Phoebe is just on another planet and doesn’t care, and I love that I kinda don’t like Rachel. She just seems real selfish thus far. Also Ben’s mums are just annoying.

What would you say is the most problematic element of Friends in 2018?
That things that are put out there as easy watch comedy get too much stick in 2018.

Does it make you laugh?
Little flitters of laughter, not a belly laugh, but I kinda like that.

Were Ross and Rachel on a break?
Haven’t reached this part yet.

Hey Bee, how you doin?
Good, how you doin?

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How much did you know about Friends before you started watching it?
Not much, I knew it followed the group over a few years.

And what are your impressions now?
I love it, it's a lot of fun.

Who’s your favourite/least favourite character, and why?
Chandler is my favourite. I liked him the least at first but I love his character development through the show. Ross is my least favourite. He's manipulative and super possessive. It's gross.

What would you say is the most problematic element of Friends in 2018?
Personally I wouldn't call it problematic. For example, every time Ross acts possessive it's supposed to be a problem. When he pretends to be a masseuse he's supposed to be doing a bad thing. You're not supposed to be on his side there. When he gets annoyed because Ben has a Barbie it's pathetic but it's supposed to be, as it was when he followed his student girlfriend on spring break. I know there are more examples, but Ross' always seemed the worst to me.

Is there any scene or quote has stuck out as particularly problematic?
Ross dating that 18 year old student creeped me out. Again, the other characters pointed out how weird it was, but he never got held accountable for it.

Is there any part of the show that’s redeemable?
I haven't finished it yet, but it seems like the majority of the characters grow and develop as the show goes on.

Does it make you laugh?
Yes.

Finally… Were Ross and Rachel on a break?
Definitely. Get out, Ross.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

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