24 November 2023

The woke argument

Whether Friends remains one of Netflix’s flagship programs, the youngest do not hesitate to harshly criticize the treatment reserved for women, blacks, gays, transsexuals and overweight people in Friends. Do you really want to laugh at Chandler’s transgender mother? Of his supposed homosexuality? Monica’s weight in her youth? From her braids? Women treated like objects by Joey and Chandler?

The argument from authority

The screenwriter Marta Kauffman, herself, has said, on several occasions, embarrassed by certain through the series. So, of the lack of diversity, she said in 2022: “Admitting mistakes and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful to look at yourself in the mirror. I’m ashamed of not having been able to do better twenty-five years ago. » She donated $4 million to the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at her university in Boston.

The Offending Argument

Another era, other customs? In 1994, however, homophobic and racist jokes did not make those they targeted laugh any more than in 2023. They remain hurtful. Among the most controversial scenes: the flashbacks where the character of Monica, obese in adolescence, appears stuck in a fat suit (a padded jumpsuit) and behaves ridiculously and clumsily.

Read also: “Friends”, fatphobic, sexist and homophobic? Why the series remains cult despite the criticism

The woke counter-argument

On certain subjects, notably that of the family, the series has been avant-garde. From the second episode, in 1994, a couple of women decide to raise together the child that one of them is carrying. Ross, who is the father, will be the third parent. They get married two seasons later and, in 1997, it is Phoebe’s turn to choose an alternative model by becoming a surrogate mother for her brother.

The authoritative counter-argument

Of course we can laugh! And it is the actor David Schwimmer who affirms it forcefully in an interview granted to the Guardian January 27, 2020: “A big part of the problem today, in many areas, is that everything is taken out of context. You have to watch Friends from the perspective of what the show was trying to do at the time. » That is to say, to tell about sexuality and friendship. At the time, the actor campaigned for his character, Ross, to date black women.

Also listen Why is the “Friends” series still essential?

The Offensive Counter-Argument

Sure, it’s not all funny, but it’s a heartwarming series set in a time that never existed since the 1990s of Friends are not rooted in any political or social reality. Nothing is ever serious for these hyperstereotypical young people whose life revolves around friendship and each other’s dates. And, often, it’s them and their failings that we laugh at: Joey’s misogynistic replies are not intended to make women laugh but at the exacerbated and ridiculous sexism of the character.

Read also: “Friends”: China censors any reference to a character’s homosexuality, fans of the series angry

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