Admittedly, I didn’t “get” Friends (1994-2004) for a long time. I’d seen the odd episode here and there and thought it seemed okay, but didn’t think much of it beyond that. I wasn’t exactly the right age when it first started coming out (I was born in 1993), so that may have been a part of it, though I have known plenty of people my age who are fans.
Then, one night, after a particularly grotesque horror movie, my friend threw on a couple of episodes to lighten the mood. Something clicked.
Shortly thereafter, I began to go through the seasons consecutively. I’m currently on seven four and can say that I “get” it now. I’m into it. But why? What is there to get?
Friends shows us the trials and tribulations of twenty-somethings in New York in the 1990s. It really lacks diversity, having an all-white, straight, able-bodied main cast. The issues that the friends deal with are kinda unrealistic and not always relevant for twenty-somethings today. And yet, despite all of this, parts of it hold up.
I decided to make a list of the reasons that I, a 23-year-old in 2016 in my particular position, can connect and relate to Friends.
1. The Theme Song
“So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year”
I feel like these lyrics are pretty much timeless. This is what it’s been like, at least for me, to be in your twenties, regardless of whether it’s 1996 or 2016.
2. The Group
Who doesn’t want to have a really tight, supportive, fun group of friends to spend all of their free time with? Who doesn’t have friend-envy of these friends? Ever since high-school ended, I’ve had lots of one-on-one friendships but never a whole group, and even when I have been a part of groups in the past, things weren’t exactly… great. Let’s just leave it at that.
Though they do encounter a little drama and some rough patches over the years, the group remains close and they seem to value their friendships with each other over romantic entanglements, work, stress, or other life issues than can sometimes get in the way. They make time for each other, go out of the way to help each other, and four of them even live in close proximity. In fact, because of the way the show is shot, it seems like they’re almost always all together in Monica’s apartment.
3. Monica and Ross
Imagine a world where, as an adult, one of your best friends is your sibling, who you didn’t get along with when you were young, AND your sibling fits seamlessly into your tight-knit group of friends. THIS IS PROBABLY THE LEAST REALISTIC THING ON THE SHOW AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
Friend + sibling envy.
I don’t think it’s debatable whether or not he’s funny. He just is. Though the show has many comedic elements, Chandler is, in my opinion, the best one, and he consistently delivers laughs throughout the series. I’m convinced that, without him, Friends wouldn’t have held together nearly as well. The fact that he, and the show as a whole, really makes me laugh is a huge draw, especially on down days when I don’t find a lot to laugh about.
5. Scary World with Soft, Soft Pillows
Though it does touch on some of the more serious themes of coming of age, Friends is mostly an escape from the harsh reality of the world. These characters exist in a world where “I’ll be there for you” really means something. Regardless of what happens, they stick together, support each other, and live in a comedic world, where almost anything can become a one of Chandler’s one-liners. Friends has certain themes that the typical twenty-something can relate to (not knowing what to do with your life, being stuck in a dead-end job, developing independence, being socially awkward, dealing with failed romantic entanglements, etc.), but cushioned by comedy and lightness, so that these things no longer feel big and scary. No matter what happens in this universe, “I’ll be there for you” resounds throughout, which isn’t always true of the real world. You can watch these characters struggle with some of the same things you’re facing without their world ending, and this can offer both a little hope and cushioning for your own.
Or maybe Friends is just pure escapism, which certainly serves its own purpose. Either way, I’m going to keep watching.
I’d like to hear from you. Have you seen Friends? Do you love it, hate it? Do you or do you not “get” it? Is there anything to “get”? Do you have friend-envy? Do you find the lack of diversity disturbing, hard to relate to, or at least uncomfortable? Is there a show running right now that you would say is like a modern-day Friends? Or are there any other shows you’d like to suggest that are similar, but better? I look forward to reading your comments!