Smelly Cats and Stereotypes: How Friends’ Lack of Diversity Stinks in 2023

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Hey there, fellow TV addicts! Today we’re going to talk about a show that many of us have grown up with – Friends. As much as we all love Chandler’s sarcastic quips and Joey’s “How you doin’?”, it’s time to face the music – Friends hasn’t exactly aged well.

I was never that into the show when it originally aired but my older sister was a die-hard fan so I was aware of it. When I was on the road and staying in hotels, it ended up being the show I’d sit and watch since it seemed to be playing on a constant loop on TBS. Eventually, when the show was on Netflix, I sat down and watched the series in its entirety for the first time in my life. 

Having digested the entire show in a true Millennial binge fashion, I found myself wondering how the hell the show was so popular. Granted, an entire decade of learning, growing and evolving had occurred since the characters left the air, but holy shit, this show wasn’t good.

Now before you grab your pitchforks and start coming for me, hear me out. Friends was a great show for its time, no doubt about it. But the world has changed a lot since the ’90s, and so has our sense of humor. What was once considered funny and acceptable on TV is now cringe-worthy and outdated. A show like Friends in its original form wouldn’t survive in 2023 and for good reason.

Let’s start with the most glaring issue – the lack of diversity. The show is set in New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world, yet the only people of color we see are background extras or love interests for the main cast. There’s no denying that the show’s lack of representation is a problem, and it’s one that many viewers have called out in recent years.

Another problem is the show’s treatment of LGBTQ+ characters. While Friends did have a few LGBTQ+ characters, they were often portrayed as stereotypes or punchlines. Chandler’s transgender parent was not given the respect and sensitivity that such a storyline deserved, and Chandler himself was often the butt of many gay jokes. Looking back, it’s clear that these portrayals were harmful and not at all progressive.

But it’s not just Friends that missed the mark on diversity and LGBTQ+ representation. Even modern sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother still could have done much. While both shows were big hits and garnered a loyal fanbase, they both lacked LGBTQ+ characters and often made jokes about characters’ sexuality. In How I Met Your Mother, the character of Barney Stinson was known for his womanizing ways and often made jokes at the expense of LGBTQ+ people. Similarly, The Big Bang Theory often used gay jokes as a punchline, with characters like Raj Koothrappali being ridiculed for his perceived femininity.

It’s important to hold our favorite shows to a higher standard and demand better representation for marginalized communities. While progress has been made in recent years, there’s still a long way to go. LGBTQ+ characters and people of color should not be relegated to the sidelines or used as mere plot devices. They deserve to be fully fleshed out characters with their own stories and experiences.

Recently, Jennifer Aniston, one of the stars of Friends, spoke out about how the show has been received by today’s generation. In a CNN article, Aniston discussed how some younger viewers have found the show to be offensive due to its lack of diversity and insensitive treatment of LGBTQ+ characters. Aniston acknowledged that times have changed and that the show’s lack of representation is a problem. She also expressed hope that the show can start a dialogue about these issues and serve as a learning opportunity for future generations.

So, what can we learn from all of this? Well, for starters, we can learn that comedy is always evolving. What was once considered funny might not be so funny anymore, and that’s okay. It’s important to recognize that our sense of humor can be influenced by our own biases and experiences, and we need to be open to learning and growing.

We can also learn the importance of diversity and representation in media. It’s not enough to have one token character of color or one LGBTQ+ character. We need to see a variety of experiences and perspectives on our screens.

And finally, we can learn that it’s okay to love something and still acknowledge its flaws to a certain extent (I cannot and will not return to the world of Harry Potter as a result of JK Rowling’s horrible existence). Friends will always hold a special place in some people’s hearts, but we can also recognize that it’s not a perfect show. By acknowledging its flaws, we can start important conversations about representation and push for more inclusive and diverse media.

In the end, Friends will always be considered a classic sitcom that we can revisit for a good laugh or a trip down memory lane. But as we continue to move forward, we must hold our favorite shows accountable and demand better representation for all.

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