Was 'Friends' Really That Bad?

In preparation for its upcoming 25th anniversary, I have seen no less than 37 articles (the same article 37 times, really—same content, same gifs) that attempt to destroy America’s sweetheart TV show, Friends. Here’s the thing: it was the 90s. It is true that a lot of the jokes on Friends don’t hold up in 2019. But you can say that about any show 30 years later, and I think even with its problems, Friends is still super relatable. Like, I can’t wait to see how well 13 Reasons Why goes over in 30 years. Or Jersey Shore. For all that Friends has given us, it’s just not that controversial. It’s super weird to me that people think it is. Hey guys, maybe we should be reading the Betches Sup instead and focusing on actual problems, what do you think? Even with a few misplaced or not exactly nice jokes, Friends is still one of the best shows of our time and laid the groundwork for basically every twentysomething sitcom after it. In honor of Friends‘ 25th anniversary, I have broken down their most controversial-in-2019 storylines and why they’re really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

High School Monica

This is by far the most upsetting Friends storyline to people in 2019. High School Monica was dorky, frumpy, and they call her fat, but she was actually not even plus-size. Yes, it was Courteney Cox in a fat suit, but they couldn’t even find one above a size 10, which is pretty nuts when you consider this entire recurring joke essentially amounts to “lol Monica was fat!” That is bad and not funny, because being plus-size should not be worthy of derision. But fat-shaming aside, I actually love High School Monica and all the high school flashbacks. The jokes about high school Monica weren’t only about her weight—she was a total loser and embarrassment irrespective of her weight, and that was the joke. She called her virginity her “flower” (and Rachel was right—if you call it that, NO ONE will want to take it!). Everyone had a dorky period growing up, so I still find this funny and relatable.

That said, her weight should not have factored into this characterization at all. I am totally against body-shaming and the fat jokes don’t hold up well. It’s sh*t like this that caused our Photoshop/Facetune epidemic all over Instagram. But really, women have also been called fat their entire lives regardless of size, so this to me is relatable too. I was called fat in the 8th grade—I was 5’8 and weighed 105 lbs. What girl wasn’t called fat at some point by a pimply boy with braces who was a foot shorter than her? Is this really the worst of all insults? I get called a bitch on the daily and I don’t even notice anymore. Point being, high school Monica is still funny, even though the fat jokes are not. Also? They equally make fun of Rachel’s real nose, and I have yet to see any anti-nose-shaming articles. Being dorky and being made fun of for your teenage appearance is just part of growing up (unfortunately).

The Male Nanny

Ross is the worst. Everyone knows he’s the worst. So when he met male nanny Sandy, he acted very in character, i.e., the worst. He assumed Sandy was gay (because… only gay men like babies, I guess?), and was irrationally angered by Sandy’s sensitivity. Yes, these things are totally offensive and the poster for Toxic Masculinity. We agree on that for sure. But here’s the thing: so did the rest of the characters. Everyone else loved Sandy and told Ross he was a dipsh*t he was for being so toxic and insecure. Unfortunately for Men, as a brand, this is how A LOT of men act, especially 20 years ago! I don’t blame Friends for accurately depicting toxic men, I blame the men who behave this way to begin with. I actually think it’s badass that Friends showed it and publicly said, “hey, this is not okay behavior. Don’t be a Ross.”


Ross strikes again in the Barbie/GI Joe feud. Ross, POS father, King of Toxic Masculinity, basically throws a tantrum because his son wants to play with Barbies. People are offended that Friends showed this, but to me, this was exactly my dad, and many, many men of this generation. And I’m sure many men even in 2019. My dad was super offended by my mom buying me and my brother the same toys. He really got pissed when he came home to find my brother in a dress, my mom’s heels, clip-on earrings and us calling him Emily. But like, why? They showed this very relatable issue accurately on Friends and everyone told Ross he was being a complete idiot about it. I wonder how many toxic men watched it and realized how stupid they were being? I think it’s awesome that this was talked about, and again, Ross was called out for his backwards beliefs.

Ross In General

I’m realizing this should mostly be an article about how Ross is the worst, but here we are. Ross was the poster child for toxic masculinity and almost everything he did was offensive. Aside from the aforementioned nanny and Barbie issues, he also was sexist, shallow (Rachel DOES NOT have chubby ankles), super insecure (Mark), a cheater (A BREAK IS NOT A BREAKUP), controlling, paranoid, tried to f*ck his cousin (wait, what?), etc. etc. etc. Anyone who stans Ross has serious issues. However, while we can all agree his behavior was often terrible, it was just as equally called out. I’m not sure what show these other people are watching, but Ross gets away with none of this sh*tty behavior. Ross is essentially the Every Man Douchebag and they (Bethenny Frankel voice) MENTION IT ALL.

Monica’s Hair

Yes, cornrows and braids are totally cultural appropriation. Yes, this is bad. I’m with you on this. But unlike every Kardashian, Monica doesn’t just go around wearing her hair like this on the reg. This happened when they went to Barbados (I think?) and Monica’s hair went crazy in the humidity. So essentially, this is every white girl who went on vacation in the 90s/2000s and got her hair braided on the beach along with a henna tattoo. This was what everyone did then. The trend is offensive for sure, but Friends hardly invented it. This was before white people gave a sh*t about cultural appropriation or even discussed it. Rather than canceling a whole show over one hairstyle, maybe we should be grateful we’ve moved into a better time where we do recognize this is not a good look. But yes, we can cancel this one episode.

Rachel Getting Off The Plane

We’ve discussed that Ross is the worst, but one of the worst things is that in spite of his issues, Rachel (SPOILERS AHEAD—I mean, the show came out 25 years ago, but okay, I’ll still warn you) still abandons her dream job in Paris to stay with him. I’m still mad about this, btw. I don’t think Ross and Rachel should have ended up together. But again, this is relatable. How many weddings have you been to where your amazing friend is marrying a repulsive, fratty, POS douchebag who makes her cry every time you go out? But at the wedding she’s like, “we’re best friends, he’s going to be a great father”, and you’re like, “Huh, that’s weird Karen, because last weekend you couldn’t stop crying because you found cocaine in his pants pocket again.” Sometimes our friends end up with douches. It blows, but it’s a fact of life.

After 25 years, Friends is still one of the most relatable shows ever. They covered a lot of issues that were common both then and now. To be honest, I think a TV show where every character was nice, polite, PC, and always said the right thing would be boring af. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Are these the worst incidences of Friends? What other ones do you think didn’t hold up well? Do you find Friends insanely offensive?

Images: Giphy (6)

Holly Hammond
Holly Hammond
Holly is an ex-sorority girl with the personality of Elle Woods meets Wednesday Addams. She is an artist, writer, animator, and part-time magician. Her parents are v proud but also like to ask her when she's going to get a real job. Buy art from her so she can pay for her bulldog's dermatologist.