March 15, 2009

Reflections on Friends

Recently, I have rediscovered the television show Friends. I know, I know. It's not hard to "rediscover." It's on about twelve times a day no matter what country you are in, but you see, I have been forced to watch it every day as of late, as it's on at the gym while I am working out. I work out from 5 to 6 pm on weekdays, or from 8 til 9 pm, and it's on for an entire hour at both slots. I cannot tell a lie, I turned it on the first day, and I loved it! I now go to the gym not JUST to exercise, but to get my Friends fix, which I believe is just as important for my health. Why do I love Friends? Let me count the ways.

First off, it's funny. Actually lough-out-loud funny in a way most mainstream tv just isn't today. Sure, 30 Rock is funny, but hardly anyone watches that. Everyone watched Friends. It seemed to have not a universal humour but definitely a wit with a broad-based appeal, to say the least. And why not? Friends captured what sociology didn't at the time and has only just begun to do; the break-down of the traditional family and the very extended adolescence in the city. They captured EXACTLY what I'm going through. I can relate to Friends now, and I guess that's why I finally get it.

Friends does a wonderful job of illustrating how frightening and fantastic your early twenties can be. Your whole life is about to be decided and you're afraid to commit to careers, partners, babies, etc. I also like the deconstruction of the gender binary and heterosexuality it attempts. For example, there are all kinds of scenes that play on the fine line between homosocial and homosexual behaviour. Usually the boys are fine doing whatever intimate thing it is they are doing until someone points out that it might be considered "gay" and then they run from each other. The show illustrates that heterosexuality is not natural and must be cultivated and maintained. IF your sexuality isn't fluid, it's because you won't allow it to be.

Sex also has a bit of a feminist streak to me. Sure, Rachel may spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shopping and material things, but she isn't at all ashamed of these values. She doesn't try to hide her love of clothes and even devotes her career to it. Her friends also accept her for whom she is and no one tries to change her. There are no didactic lessons that her passions aren't as good as Ross' because he's a scientist and she's in the fashion industry. The show also begins with Rachel rejecting the traditional family model by bailing out of her wedding to a wealthy but boring and ugly orthadantist in the pilote. Women drive a lot of the action on Friends. For example, it's Rachel who first kisses Ross. It's Monica who initiates sex with Chandler and proposes to him. It's Rachel who gets off the plane on the last episode and reunites with Ross. Women aren't passive army candy on this show like they are on The BIg Bang Theory. Women are active participants.

So, I have no real thesis about Friends and it's sociological or artistic significance. These have just been a few of my observations and reflections on why I love it, but I truly do. I would say that, along with Gossip Girl, it counts as feminist friendly tv.

1 comment:

Steph said...

My best friend and I watch Friends at the gym almost every day. So funny that you wrote this post.