Have you ever settled down in front of the television or computer, hoping to enjoy a comforting marathon of an old comedy, only to have it cut short by an inappropriate joke? When it comes to all the offensive things said on Friends, this happens a lot. Nobody claims that the popular ’90s comedy was flawless. Because the show was not quite politically correct throughout its decade-long run from 1994 to 2004, observant fans had many doubts regarding various story issues.
In May 2021, when the show’s reunion special aired, there was more talk about the show’s flaws, especially its lack of diversity in casting. According to co-creator Kevin Bright, the choice to have an exclusively white ensemble “was not the intention,” but rather to select folks who had wonderful on-screen chemistry with one another. “Now, there are different priorities, and so much has changed,” he explained. “It’s critical that today’s programs represent the true nature of society.”
“The cast is the cast,” Ben Winston, the reunion’s special director, told The New York Times. “It was created in 1994,” she said. “I believe it’s amazing how well it stands the test of time.” But is this true? On the comedy show, you’re witnessing a lighthearted dispute between best friends or brothers when you’re suddenly slapped with a body-shaming remark or some obvious homophobia. It doesn’t end there; the program also dabbled in misogyny and classism in some horrible ways.
While it’s not difficult to watch and appreciate the program from a modern perspective, you should expect to grimace at least a few times every season when you watch some of the show’s most controversial episodes.
Here are some of the most heinous comments made on “Friends.”
1.“Some girl ate Monica!”
“Fat Monica’s” first appearance comes in Season 2 with “The One With the Prom Video.” This is the first thing Joey says after watching a video of Monica when she was younger, and it sets the tone for the rest of the series’ body-shaming gags about her shape. And believe us, there are many of them.
2.“Ridiculously Dull Bobby”
Monica’s lover, “Fun Bobby,” seeks therapy for his alcoholism in Season 2. As he stops drinking, his buddies believe he’s no longer “fun,” and Chandler renames him “Ridiculously Boring Bobby.” The notion that someone requires alcohol to have a good time maintains a damaging stereotype and is profoundly insensitive to the difficulties that many alcoholics face on their path to sobriety.
3.“What are you talking about, one woman?! That’s like saying there is only one flavor of ice cream for you. … Welcome back to the world, grab a spoon!”
Joey’s first-episode comment that “women are like ice cream” foreshadows a problem with how he treats women that keeps coming up throughout the series. He openly and frequently objectifies women as commodities rather than human beings. And, while his statements may have gotten some chuckles when the show first aired, they aren’t cute in today’s culture and weren’t truly true back then either.
4.“What’s my boy doing with a Barbie?”
In Season 3’s “The One With the Metaphorical Tunnel,” Ross can’t get over the possibility that his kid might choose to play with a Barbie doll rather than action figures. His desperate attempt to urge his kid to stop playing with a “female” toy not only perpetuates detrimental gender stereotypes but also shows his own preconceptions. Ross, let the youngsters play with any toys they like!
5.“Imagine yourself living in a supermarket and you will understand.”
In Season 6, Joey says this to his gorgeous roommate Janine to explain why he doesn’t think the two of them should flirt. He compares a lady to food (again) and ignores her when she says she isn’t attracted to him. Instead, he refuses to accept that she just isn’t interested in him, which is a very bad perspective for a man to have.
6.“So you’re just, like, a guy who’s a nanny?”
In the Season 9 episode “The One With the Male Nanny,” Ross can’t wrap his brain around the fact that a man may work as a childcare provider. As if his notions about what constituted women’s labor vs. men’s work weren’t already s*xist, he asks the babysitter, played by Freddie Prinze Jr., whether he’s homos*xual.
7.“Welcome to our country!”
In the opening episode of Season 2, Rachel rushes to see Ross at the airport and learns that he has come home from China with his girlfriend Julie. As she hands Julie the flowers she picked up for Ross, she welcomes her to the nation by speaking slowly and exaggeratedly so Julie can understand. Julie responds in a languid tone, “Thank you; I’m from New York.” Making a racist joke about one of the few black characters on a program that is frequently chastised for its lack of diversity is a poor choice.
8.“Wow, you look just like your son, Mrs. Tribbiani.”
In the season 5 episode “The One With Joey’s Bag,” Joey is delighted about a unisex bag he acquired for an audition; he loves all the compartments and how it looks, but the other characters on the program make a point of labeling him a lady for carrying the leather satchel. It’s a beautiful purse! What does it matter what gender you are if you like it?