Korina Meister started watching Friends three years ago when her roommate recommended it, and she thought it was extremely sexist and homophobic.
Now, even more fans find the show problematic after it was released on Netflix in the U.K. this year. Some millennials do not believe many of the Friends plotlines would be acceptable in 2018.
“The men in Friends have to act like and be perceived as men,” Meister, a senior studying early childhood education, said in an email. “It always seems like the women are the ones that are more ‘liberal,’ which gave it that sexist undertone of ‘oh well of course a woman thinks that.’ "
Meister said some of the homophobic elements come from storylines involving Ross’ son, Ben, and his ex-wife, Carol, by portraying lesbians in a negative way.
“He can't handle his son playing with a doll,” she said in an email. “And of course the lesbian parents are okay with Ben playing with a doll, which I think plays into that religious fear of having gay parents makes you gay.”
Ross’s emotions were not handled in the best way when dealing with his ex-wife Carol leaving him for a woman because it was the 1990s, Jayda Martin, a member of Feminist Equality Movement, said
“He was very adamant about showing his discomfort,” Martin, a freshman studying psychology and women's, gender and sexuality studies, said.
Rachel Anderson, a 2017 OU alumna who studied wildlife and conservation biology, said the show is especially problematic when it comes to Ross and Rachel’s relationship.
“He treats her like an object,” she said.
Ross is not a very good partner because he controls and manipulates Rachel, Anderson said. In season three, he was too jealous and paranoid about their relationship, she said.
Anderson said she sees some of the show’s inappropriate storylines as a sign of the social climate when it was broadcasted, but Ross and Rachel’s relationship should have always been seen as harmful.
Even though the show has questionable plotlines, it was the right choice to show those point of views in some cases because not everyone thinks uniformly, Anderson said. If the showrunners hid those beliefs, they would not have an accurate representation of public opinion in the 1990s.
Anderson said she thought some storylines in Friends were progressive for its time. The idea of adoption seemed less accepted in the 1990s, Anderson said, so she liked Monica and Chandler’s decision to adopt a baby. The show explained the journey they went through trying to conceive their own and using an adoption agency in a way that showed audiences it can be a sensible option.
Martin said she’s glad the show’s writers had Carol in a relationship with a man before she found her wife because it went against the myth that gay people know their identity from the start.
“These same things (were) being talked about, but not so openly and not so widespread,” she said.
A show’s humor does not have to poke fun at groups of people, Martin said. That type of comedy, however, can bring awareness to issues or show a character becoming more educated over seasons.
Martin said she started watching the show with her grandma and still considers herself a fan.
“I would still watch it to this day,” Martin said. “I guess it just depends on how much I can handle (because) some days I don’t feel like sifting through all of the misogyny and whatnot.”