For The Last Time: We’re Supposed To Grow Out Of ‘Friends’

By Anne T. Donahue

And here we are again. When promoting her new movie, Murder Mystery 2, Jennifer Aniston shared her thoughts on the pushback most of us have been giving Friends.

“There’s a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of Friends and find them offensive,” she told AP. “There were things that were never intentional and others . . . well, we should have thought it through, but I don’t think there was a sensitivity like there is now.”

Yikes. She continued:

“Now it’s a little tricky because you have to be very careful, which makes it really hard for comedians, because the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life.”

And, like, okay! Sure! Yes, a major component of comedy (says me, the mayor of the entire industry), is punching up and commenting on one’s self and/or the ins and outs of being alive. But also, a bigger component of comedy is evolving and not resorting to old, tired, offensive tropes that we, as a people, should leave behind.

And Friends, though a direct line to the comforts of nineties nostalgia, is exactly the type of TV show we’re supposed to grow out of. If it defined your childhood or adolescence, it’s a time capsule: it’s an example of what was considered acceptable once, and is no longer the benchmark for ground-breaking (or even reasonable) comedy. It has good points and great scenes, yes, but it’s also fatphobic, homophobic, and showcased a very specific (affluent, white) perspective of being 20-something. This isn’t opinion, this is fact. When Monica Gellar wore a fat suit and the laugh track roared, that wasn’t her life they were making fun of – we were supposed to laugh because she wasn’t Thin Monica™ and that was “comedy.”

It’s getting tired and boring having to sift through reactions like Aniston’s to perceived over-sensitivity because norms change and standards raise. Was Friends cutting edge for the era? Sure! Does it remind me of being in ninth grade, hoping my own layers looked like Rachel’s? Of course! Did I think Ross and Rachel had the most beautiful relationship the world had ever seen? You bet! But the point of growing and evolving is taking responsibility for perpetuating some serious bullshit during an era some of us still over-romanticize. Yes, we may all have tuned in, but it’s been almost 20 years since the gang suggested they grab one last cup of coffee. It would be wild if comedy hadn’t gotten better; our standards higher.

I’m obviously not Jennifer Aniston, so I don’t know what it’s like to be the star of a series that’s gone down in history as being one of the biggest sitcoms to ever air. I also don’t know what it’s like to be confronted about my work on a regular basis because it’s started to offend people, and fairly so. But usually, the problem doesn’t tend to be the audience if the majority of that audience is asking comedians to do better. Usually, it means what used to be fine isn’t fine anymore, and there’s a reason for that. A good rule, I think, is that if and when someone tells you something’s offended or hurt them, you listen because those feelings are valid.

Obviously this isn’t the first or the last time we’re going to descend into this conversation. Nor will the great Friends debate end because it’s good for soundbites and content. But man alive, can we stop for a minute? Can we take a breath, famous people, and accept that the whole point of existing in general is to get better and learn from our past selves? Is criticism so hard to accept? (I mean, yes, obviously, but if you sleep on a bed of money, it really won’t hurt you to admit that the TV show you were on could be in super-bad taste sometimes.) Is anyone reading this, thinking, “Wow, I had it all figured out once upon a time, I am flawless”? Because you’re wrong. Everybody sucks at some point, and everybody will suck again.

It would just be a little cooler if a movie and TV star understood that it’s easy to suck a little less: all you have to do is admit that our so-called sensitivities are actually making art better.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, Jennifer Aniston, top story, topstory

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