I have a friend who puts on “Friends” DVDs when she can’t fall asleep, not because it’s dull, but because it’s like a cup of warmed milk or chicken soup: mild, easy to take, comforting. It’s probably the TV equivalent of comfort food because we’ve been watching it since 1994. But when I really sit down with “Friends” as an adult with grown-up eyes, it’s a different show than the one I used to watch while re-organizing my Caboodle on the family room floor on Thursday nights. Watching the show in syndication lately, I find myself taking it in differently. Here are a few things I noted that either ring even truer now or suddenly seem laughable. And not funny ha-ha, just HA!
False: Real Estate, Really?
Even if you’ve never lived in New York, you’re probably aware that the huge, beautiful West Village apartment that these people live in – especially Rachel with her cappuccino salary – is a myth of Loch Ness proportions. It is absolutely preposterous. At the same time, TV is a fantasy and I’m quite glad they didn’t try setting it more realistically inside a 450-square foot studio.
On a similar note, it’s unlikely that in New York City you and your friends will all live in the same building, right across the hall from each other, though I definitely bought that one hook, line and sinker when I was a teen. I was certain that two or three fabulous apartments would magically become available on the same floor, just for me and my friends, and we’d all be able to afford them right at the same time. Furthermore, surely it would only strengthen our friendships! Right? Wrong. Which leads me to…
False: Roomies and Still “Friends”?
Sure, there’s the occasional roommate spat amongst the Friends, but overall their friendships fare swimmingly, even though they also room together. In my experience (and the experiences of those friends who are still my friends because we have never lived together), becoming roommates can test a friendship to the point of breaking it apart. Stupid squabbles about household chores lead to resentments and bitterness. Trying to compromise on whose decorative taste takes over which room or who has to get up earlier in the morning to shower makes for exasperated living. Most of all, money matters can be awkward and tense, with both parties trying to be fair but probably espousing different definitions of the word. The hardest part is trying to navigate these issues while maintaining a happy relationship, not wanting to offend your friend-turned-roomie but trying to fulfill your own home-life needs without becoming the adorable ladybug doormat your roommate so selfishly won’t let you put outside the front door. Living together is like friendship arsenic.
Truth: It Can Be Hard to Close the Ex Files.
While I find certain parts of the Ross-marrying-Emily storyline to be dubious (“I take you, Rachel”? Oh, come on), I recently re-watched the episode in which Rachel is trying to decide whether or not to attend the wedding and I found it downright moving. “How can I watch him get married?” Rachel asks Monica plaintively, with those sad Rachel eyes, and suddenly I felt a lump in my throat. From “Friends”, you guys. It seems painfully real in a new way. Even when you’re over an ex (especially THE Ex) it can be hard to watch that person get married.
Truth: Men and Women Can Be Friends (I Know, Duh)
The idea that men and women are so alien to each other that they couldn’t possibly be friends without wanting to have sex with each other, as Harry insists in When Harry Met Sally, is very sad to me. If I were only allowed to have female friends, my social circle would shrivel considerably, and what’s worse, I’d lose out on all the different perspectives, ideas and senses of humor from my male friends. How empty does that sound?
“Friends” is actually a fairly realistic portrayal of modern-day (even when “modern-day” was the ‘90s) friendships between men and women, proving that they don’t have to be fraught with anxiety and sexual tension (though some are). Obviously, it was not the first show to feature a mixed group of friends but there’s a particular brand of relaxed, angst-free friendship in the show that I think helped normalize male-female relationships in the media. Even the opening theme song promises “I’ll be there for you,” not “I’ll be there for some of you.”
Most Truthful of All: Turkey Heads = Comedy Gold
A grown man flailing around with a gigantic turkey stuck on his head is comedy gold, no matter who you are or how old you get.