Why do so many 20-somethings want to stream a 20 old sitcom about a bunch of twenty-something sitting around in a coffee shop? Is it because of Friends? The question remains till today.
What is Friends?
‘Friends’ opens with Monica coming to the rescue of runaway bride Rachel. The image of Rachel in her wedding dress, choosing this new group of people over her fiance, sets up the show’s central theme of friendship. Ross is also newly single in the pilot and finds comfort in his group of friends in place of his ex-wife. It’s key that none of the six characters is in a serious relationship during the series.
‘Friends’ represented the typical life of 20-something people in the 90s era that lived and ate together. They had their own share of struggles with their families and work. And eventually, friends become family. It was a support system that worked out perfectly.
“I’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you, ’cause you’re there for me too”. This series starts with these lyrics where all six friends dance and laugh. The lyrics themselves speak about what the show was. This show focused on the friendship between all the characters – Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross.
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Friendship is love, and love is ‘Friends’
Love comes in many forms, not just romantic. And each kind helps a person to grow. Friends is a wonderful example of that. Each character has grown through their experiences with each other. Rachel becomes independent. Monica learns to accept that life won’t always go as planned and embraces it. Chandler becomes more confident and believes in himself more.
Ross opens his mind more to other people’s points of view. And Joey emotionally matures and, by the end, knows the kind of man he wants to be moving forward. Lastly, Phoebe, who never had stability, gets married. Without each other’s support, none of the characters would have really changed. The show did to friendship what rom-coms did to romance. It’s just an unreachable standard of getting along that well with a stranger enough to forgive basically anything.
There may be a dark side to this romantic representation
‘Friends’ gives a romantic perception of how friendships should be like. It becomes easy to fall into the trap thinking there is something wrong when your real-life friendships are not like that. Many people crave companionship because we are naturally social creatures. Even the most introverted ones need to go out sometimes and interact with others.
But real life is far more complicated than shown in these TV programs. In ‘Friends’, conversations always seem to go well. The awkward characters are either adorable and dorky or have some great quality that gives them a happy ending. Friendship groups are tight-knit and amazing. Seeing all of this in a show makes you lament over your own friendships, which might not be the same.
Sometimes, you might have similar characters in your life, and sometimes you don’t. These fictional characters make you lose your grip on reality and give you a false sense of expectations from others. Since all is forgiven in ‘Friends’, it might be the same for you too, right?
It is not, though. It would be best if you had some boundaries and respect within your friendships too. And if you don’t, then you start losing your ‘real friends. Some people suffer social anxiety because of these false expectations, become socially awkward, and do not have any friends. So, even though it is an ideological representation of friendships, ‘Friends’ should be the yardstick to your life.
It does make sense for them to interact regularly
Some people say that it does not make sense for all six of them to meet regularly. But it does make sense that they hang out as much as they do since Chandler/Joey and Rachel/Monica (and later Chandler/Monica and Joey/Rachel) are roommates for the entire duration. While Phoebe is an outsider, she does live close enough. And she became close to the group while living with Monica. She lives with her grandmother for the first five seasons, but the friends are her family other than her. Likewise, Ross has close ties with the group since he is Monica’s brother and Chandler’s best friend from college. So while it requires some suspension of disbelief (concerning how much free time they seem to have), I don’t think it’s strange they hang out as much as they do.
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Close-knit communities were the trend in the 90s
Friends bookend an era where communities and thereby friend groups were necessarily physical; it sounds obvious when put that way, but it’s in such stark contrast to our interactions with friends today. Now more than ever, the sitcom dream of living next door to all your friends taps into a nostalgia so characteristic of childhood, teenage, and college life that is lost to anybody becoming an adult.
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Why is ‘Friends’ like comfort food?
Nowadays, creating and maintaining an adult friendship is extremely difficult. Even studies indicate that they are in decline. Twenty-two per cent of millennials in a 2019 YouGov poll said they had “no friends,” compared to 16 percent of Gen Xers and 9 percent of baby boomers. There can be various reasons for this decline. One can be that people live increasingly busy lives, and as our paths diverge with our friends, we end up losing touch. In addition, people have different careers, incomes, schedules, and it becomes difficult to maintain friendships. And in times like these, ‘Friends’ becomes their comfort food. It reminds the viewers of their own friendships.
But ultimately, beyond the 90s trends and touchstones, this show captured such a massive success with the audience. And the reason is in its title itself. It remains universally popular and relevant even after 25 years because it is all about friendship. The entire concept revolves around having friends. Not everyone has a magical friendship with others, but we can still relate to it. It is reminiscent of those times when friendship took the front seat in your life and meant everything to you. And that is what ‘Friends’ is about.
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