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At the beginning of 2015, one of the most watched television shows of all-time, Friends, gained a brand-new following — thanks, Netflix. With these new fans came think piece... after think piece... after think piece about a show that had ended over a decade prior. Think pieces are fine, I'm writing one right now; they encourage discussion and oftentimes present analysis and opinions one may not have previously thought about! Critically writing about shows and other forms of entertainment are things I encourage, especially when discussing forms of misogyny, homophobia, and racism in said entertainment. It's not cool, however, to read the same think piece again and again about how a character from a show that started in the early 90s and ended in the early 2000s is a problematic piece of garbage because they don't live up to your standards of people or something even though it truly was a different time.
Ross Geller is problematic. And that's okay.
Usually one of the top points in these "Ross Geller Sucks" hot takes is his treatment of Susan (and Carol, but mostly Susan) and how it makes him an asshole. I'm sorry, has anyone in the history of time ever been the greatest person ever to their ex's new partner? Did everyone just conveniently forget that Carol cheated on Ross and then sprung it on him that she was pregnant? That Susan and Carol kinda didn't want Ross to have anything to do with even naming the child and made him feel like he was just a sperm donor? I'm not saying Ross wasn't wrong, but they certainly weren't angels, especially Susan (who I adore because she's hilarious). The dynamic between Ross/Carol/Susan also gave the show some of its greatest lines and moments. Ross is an ass to his ex-wife and her new wife and that is okay. Why? These two dish it right back to him, and in the end, they actually have a functioning, supportive co-parenting relationship and Ross escorted Carol down the aisle during her and Susan's wedding. I'll repeat that... Ross, the guy who was cheated on, walked his ex-wife down the aisle for her to marry the person she had an affair with.
Friends had a pretty terrible track record with its treatment of LGBT+ characters anyway, I mean... Chandler's dad anyone?
"Wow, you guys sure have a lot of books about being a lesbian."
"Well, you know. You have to take a course... otherwise they don't let you do it."
(As a bisexual who didn't realize they were bisexual until ~10 years after she watched Friends in its entirety, Susan and Carol is one of the first F/F relationships I can recall seeing on TV and that was huge for me, and also another story.)
Ross and Rachel... oh man, typical loser finally gets the girl he's been pining for since he was a teenager and all that jazz story, right? Wrong. Not that "the nerd gets the girl" trope wasn't a thing in the 90s because it definitely was, however, it wasn't as played out as it is now. Yes, Ross was sometimes possessive, mean, manipulative, and a straight up douche-bag to Rachel but, again, she gave as good as she got. They were both jealous, manipulative, mean, and honestly, just toxic. That doesn't change the fact that Ross and Rachel are Ross and Rachel: an iconic TV couple whose relationship had fans on the edge of their seat waiting till the next episode or next season, because binge watching it on Netflix wasn't an option. Rachel (drunkenly) left Ross a message about being over him (when they weren't even together!!) when he was happy with Julie. Now I'm not saying she's a bad person but these two are a MESS when it comes to each other. There's no inherent "bad guy," as they're both pretty terrible. There's definitely an air of "if I can't have you, nobody can" when it comes to Ross and Rachel both post-breakups and during other relationships. It's okay to not like Ross and Rachel as a couple; a lot of people don't. You just shouldn't fault people who watched the show as it was airing for still (critically or not) enjoying this couple that they probably invested a lot of time in because you've gotten bombarded with the Will They/Won't They and Nerd Gets The Girl tropes in television and movies in the last 15 years.
(Also, they were on a break. Bad move on Ross's part but they were definitely on a break.)
"You're over me? ... When were you... under me?"
Ross is sexist! He is. He doesn't want Ben to play with a barbie doll and instead tries to get him to play with GI Joe and dinosaurs. The infamous "manny" storyline where Ross didn't finish his line about "It's like if a woman wanted to be a..." What, Ross?! What can't a woman be?
Yeah, Ross is pretty shitty in his treatment of women and how he views women and womanly things.
So is Joey, who constantly objectifies women and often imagines his three female best friends in threesome/lesbian situations. Uhhh, okay.
Don't forget Chandler who strings Janice along despite finding her annoying as hell because he doesn't want to be alone.
Friends is not a beacon of diversity. It's homophobic, transphobic, fatphobic, sexist, and racist. It's also a show that started over 20 years ago, and despite all of its flaws (there are many), holds up pretty well. Watching a show for the first time years after its original airing can make you say, "that is so overdone" and, "ugh, that kind of storyline again?" but the thing is... it probably wasn't overdone when the show was airing!
You don't have to like Ross Geller. Most fans new and old don't seem to, but if we're going to discuss his terribleness, can we at least acknowledge that every one of the Friends is awful in some way? I mean, seriously, this show is just rife with selfishness, cruelty, and downright nastiness from all of its main characters, not just Ross, and it's played for laughs.
You can still find me catching those re-runs on TBS and Nick at Nite, though.
Ross Geller is my original problematic fave and one of the friends might just be yours.