Like most people in the world, I adore the TV show Friends. It honestly seemed like it was always playing in the background when I was younger, and I’ve watched the entire series from start to finish many times since becoming an adult.
Like most things that were created a few decades ago, not every part of Friends has aged well. This is because we as humans are always evolving and asking ourselves if what we are doing is enough, or right.
Growing up in an era that is focused on making the world a more acceptable place has made me look at things such as Friends in a different way. Whilst I still love Friends and will continue to watch it forever, I can’t help but wonder how certain storylines would be different if Friends had come out within the last few years – which is exactly what this post is about!
Whilst going through my latest watch-through of Friends, I noted down certain events that I think would have been done differently if Friends had been made post-2010. Don’t get me wrong, I know the show is a comedy and not everything has to be so serious, but I think other shows such as Will & Grace cover both topics perfectly, so it is possible!
Let me know your thoughts on these storylines – and any others I didn’t include – and how they would be different nowadays in the comments below 👇
There is an episode in the earlier seasons where Joey Tribbiani, who is an aspiring actor, is trying to figure out what new stage name he should choose to replace Tribbiani. He says his agent told him that Tribbiana is too “ethnic” and that choosing a more neutral stage name might help his chances at getting more auditions and roles.
At first glance at this storyline, it might sound like it’s his agent who is in the wrong here, but I think she is merely telling him how the game of acting works. The actual problem is that this is something that people who are trying to make it into show business actually deal with.
Since this episode was shot in the late 90’s, subtle (or not-so-subtle) hints at racism like that were still peppered into society so much that neither Joey nor his five closest friends really thought that much about it.
If this storyline ran in a TV show today, there is no doubt that the topics of racism and discrimination would have been brought up, and hopefully the storyline would have ended with Joey choosing not to give up his identity in order to conform to other people’s wishes.
As most of you will know, by the next episode this storyline was completely forgotten – which is what always happens in sitcoms – and he didn’t end up changing his name officially, which I definitely think is a good thing.
Monica’s weight – or, more specifically, the weight she was when she was younger – is one of the most long-running jokes within Friends. It is constantly brought up just how fat Monica was when she was younger, which is apparently made up for with all the comments on how “hot” she is as an adult.
If Friends was just being made today, I believe they would have gone into the topics of eating disorders more, and allowed Monica to tell her story of how she got healthier, not just why (which, in case you’ve forgotten, was because she heard Chandler call her fat).
Monica also had a lot of issues with her parents growing up, and always felt inferior to her older brother Ross. The unrealistic standards and passive aggressive comments from her mother throughout her entire life would have definitely contributed to her unhealthy eating habits, which they could have explored.
I also wish that she could have told her mother off for the way she messed with Monica’s mind whilst growing up, as a lot of people grow up with parents who are far from perfect, and seeing those kinds of things being represented in TV shows really helps you feel less alone whilst you’re still going through them.
Phoebe has a super hectic, mind-blowing past, which we all know very well. It’s often used as a joke, which I know people most likely have a problem with, but my main issue with it is that I don’t think she got the help she needed.
As someone with a past that constantly leaves people shocked when I drop random tidbits of it into conversations – much like Phoebe does throughout the series – I understand the need to talk about it without making it a huge deal, because those things are over now and there’s no need to dwell on them.
However, during the show she goes through a lot too, such as meeting her father and realising that the person she thought was her mother wasn’t, and then meeting her real mother. That would be a lot for anyone to take in, much less a person who had such an unstable childhood, and who is working so hard at creating a normal adult life for herself.
I like to think that a 2019 version of Phoebe would have sought out therapy or something similar to help her with all the things she has gone through, which would help normalise therapy and needing help, even as an adult, as that is a concept that a lot of people struggle with. I love that Phoebe got her happy ending, but I worry that later on in life she’s still going to have issues from all the things she’s gone through in her life.
As great as it was to have LGBT characters in a 90’s sitcom, Carol and Susan were treated as such jokes throughout the whole thing. I do love that they had a strong, stable relationship – and that Ross really stepped up for them when they wanted to get married, even though it took him some time – but I think they could have explored that storyline in a different way.
Whilst we do see Ross being hurt over his divorce in the beginning, we don’t see him working on himself as the series goes on, which ends up making him a paranoid mess in all his other relationships.
If he had tried to really work out his problems – either by going to therapy, or just on his own – we could have seen him realise that Carol realising her true sexuality was no one’s “fault”, and that it didn’t mean his future partners would leave him too.
I also would have liked to see Carol’s side more often, of how she felt realising she was a lesbian, and then having to come out to her friends and family, who apparently weren’t very supportive.
To be honest, I am still confused about Chandler’s father to this day, and I have watched the series many times. Everything that is said and shown about him is meant for a joke, so I’m not sure exactly what happened between his parents.
What I think happened is that Chandler’s mother realised that Chandler’s father was having an affair with a man, so they broke up, and later on his father started to transition into a woman. However, I could be wrong. Chandler’s father could just enjoy dressing as a woman for his burlesque show and not necessarily identify as one, I’m really not sure.
Either way, that storyline could have been explored a lot more. Chandler had an okay amount of growth with his mother, especially during the episode where she sleeps with Ross and Chandler finally lets loose all the feelings he has always kept inside, but I think he needed to do that with his father as well.
If he had tried to get to know his father more, perhaps the divorce of his parents wouldn’t have hit him so hard. It also would have been beneficial for his father as well, who I’m sure had a rough time realising he was gay after having a son and wife. That couldn’t have been easy.
A few other storylines that I think would be different today:
- Monica’s views on motherhood. I understand that some people grow up knowing that they can’t wait to be parents, but I would have liked to see the writers of Friends explore the possibility of Monica realising that she doesn’t necessarily have to have kids in order to have a full life. It also would have been interesting to see her pursue having kids on her own, which she almost does at one point during the show.
- Whilst it’s clearly obvious that many of Joey’s traits aren’t really “okay”, it does seem like there is always a character like Joey in sitcoms, so it’s not exactly shocking to see, even in 2019. The part that I have trouble with is the fact that Joey has seven sisters and still treats women the way he does. I think it would have made more sense to make him grow up in a male-dominate household.
- At one point during the show, Ross is trying to teach his son Ben about Hanukkah, and it doesn’t go well. This is probably due to the fact that he started teaching him quite late in his life instead of making it something he grew up with, but I also think it shows that Carol and Susan clearly didn’t think about Ross’ religion whilst raising Ben. Even though Ross didn’t get full – or even majority – custody, I think it would have been nice to see a storyline about all three parents coming together and agreeing to raise Ben to become familiar with multiple religions, which is a lot more common these days.
- In one episode, Joey dates a girl who hits him in a lot, but all his friends brush it off because she does it in such a “cute way”. Violence in relationships, and the fact that women can be the abusers too, is an important topic in today’s society, so it would be interesting to see how that storyline would play out now, and to maybe learn why she felt the need to constantly punch Joey, even when she was happy.
Whew! That was a lot of talking. I really applaud you if you stuck around for all of that! Once again just let me reiterate that I love Friends, but I also know how society reacts to things now, and how newer TV shows – even sitcoms – are working on incorporating more serious topics into their storylines.
Shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the Will & Grace revival handle funny and serious topics so well, and I’d like to think that Friends would have as well, had it been made twenty or so years later.
Anyway, what are YOUR thoughts on this topic? Any other storylines that you think would look a lot different today? Leave me a comment, I’d really love to hear what you have to say! ☺️
Until next time,