The Student
Image of the cast of Friends, taken around season 2.
Review
Does the Friends reunion mark the rise of ‘uncancelled’ culture?
by Cherie Bradley, 16/06/21

Rating – ⭐

Who needs enemies when you have Friends like these? The Aniston and Schwimmer ‘real life’ love story mirroring the fictional storyline appeared a decoy for dealing with any real issues, proving unaccountability as the true hallmark of the 90s show. Goodbye, old Friends – It’s been great avenging the past and demanding accountability.

A former friend of Weinstein, James Corden, and 51-year-old actor Matthew Perry demonstrate that it is possible to tame the seemingly eternal flame of accountability gaining traction in the BLM movement, LBGTQ+ community and the women’s equality movement.

The British comedy actor and now late-night US television presenter recently interviewed the cast of Friends, seventeen years after the final show was aired. The New York-based show shot to fame in the nineties, and recently experienced a renaissance in 2018 when the ten-season series was signed up and re-aired by Netflix, reaching a wider audience.

The comedy show, which follows a group of ‘relatable’ twenty-something year-olds trying to navigate love, life and friendships, experienced a spike in complaints in its 2018 Netflix airing, as reported in the Independent (article: Millennials watching friends shocked by storylines). The show contains sexist, transphobic and homophobic comments and fails to represent a diverse New York in its all-white cast. However, the show escaped any real scrutiny, and unlike other sitcoms and celebrities, Friends evaded ‘cancel culture.’

Despite the controversial jokes and the lack of representation, it would meet the standards of the ‘Bechdel test,’ which seeks to encourage equality of women in fiction; some of the comedic lines were granted to the show’s female characters, there was equal representation of men and women and women spoke about issues that didn’t always relate to men. Whilst it would have met these standards, this likely demonstrates the inadequacy of the Bechdel test, and that the film and media industry should instead strive towards more inclusive principles.

The reunion show was lively, exciting, and a reminder of a pre-pandemic world. But for what James Corden can conjure in the non-existent atmosphere of a sparse and socially distanced audience, he lacks in asking for accountability for a popular show claiming to depict youngsters of New York.

Matthew Perry, one of the lead actors, was recently outed by an eighteen-year-old TikTok star left feeling uncomfortable as the 51-year-old attempted to pursue her romantically. Yet, the Friends reunion went uncancelled.

Corden’s most ‘controversial’ moment was when he asked the cast their opinions on iconic storylines, such as “were they on a break everyone?” referring to the classic ‘will-they-won’t they’ boy-girl, heterosexual storyline afforded to actors Jennifer Anniston and David Schwimmer. Ross and Rachel on a break? In other words, was Rachel being unreasonable when she expected her partner not to sleep with someone the first night they broke up? The actors all answered “yes!” in a chorus of internalised misogyny.

No one was asked to recognise their comedic lines that came at the expense of women, people of the LGBTQ+ community, nor the lack of diversity in the cast supposed to represent the city of New York.

No one suggests we fall out with Friends, but issues need addressing.

Image: Sarah Smithers via Flickr