Skip to comments.With Friends Like These: A Not-So-Funny Legacy
Posted on 05/06/2004 9:44:11 AM PDT by Mr. Silverback
If you never pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, or listen to the radio, you just might have missed the news that NBCs situation comedy Friends is ending its ten-year run. The media is giving this event about as much coverage as it would give the second coming of Christmaybe even more. USA Today alone has published so many features on the show in the past several months that NBC ought to have the paper on its payroll as a publicity agent.
The popular show about six glamorous and appealing young New Yorkers is widely seen as a cultural milestone. Perhaps the most bizarre sign of the shows perceived importance was a rash of articles that came out not long after September 11, celebrating Friends as the kind of comfort TV that would help us all feel normal again.
And while thats debatable, for sure, no one can deny that Friends has had a deep impactdeep, but regrettably not very positive.
Look at some of what are considered the shows classic moments: a lesbian wedding (in which the ex-husband of one of the women gave her away); a drunken Las Vegas wedding that soon ended in divorce; various premarital sexual relationships and partner swapping; and one characters foray into unwed motherhoodthe television kind of motherhood, that is, where the baby hardly ever inconveniences anyone or even shows up. Nearly every week, using winsome characters, the show reached levels of vulgarity and sexual frankness that continued to define deviancy downward.
Am Ilike the mediataking Friends too seriously? After all, its only supposed to be comic relief. But comedy is what made the show so dangerous. Comedy gets under our radar in a way that political debates dont.
Consider a study commissioned by the RAND Corporation and published in the journal Pediatrics a few months ago. The researchers came to the incredible conclusion that Friends and shows like it were useful for sex education, because teenagers remembered their sexual messages so well. The fact that these messages were unhealthy somehow escaped the researchers notice. And this is all the more disturbing since a large percentage of Friendss audience is teenagers and even preteens. And for an increasing number of them, nobody is stepping in to counteract the sexual lessons that theyve learned from Friends.
Its hard to argue that Friends presented a false picture of what goes on in our culture. Premarital sex is widespread among both adults and teenseven in the church. But the real problem with Friends was that it made this kind of lifestyle look like fun. Even a show like Sex and the City, with all its bed-hopping, showed someone getting hurt once in a while. On Friends, by contrast, it was all in good fun. No sexual relationship was ever so damaging that it couldnt be healed by a new one within the next few weeks. Thats a picture that has nothing at all to do with reality.
Yes, the critics are right, as overblown as they sometimes sound: Friends has left a lasting mark on our popular culture. And Christian parents, pastors, and youth ministers need to face up to the damage and step up to the task of reconstruction.
Definitely more. If Jesus came back today, most of the current media would hide under their desks.
a drunken Las Vegas wedding that soon ended in divorce
Britney Spears guest starred? I didn't know that...
various premarital sexual relationships and partner swapping
I haven't watched the show in 6 or 7 years, but"partner-swapping"? I think that's a stretch. It's only partner swapping if it goes, "Here's my wife/girlfriend, go ahead and sleep with her while I sleep with your wife/girlfriend."
unwed motherhoodthe television kind of motherhood, that is, where the baby hardly ever inconveniences anyone or even shows up.
Yeah, that sucks, but at least they didn't try to make abortion funny.
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Watch the Seinfeld episode called "The Couch" for a pardody of the abortion issue that is guarnteed a laugh. Elaine is obviously a pro-abortion girl, but Jerry seems to swing in the other direction.
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You bring up a good point regarding unwed motherhood vs. abortion. It is no small feat that the show allowed the child to be born. Additionally, the shows I've seen rarely revolved around the issues that concern Colson; the sex issues were always in the background to a degree. Compare that with Seinfeld's "The Contest" (possibly one of the funniest TV episodes ever), and Friends is pretty tame.
As for the preteen audience, that's the parents' responsibility.
I've only seen each one a few times, but they are hysterical. They both make me laugh out loud. Chappelle's Show on Comedy Central is one of the funniest (sketch-based) shows I've ever seen. He's a genius.
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