'Friends: The Reunion': Gay father in drag to single motherhood, 5 ways show was far ahead of its time
From tackling issues on fat-shaming to LGBTQ+ topics, the show covered it all
‘Friends’ may have released in 1994 and had a decade-long run, but what the show proved through its 236 episodes was that it was way ahead of its time, and helped mainstream issues that we take for granted now.
Ahead of ‘Friends: The Reunion’ set to take the world back on a nostalgia trip, we take a look at some key moments and characters in the series that shed light on topics that were most often not subjects of discussion on a media platform.
Susan, Carol, and the image Ross had trouble picturing
It was a collective gasp of shock and amusement that rippled through the live audience when Ross's (David Schwimmer) wife Carol (Anita Barone, later replaced by Jane Sibbett) revealed she was lesbian and had a girlfriend called Susan Bunch (Jessica Hecht). To make things more uncomfortable for him, she also added she was pregnant with his child.
Eventually, the child, Ben, would go on to grow up with both Susan and Carol, while also spending quality time with the father. Ross was shown to have come to terms with the fact his ex-wife was a lesbian over the course of the series. What the show did was tell the world that being lesbian was okay, and it was a sexual orientation that was as normal as it could be. Acceptance was key, and that was a message the show shed light on.
Chandler’s father Helena Handbasket
There was grimace, embarrassment, and shame written all over Chandler's (Matthew Perry) face when he and Monica (Courteney Cox) head to Las Vegas to invite his father to the wedding. Kathleen Turner played drag artist Helena, the gay father who played a massive role in shaping Chandler’s view towards relationships.
Fat-shaming was unacceptable then, and unacceptable now
Monica’s issues with her weight were well-documented in the show and her first encounter with Chandler during Thanksgiving wasn’t exactly pleasant. The latter calls Monica fat much to her dismay and that upsets her to the point where she aggressively slims down. That said, it wasn’t just Chandler, but also Monica’s parents who ridiculed her for her appetite and then her inability to achieve just about anything in her life.
Remember the time when a restaurant manager went into innuendo mode when interviewing Monica to work as a chef at his restaurant? While it came across as a thigh-slapping fun scene, what it did was mock a classic form of sexual harassment at workplaces.
Adoption and Surrogacy
Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) becomes a surrogate mother to her brother Frank’s (Giovanni Ribisi) children, while Chandler and Monica decide to take the adoption route when they realize they cannot have children. What it did was shun the myths around surrogacy and also encouraged adoption as a means of raising children.
Rachel chose to be a single mother
Independent is the word that comes to mind when Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), after realizing she was pregnant with Ross’s child, decides she would raise the child irrespective of his support. She steered away from the whole damsel-in-distress scenario and chose to be a confident single mother capable of raising the child.