Though it was one of the biggest hit sitcoms of the ’90s, Friends had its fair share of detractors. People would point out the hacky jokes, the fact that the women Friends have a huge, expensive apartment even though there’s no way they could afford it, even split three ways. The fact that, despite taking place in Manhattan, there appear to be between zero and one people of color in their world. However, when the hit parade of complaints rolls out, one is generally left out — homophobic. Is Friends homophobic? This nearly-hour long supercut answers that question with a resounding “And how!”
Tijana Mamula’s 2011 film Homophobic Friends edits together every homophobic joke from the series. Despite being known for the lesbian wedding episode that was so controversial some stations refused to air it (and wouldn’t even let them kiss!), there’s a definite undercurrent of homophobia running through the series.
As Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin writing for the New Statesman points out, Ross and Chandler, the two characters with LGBTQ family, “who are most disgusted by queerness.”
It’s incredibly cruel for Ross to freak out about about Ben playing with a Barbie in front of his queer co-parents, essentially telling them that he doesn’t accept their identity and doesn’t want his son to be like them.
Even worse is Chandler’s dehumanizing contempt for his queer father, which mutates into a loathing of any kind of effeminacy or gender nonconformity, in himself or anyone else. Plenty of people will tell you that this gay panic was “of its time”, but frankly that only makes it more sinister. When Friends first aired in 1994, the AIDS death toll among gay men hit its peak.
It’s particularly strange given that one of the co-creators of the show, David Crane, is himself gay. He insists that Chandler, at least, is not homophobic, saying, “He has his own anxieties and issues, but I don’t think the character was homophobic in the least.”
So, was Friends, as Mhaoileoin says, “six straight people defining themselves against a threatening queer other” or was it a 20-year-old show trying its best? Should there be a Friends reboot that addresses some of these issues? Or can Friends be fixed? Let us know what you think in the comments.