season 1 first aired nearly 30 years ago, and despite many outdated and problematic jokes, the series has proven to still be popular with a new generation of young adults. This generation, often called Gen Z, has discovered an unlikely love for the series, representing a time that should be very different from theirs. Several of the concepts and world perspectives seen in wildly contradict the modern values within society. Yet, the series hasn't been "canceled."
began in 1994 and followed a group of Generation Xers as they struggled through their young adult years in New York City. They are of the same race and sexual orientation and conform to "traditional" gender norms. They seem to never communicate with each other about their problems and feelings and therefore have a conflict in every episode resulting from some big misunderstanding. Several of revolve around sexual orientation, and being gay is often treated as an insult. These things contradict what many in Gen Z value– but they still love the show.
Generation Z, as well as other generations, has fallen in love with despite its shortcomings because of a certain quality that has proven successful across several sitcoms: a close-knit group of friends. The series centralizes six people with different relationships, demonstrating the kind of connections people are naturally drawn to. For example, Chandler and Joey's bonding over and Ross and Phoebe arguing about evolution remind audiences of their own friendships and the comical memories they have of them.
These friendships have been seen in other popular sitcoms like and , but has a feature that differs slightly even from these. The writers avoided designating a "main character." may have been the central romance, but each character and direct friendship within the group was equal. This allowed audiences to identify with one of the six drastically different personalities and feel the "main character energy" themselves.
While the friendships and unique character structure redeem , it's hard to deny that many parts of the show didn't age well. Modern audiences have criticized even Ross and Rachel's relationship. Today, Ross isn't considered as good of a guy as he was a few decades ago since his jealousy and superior attitude are now seen as red flags. Additionally, the series often misidentifies common concepts within Gen Z, such as the difference between a Drag Queen and a transgender person (as seen with Chandler's transgender parent).
Still, at times, but it isn't maliciously so. Instead, the series represents how society genuinely considered different concepts, allowing modern audiences to compare and contrast with their own time. Gen Z may think differently about the world than characters, but it's easy to appreciate that and move on. Even for audiences in or near adulthood when the series first aired, it's often enjoyable (or at least beneficial) to see how much things have changed.
The 1990s are the current "nostalgia" years. Not only are they thought of fondly by those who lived through them, but the current young generation has begun to take over the style. Rachel's haircut and mom jeans areall the rage, and the aesthetic of can be found all over TikTok. So while some audiences are watching to remind them of the past decade of their lives, others are watching because it is a genuine representation of their current style—'90s style is Gen Z's style (with a twist, of course).
As time passes, the 1990s will again fall out of popularity, and something else will take its place in the rotation. Still, it's likely that after 30 years, can be counted on to remain relevant. The series seems to have captured something relatable not just to a time or generation but to the human experience. Friendship has yet to evolve away, and the and the rest will likely always be enjoyable to watch. The next generation may have new lessons to learn from , but it will always be there for them.