"Welcome to the real world!"
is one of the most iconic sitcoms in television history, airing on NBC for 10 seasons from 1994 through 2004. However, like any show that goes on for too long, became susceptible to telling jokes that would not fly in 2023.
From the abundance of homophobia and transphobia to the unbelievable gender stereotypes and jokes surrounding people's looks, is full of content that a modern sitcom would not be able to get away with today. These things might make audiences cringe while they watch all those reruns on TBS or binge-watch the entire series on HBO Max.
on how modern audiences have issues with many episodes, and she's right. The show remains an iconic and beloved sitcom that many still enjoy, but it's undeniable that, as a product of its time, it has content that has aged rather badly. From questionable storylines to the characters' creepy behaviors, these Friends storylines can derail any fan's enjoyment of the otherwise hilarious show.
Just how young was Young Ethan? That's the question Monica's friends ask her when she starts dating the youthful guy who claims to be a senior in college. However, he reveals his deceit after he sleeps with Monica, confessing he is a senior in high school; thus, he's seventeen.
The storyline gets resolved with an amiable break-up and some teasing toward Monica. However, it remains a creepy and problematic development, especially because Monica acknowledges sleeping with him makes her "a felon in forty-eight states." At least he only appears in one episode.
. Thanks to Lisa Kudrow's comedic timing, Phoebe is the show's beating heart, a quirky and spontaneous breath of fresh air in a group of mostly straight-laced young adults. Phoebe's life was complicated and hard, spending years homeless after her father left and her mother died by suicide.
The show usually uses Phoebe's tragic past to make a joke. Furthermore, her friends make light of her situation, usually expressing shock or discomfort whenever she discusses her upbringing. At times, they even make snarky comments about her past, like when Monica attributes Phoebe's supposed stint in porn to her "terrible childhood." Phoebe has a sense of humor about it, but her friends should support her, not judge her behind her back.
Rachel and Tag are among . However, their romance is incredibly creepy; for starters, she's his boss, so there is an imbalance of power in their dynamic. She also hires him only because she is attracted to him, sending him to fire the more qualified candidate she had previously chosen.
Furthermore, Rachel behaves incredibly inappropriately before they get together. She lies about him being gay to prevent other women from approaching him, convinces Joey to befriend him to try and talk him out of dating, and goes through his stuff while he's not around – she even smells his clothes. Rachel and Tag were sweet together, but her behavior before the relationship was creepy and borderline stalker; no one could've blamed him if he got a restraining order against her.
No storyline in is more disturbing and outright reprehensible than the time Ross made a pass at his cousin, Cassie. Played by Denisse Richards, Cassie is Ross and Monica's cousin who stays with them during a visit to New York. Chandler keeps staring and making her uncomfortable, prompting her to stay with Ross expecting her blood relative to behave better. He doesn't.
During the episode's climax, Ross deludes himself into thinking Cassie is actually interested in him because she put on a movie and dimmed the lights. He then tries to kiss her, not caring that she is his cousin; naturally, she pulls away and storms out, leaving Ross feeling embarrassed and guilty, as he should. The storyline is puzzling and gross; it was wrong in the early 2000s and is still wrong today. Ross is the show's most questionable character, but his behavior toward his cousin remains his worst moment.
It's hard to think of Ross and forget that he was once married to a lesbian. That's because relentlessly reminds the audience of it and even made his ex-wife Carol and her new partner Susan the butt of several jokes throughout the series.
This blatant homophobia would definitely not be seen on television today, especially when so many in recent years are celebrated, and real "friends" wouldn't make fun of or resent someone for a situation like this either.
The 90s made a very bad habit of making jokes at the expense of the LGBTQ+, notwithstanding. Once one of Chandler's parents came out as a transgender woman, it became more of a punchline than a thing to be proud of.
Not only was the transgender character – played by iconic 80s actress Kathleen Turner – joked about at every opportunity, but Chandler never even attempted to hide his transphobia. The show's resident funny man often misgendered his parent and cringed at the sight of her in a dress & makeup at his wedding.
It was always a strange trend in sitcoms to fat-shame overweight characters and joke about their size. did this often with the character Patrice. However, many shows followed in the footsteps of which did the same thing with one of its lead characters.
It's no secret Monica used to be overweight in her teenage years; flashbacks throughout the series reveal as much. But when the sole purpose of making a character overweight is to insult them or joke about it, it's not exactly funny or something any reputable television show would do today.
Who doesn't remember "The One with the Male Nanny" from Season 9? The episode centers around Ross and Rachel's search for a nanny to watch Emma; they finally find Sandy, a male nanny played by Freddie Prince Jr., who Rachel loves but Ross despises for no other reason than being a man in a so-called "girly" profession.
Ross makes clear his dislike of having a male nanny, going so far as asking Sandy his sexual preferences, assuming he must be gay or "at least bi." The whole episode is problematic on Ross' end from start to finish, but at least Rachel was well with the times.
Despite being , Ugly Naked Guy is a memorable individual from the show. He's the man who lives in the building across the friends' signature apartment and often walks around unclothed for all the friends to see from the big bay window.
The issue isn't the character but the nickname given to him by the group. This verges on more fat-shaming, as Phoebe once admitted that "Ugly Naked Guy" used to be cute before gaining weight, thus why he's now ugly. Even using the word 'ugly' to describe anyone in 2022 is in bad taste (as it was in the '90s, for that matter).
In a world full of breastfeeding freedoms and "Free the Nipple" campaigns, it's hard to imagine a time when something as beautiful and natural as breastfeeding was ever a thing of disgust or discomfort. Yet, the subject was still taboo in the 90s, and mainstream attempts to include it in the conversation were usually through a narrow and mocking approach.
certainly didn't help the cause when Joey and Chandler couldn't handle seeing Carol breastfeeding Ben. It may have been slightly understandable for the 90s, but their immature reactions would certainly not bode well on television today.
As if Ross couldn't any more sexist, he had to go and whine about his toddler son playing with Barbies. His masculinity issues aren't just implied when he attempts to switch out Ben's Barbie for an action figure; Ross straight up says to Rachel, "Why is my boy playing with a Barbie?"
Between not being allowed to play with dolls and his sister's male nanny fiasco, the amount of damage Ross probably did to Ben is enough to send Cole Sprouse'scharacter to therapy for the rest of his life. did a decent job exploring Ross' flawed psyche and explaining where his masculinity issues came from – however, it also went out of its way to show how little he learned over the years.
Any sexual misconduct in the workplace is no laughing matter... unless it's on While working as a masseuse, Phoebe gets assaulted by a male client, a scene played for laughs and used as a plot point in the ever-evolving Ross/Rachel romance.
Rather than addressing the issue of sexual assault in the workplace when Phoebe tells her friends about the incident, it's brushed off to deal with the more pressing matter. Interestingly, what shocks the group is not that Phoebe got assaulted, but that Paolo did it, and their concern isn't for Phoebe but for Rachel. It's a misguided and reprehensible choice, one that would never fly today.