How F.R.I.E.N.D.S Helped Me Break Stereotypes for Over a Decade

F.R.I.E.N.D.S, a show very close to the heart. I’m sure a lot of you would agree. It’s one of those feelings that stay with you. In a weird way, these feelings help you navigate the complex emotions of life.

I’m writing this on a very sad day for the fans. It’s the day that our beloved, the king of sarcasm, Mr. Chandler Muriel Bing, left us.

It’s only fair to share my experience with these feelings for the past 10 years. In particular, I’m diving deep into how F.R.I.E.N.D.S. helped my mind to break out of many stereotypes. About life, death, love, bonding, and friendship.

The Importance of Freedom

One of the first things that attracts me the most about this group is their independence. They have this amazing dynamic yet they all have their own lives. None of them are too dependent on anyone yet they can rely on each other.

Sure, some of them are struggling, but not to the point where you can’t make ends meet. To me, it’s the perfect balance of struggle and success in life. You need to reach that point in life before you can think about more serious things such as building relationships and your future plans.

As you grow, you get to enjoy life your own way. You get to explore the thoughts that used to bother you before. There’s no one to stop you, there’s no one to judge you.

Sadly, freedom here is often a synonym for selfishness. The “society” that we live in will label you as a selfish human being.

Why, you ask? Well, because you’re not fitting the dream your parents had for you. You’re not following the “traditions”. Of course, the degree of skepticism varies from culture to culture. You can’t expect Iran and the US to be on the same page regarding this! The characters in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. are free of these commitments. Although it’s a bit far-fetched at times, it’s a good template to work on. At least for me, freedom has been a major narrative in life. I cherish it, I dream of it. It’s a life goal, if you want to take it that far.

Breaking Gender Norms

This is a big one, especially in the culture I belong to. Gender norms are pretty much cancerous here. And somehow, people are okay with it. But that’s beside the point. People have the right to stick to their beliefs and ideas.

In F.R.I.E.N.D.S., none of the characters were bound to norms. Every person can function on their own, having separate beliefs from each other. Sure, some of them are bad at it, but they still manage to function. Take Rachel’s transition from daddy’s princess to a working woman as an example. It’s a testament in itself.  

Then there is Ross. Not the typical Macho type, is he? He has this weird, comforting sense to him. I get why many women may not like it but it surely adds an extra lens to life.

If you look through the internet, you’ll find mentions of Joey’s man bag and the time when he wore makeup for a role. If anything, the show is a goldmine of instances where they broke gender norms.

The Definition of Love

The most debated and probably the most uttered word in human history is LOVE. And it’s not just the English language we’re talking about. Amor, Liebe, Lifde, or Mohabbat. Whatever you want to call it, it’s there.

So, what is love in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?

The show may have focused on the love between friends more than any other kind, but it still explores the complex layers of love in general. From Ross’s secretive love for Rachel to Monica’s craze for Richard, we get to see different sides of the characters.

Let’s start with the chemistry between Ross and Rachel as it’s the first one the show touches on. I still remember the scene where Ross was complaining he just wants to be married and Rachel walks in. What better way to start an arc?

It was also the scene where Chandler made his stance on the show very clear. “And I want a million dollars!”. Man, how can I forget it?

Sorry got a bit distracted there. What I’m trying to say is F.R.I.E.N.D.S. hits on a different level. When I found out Ross wanted to take Rachel to the prom to make her feel better, it broke my heart.

Joey is on a scale of his own. Despite his playboish depiction, we got to know the kinder side of him. The side that fell for Rachel.

What can I say? I have a thing about unrequited love. It just gets to me.

Then there is Chandler and Monica. From the first night in “The One with Ross’s Wedding” to “The One with the Proposal” to “The One with Chandler and Monica’s Wedding”, the journey is so heartfelt.

What did I learn about love from F.R.I.E.N.D.S., you ask? Well, it has helped me realize that love doesn’t have any definition. There is no fixed set of criteria that you can fill when you love.

It’s just a feeling and a very easy one to mistake for something else. There’s always this fine line between love and lust that we forget exists.

It has shown me that even if two people love each other to the point that it’s physically impossible, there’s no guarantee they’ll make it. It’s just the nature of love and life. It’s been happening for millennia. And it will happen. You’ve just got to learn how to live with it. A lot has changed in those 10 years of the show. It just shows how unpredictable life is. You just have to acknowledge it and coexist with it.

The Importance of Self Love

Especially when the show first came out, self-love was not a very popular concept worldwide. For the middle class like us, it’s not even a luxury. The term simply doesn’t exist. You get a template for your life that your parents, their parents, and even their parents have been following for ages.

But you get to see Monica taking her fancy bath with a glass of wine. You get to see Joey and Chandler indulge in those massage chairs. You get to see Ross enjoy his music. Phoebe has her sporadic running.

At the end of the day, you need to love yourself. Whatever makes you feel good, just do it. As long as it’s not bothering or hurting anybody, it’s nobody’s business!

The Cynical Look on Death

The show has seen quite a few deaths over the seasons. From Ross and Monica’s grandmother to Mr. Heckles below their floor. Every time, it hits differently. We haven’t even met Mr. Heckles but we felt his absence with the friends.

The most important takeaway for me, about death, is that it’s okay. Death is okay. Of course, we’re sad when we see a loved one go. But it’s important to not get hung up too much over it. I’m sad as hell after I learned about Mathew Perry’s death.  Like, it’s not fair. But it still happened anyway.

It’s a very empowering feeling. Or, you can take it as a very depressing feeling. The choice is yours.

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