Friends is an American
situational comedy about a...
Friends is an American
situational comedy about a group of friends living and working in Manhattan,
New York City. The program aired since its inception in 1994 to 2004 with a
total of 236 episodes. The creators of the show were Marta Kauffman and David
Crane, and the producers were, The Friends Corporation LLC, Warner Bros.
Television, and Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions. Throughout its airing on the
NBC corporate network, the show attracted a significant number of viewers with
its last episode of the final season reaching to an average of 52.5 million
viewers in America. The show was even nominated for 63 Emmy Awards and often
featured in listings like The best television
show of all times (Erickson). However, was the show as good to attract all
these views. This paper looks to critically analyze an episode of season three
of Friends, “The one with the metaphorical tunnel” and determine some of the
issues relating to sex, gender, and sexuality.
The episode starts with
everyone at Monica and Rachel’s watching an infomercial starring Joey then Ross
and Chandler make light jokes on him about it. It is then revealed that Phoebe
forgot to inform Joey of an audition he had been called. To make things right,
Phoebe offers to be a fake agent to get Joey the audition which turns out to be
good, and Joey asks Phoebe to continue being his agent but this don’t end up in
the best way. Phoebe tells him truths about why he is not getting hired. The
revelations turn out to be something he cannot handle therefore he goes back to
his real agent Estelle. Janice, on the other hand, breaks up with her boyfriend
Chandler because according to her the relationship is going very first. The breakup
was triggered by the fact that Chandler had decided to commit to the relationship,
“going through the tunnel” (Junge). In other events when Ross’ child by Carol
is brought to visit him he spots that the boy, Ben is holding a Barbie doll
which to him is for girls and throughout the entire episode, we see him trying
to convince his son to play with masculine toys like the G.I Joe (Junge).
There were various
issue arises from this episode, issues related to gender on masculine and
femininity stereotype, and heteronormativity. Human sexuality is highly based
on biology, a complex interaction of hormones genes and their environment of
growing up, gender which is a legal definition of one’s identity and a social
status. As Julia Serrano would say, gender is a socially constructed idea of
what it means to be a male or a female being. The society has contracted these
ideas which have become stereotypical such that if you go against them, you are
considered an outlaw where you are discriminated and judged for being
different. These ideas are enforced on people beginning from their childhood
which is seen in the episode. Ross tries to push what he preserves masculine on
his son upon discovering that the child prefers a Barbie doll instead of a
“masculine toy” like G.I Joe. Ross takes away the child’s choice of choosing
what he wants as his mother Carol allowed. Even if he is a little child of
between three and four years of age, Ross is trying to shape the child’s
personality to fit the hyper-masculinity which is stereotypical and always
enforced by society ("Cultural Hegemony In
Friends"). This stereotypical masculinity promotes violence and
emotional hardheartedness where he tries to explain to the child about the toy
protecting the country “Look Ben, it's a toy that protects U.S. oil interests
Closely related to
social gender construction is gender polarization which refers to all the means
of which sexual differences are culturally linked to diverse aspects of human
experience. All this begin when the child is born where if it’s a boy they are
wrapped in blue and girls in pink blankets to identify them. These
stereotypical societal norms minimize one’s ability and the choices one has too.
According to Dr. Anne Fausto Sterling, this conception of gender reduces the
possibility while promoting gender inequality. The inequality is seen where in
the episode the lesbian couple that is Carol and Susan are only seen bringing
the child and picking him up. The lesbian community is treated unequally in
this episode because they are not given a fair chance to appear in as many scenes
as the heterosexual couples. The show presents a form of discrimination that is
based on sexual orientation and even as they appear, there is a certain
judgmental attitude where even Carol makes it clear by telling Ross, “This
doesn't have anything to do with the fact that he is being raised by two women,
does it?” (Junge). The tone in Ross’ voice makes the judgment on this issue clear
("Cultural Hegemony In Friends").
Apart from societal
norms, the media is another contributor to gender-based stereotypical norms.
Body modification is one of these aspects perpetrated by media. An example of
body medication is the diet restriction and also breast modifications. The
culture dictates that if a woman is big in terms of being plump, they are not
beautiful enough, so the solution to this is to cut on diet and watch what they
are eating. In the episode, Monica is portrayed as having a fake chest which
only means one thing and that is she had a modification done on her chest. The
episode also seems to portray Chandler getting lost in thoughts any time he
looks at Monica’s chest which means that he is attracted, and the fake chest
had a particular effect on him. In the same episode, Rachel and Monica are
portrayed to be eating unpleasant ice cream that is low in fat for them to
avoid getting plump. This is the ice cream they offer Chandler as he is dealing
with the breakup. A poor way of portraying women’s way of dealing with
stressful situations (Erickson).
After reviewing the
episode, it is clear that even though Friends was an incredible, heartwarming
and funny show, it clearly promoted some negative, stereotypical and toxic
elements of the culture which in some way affected people's thinking over the
time it was airing.
Erickson, Nicole. "Friends: Representations Of Race, Class, Gender And Sexuality: Gender
Representation". Friendstvrepresentation.blogspot.co.ke. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Sept. 2016.
Junge, Alexa. "The One With The Metaphorical Tunnel". Home.versatel.nl. Web. 5 Sept. 2016.
"Cultural Hegemony In Friends". Gender Studies Blog. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Sept. 2016.