Since Friends hit Netflix on January 1, millions of subscribers have been revisiting the classic sitcom to see how well it holds up in the post-9/11, politically correct-to-a-fault world.
Among those viewers is Salon columnist Anna Silman, who came to the conclusion after revisiting the show that it is homophobic and treats fat people like a punchline.
At the heart of the complaints, Silman points out that Chandler treats his gay father horribly. She also notes that the “Fat Monica” storyline is played for an uncomfortable amount of laughs throughout the series’ 10-season run.
On Chandler and his gay father, Silman turns to colleague Ruth Graham, who, in a previous article for Slate, said the following.
“Chandler’s treatment of his gay father, a Vegas drag queen played by Kathleen Turner, is especially appalling, and it’s not clear the show knows it. It’s one thing for Chandler to recall being embarrassed as a kid, but he is actively resentful and mocking of his loving, involved father right up until his own wedding (to which his father is initially not invited!)… his continuing discomfort now reads as jarringly out of place for a supposedly hip New York thirtysomething — let alone a supposedly good person, period…. When it comes to women, Chandler turns out to be just as retrograde as Joey, but his lust comes with an undercurrent of the kind of bitter desperation that I now recognize as not only gross, but potentially menacing.”
Not content to let Slate have all the fun, Silman also shared this tidbit, which she nabbed from a Refinery29 review.
“In the show’s storyline, Monica loses weight in college after overhearing Chandler make fun of her size. Shamed into thinness, Fat Monica becomes just Monica — desirable and (finally) human. Monica is many things: funny, uptight, loving, competitive. Fat Monica is just fat… and always hungry. I was grateful for Fat Monica as a kid. She was proof I could overcome my disgusting plumpness and be seen as lovable, too. True, I would always bear the shame of my inflated past, just like Monica did, but I was willing to live with that if it meant I’d be a person instead of a punchline.”
Salon commenters believe that the site misread the meaning behind some of Friends’ jokes, particularly concerning the Chandler/gay father angle.
“I don’t think it is homophobic,” said one, pointing out that the jokes about Ross’s lesbian ex-wife “make more fun of Ross’s backward opinions. That’s what I always thought. Ross is the doofus here.”
“Same with Chandler,” the commenter added. “Chandler’s reaction to the jokes about his ‘gay quality’ is what is made fun of.”
Another commenter believed that Salon was engaging in “progressive sensitivity taken WAY too far.”
“I understand about looking back at what you used to love and being shocked about what some of it said. I used to joke about the ‘Johnny Quest non-Caucasian hireling rule’: if the hireling isn’t a Caucasian, he’ll turn out to be a bad guy. And all the jokes about wolf-whistling the passing lady and then chasing her as she runs away in a panic in the old Warner Brother cartoons is pretty hard to take.
“But, Chandler, homophobic? Especially because of the way he feels about his dad? Did it ever occur to you that there’s a difference between hating gays and hating ones gay father?”
It’s not unusual for Salon to sap the fun out of something just because, but what do you think, readers? Is that what is going on here, or do Silman and the rest have a point when attacking Friends for homophobia and fat-shaming?