Bil Browning

Rewind: Homophobia on Friends

Filed By Bil Browning | July 19, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Tijuana Mamula, TV classics

Remember Friends? The wholesome sitcom that tackled a wacky group of 20-somethings and their intertwining relationships? It was America's number one comedy for years, but it also helped to reinforce some negative stereotypes about LGBT people.

Watch Tijuana Mamula's distillation of ten years worth of rank homophobia and transphobia into a one hour episode called Homophobic Friends. It's long, but it's mesmerizing if you watched the show regularly.

Homophobic Friends from WayDownEast on Vimeo.

While the program won 63 Emmys, the show was regularly criticized for its lack of people of color. What's next? Racist Friends? Naw, that episode would just be blank.

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I was literally just thinking this a few days ago. I don't usually catch too many Friends reruns, but I watched a few and I was astounded at how often being gay was the punchline of a joke. There were two episodes in a row - the one had Joey making fun of Phoebe's boyfriend for wearing women's underwear, and the other had Chandler weirded out by his boss, who kept slapping his ass. Maybe it just wasn't on my radar 10 years ago, but I just couldn't believe how often the theme popped up.

brake4guars | July 19, 2011 4:30 PM

I'll admit I am a huge fan of the show. I didn't really watch it while it was on, but discovered it in reruns. I also consider myself sensitive to issues of homophobia, especially in media.

That said, I have never, not once in ten seasons, felt like the show was taking a hostile or aggressive attitude towards LGBT people in general. Any remotely homophobic comments on the show are filtered through the voice of a specific character and are played off as absurdist humor.

For a show that spanned the better part of the 90's, it also had two openly gay regular characters who were loving, devoted parents and exhibited hardly any characteristics that one would consider stereotypical. The same can't be said for most other popular shows of the time.

This video is the magnum opus of an overly sensitive person with WAY too much time on their hands. I get the fact that LGBT presence and portrayal in media is a delicate and important issue, but this is nitpicking...and useless nitpicking at that. As LGBT people, we need to stand up for the respect we deserve, but this vein of militancy and hyper-sensitivity is ruining our sense of humor.

I'm a big fan of Friends as well, though I sometimes do find it offensive. Some of what's pictured here, though, I interpreted not necessarily as homophobia but just LGBT-related humor. For example, the scene where Phoebe's ice dancer husband comes out to her as straight, using very typical "coming out" dialogue, doesn't feel offensive to me, but a hilarious parody of that traditional coming out narrative. I think this is worth looking at, and talking about.

While the homophobia of the show is borderline to me -- sometimes exploitative, sometimes offensive, other times delightfully subversive -- what really sours me on Friends is the fat jokes (especially about Monica's "fat history"). Just. Not. Funny.

Om Kalthoum | July 19, 2011 7:01 PM

Well, the clip stopped loading at 24 minutes for some reason, but I'd seen enough, I think. I never did watch Friends when it was on. Most of these bits were really quite humorous. The only mildly offensive thing was when the guy was trying to assert his primacy of place as sperm donor at the Lamaze lessons. Otherwise, I lol'd a lot. I think we ought to think about retiring the -phobia words. They've become meaningless.

brake4guars | July 20, 2011 10:44 AM

...the guy was trying to assert his primacy of place as sperm donor at the Lamaze lessons.

Not trying to call you out or anything, especially since it seems we have a pretty similar view on this. But I have to respectfully disagree.

Ross' character was feeling insecure about his role as a parent in the scenario (which, at the time, was probably pretty foreign to most viewers) and acted like a fool, and it was acknowledged that he was acting like a fool. With very very few exceptions, this explains just about every piece of humor the creator of this video would deem "homophobic".

Just because a show depicts characters acting less-than-tolerant in a certain situation, it doesn't automatically follow that the show is intolerant.

Yeah, I've got to say... I'm not the biggest fan of "Friends," but I stopped watching about twenty minutes in once I realized that this wasn't a collection of homophobic clips, but merely a collection of jokes referencing gay people. Even when a character says something borderline-homophobic, the joke is always on him for being dumb or oversensitive. Hell, "Will & Grace" had more homophobic jokes than this - but that was somehow okay because gay characters were telling them?

If anything, this video shows how progressive "Friends" was for its age.