Deep Analysis of the show “Friends” in terms of Television Pluralism
First Section: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW:
Creation: In American television history, a sitcom “Friends” was added by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which initially aired on NBC from September 22, 1994 and ended on May 6, 2004. It had 10 seasons in total. The casting for the television show “Friends” was miraculous. The story revolves around six friends living in Manhattan. The balanced chemistry between all the six brilliant actors justified the casting. Not to forget the legendary director and the writers, who with their words gave all the young and single, something to relate to. In a place where recession is normal, you have to fail a couple of times in order to win. It was a thought about those who work and struggle in their mid twenties, looking for jobs, at the basic stage of building and exploring a life they want. The director wanted to reach those particular people that are the targeted audience. Imagining about those young ones struggling in big cities, it is very expensive to live on their own, they all almost face same kind of difficulties, it’s a tough physical as well as emotional journey. Now, with a friend, it’s a lot easier, this general idea influenced director to transform it into development and so we had this show, its name reflecting the idea itself as knows as “Friends”. Six friends having six different characters as following: Chandler Bing (an executive in statistical analysis), Monica Geller (a chef), Rachel Green (fashion enthusiast), Ross Geller (paleontologist) and Joey Tribbiani (struggling actor). The writers had to modify the script in order to suit it with the casted actors. The actors very well played their respective roles and they became friends off air as well which really paid off well.
Reception: It gained a lot of popularity and awards throughout its run. The show “Friends” became the first long running sitcom, when it got the highest rating for it on US television. Friends won an Emmy, award for the Best Comedy Series category, which was another first. The show was praised for lack of violent content. Although, there were few critical responses over some contents, it did not stop celebrities to play and guest appearance role in this show which includes: Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Helen Hunt, Elliot Gould, Charlie sheen and others. Despite other competitive sitcoms Friends managed to remain at its place that is for both social phenomenon and hugely entertaining television show. According to one of the experts Friends is one of those show which marked a change in American culture. The portrayal of youth and the roles they play are well defined and represents a lifestyle that focuses around creating and maintaining relationship between a group of friends running their own lives and seeking support from each other In audience appeal, Friends was undoubtedly stayed in the nineties and as well as in the early years of twentieth century. As with time, the reviews got more positive than negative, it progressed and Friends become a most popular hit sitcom. It is still ranked as among time best TV shows (Cosgrove) Critics praised the series for having persistently spiky dialogue script and the chemistry among the most important actors was extra ordinary. Some praised the finale for being more touching and more satisfying as reflecting to the closure it gave. (Parish)
Critical Reaction: Early reviews for the show were mixed (Friends Season 1). The producers always tried to match the right stories to location; it’s funny that it was never filmed in New York. They decided that filming outside would make the show less funny. The series was criticized for portraying New York the wrong way, by showing a group of friends which are struggling they are weak financially and they are not able to afford large apartments. With this being a minor criticism over the location, it also faced some serious accusations. The major criticism which it faced was focused on the use of sexuality charged themes specially the time for the show was when the kids usually watch television. Parents Television Council called it raciest sitcom, they claimed that all six characters were shown sexually on the go and the dialogues also contained vulgarity, and more sexual content. Monica’s approval on Chandler fondness for porn and that Joey’s several sexual partners became the target. The PTC, in fact, called the show as one of the worst in US television as referring to its sexual content and vulgar language used by the characters in the show.
Section Two: Full Examination in relation to Cultural Pluralism:
The show was no doubt progressive. It started with negative responses and gained itself positive and best appreciation afterward which is still associated with it. As talking about the stereotypical conformity it represented in terms of race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity.
Race; The show did not support racism in particular all the characters were given balanced roles and there was not seen any hatred in terms of racism as it was shown that Joey belonged to some Spanish family. But Ross’s second wife Emily was British and they did make fun of her accent but there was no hatred seen as it was part of the humor being created at that instant. Looking into this matter more critically, the cast is always seen in a coffee shop called “Central Perk” and on the same sofa every day, it seems as if they are depicting the dominance and everyone else was not important and not worthy enough to be a part of their i.e. main characters’ conversation. When Ross dates Julie, a girl from chine, Rachel shows jealousy so she acts rude to her. This episode, where Julie is with all the other characters together in a group and she is being really nice to everyone including Rachel but Rachel, in spite of her kindness, abuses Julie and calls her names. Rachel is portrayed as a typical white woman perfect hair and all beautiful. Minorities even if dated do not last longer in the series. Whereas, white people managed to break the circle and they get accepted by everyone. Take example of Mike, Phoebe’s husband. The show does seem to enforce their typical, white, middle-class lifestyle status, from beginning to end, and it is because of these examples that this show “Friends” can be considered as racist, well just a little I would say.
Sexuality; As far as sexuality is concerned there were many sexual contents, well I would say an appropriate amount of sexual context, there was however no nudity shown. There was this naked guy in their neighbors who they used to look pout from their window and describe what he’s doing in a funny manner but there was no nudity shown. Another aspect where sexuality was depicted in the show “Friends” was the fact that everybody used to think that Chandler was gay, Joey because of his several sleep around, they used to consider him womanizer. While lesbians, bisexual and transgender characters did not appear in television until 1970s now television sitcoms are seen featuring an entire genre for gays. Ross’s ex wife is shown Lesbian and Chandler’s father is shown transsexual. The show can be considered as conveying heterosexual values toward a younger audience.
Gender; Analyzing the sitcom Friends in terms of gender equality or sexism, it seems like the overall show is perhaps written in conflict to the so called male dominated society; gender binaries that are traditionally known to keep down women. This show is about six friends , three males and three females, again showing the balanced equality in numbers, all in their mid twenties as the series starts, they are living in Manhattan, struggling to develop and manage satisfying careers and as well as romantic relationships. (Spangler) The show has conveyed an improvement in the depiction of women in television, through Rachel’s character. Here sexual freedom exhibits a liberated woman, free from the dominated stereotypes of male dominating society and also the traditional stereotypes that come with the women who sleep around. The way they showed Rachel’s character, at first she was dependent on her father’s money but then she started working as a waitress initially and then progressing finally she succeeded in building an exceptional career for herself, she became an inspiration to all women.
Ethnicity; this genre, situation comedy, has become an integral part of American culture. This show presented a window meant to show us the homes of our favorite characters to know more about their ethnic background and lifestyles like we came to know about Chandler’s indifferent behavior towards Christmas and Thanksgiving. Another positive aspect would be the common national portrayal of group of friends who functioned as family units where rather than parents or siblings; they relied on each other for support. While if critically observe this, they failed to include minorities in the depiction of common national or cultural tradition. With the all-American lifestyle depiction, six Americans, unmarried, young people living and struggling totally depicting that today’s society is biased in choosing friends. Whites go for whites. It can be said that audience would not have watched the show with this fan following if it was about six minority friends. This show might have presented a wrong conclusion about different ethnic groups. People do not want their children to be racist; they want them to be diverse. All of the six characters were never seen with a minority; they were shown hanging out in a café or bar that too in a large city. Closely, I saw African-American or Mexican in the background. There was this episode where Joey went for this part in a play; after the scene was finished I had seen three minorities’ heads in the background there were countless of whites though. Later, Rachel find a new boy friend that is white as well, they do not show any coupling with black people.
The show which I chose is a product of its time because of the positive responses it received, not to forget the targeted audiences was satisfied with the show it had given them something to relate to and enjoy watching. As the show shown a casual latter day sequence of shots, for example the friends always gathered at the coffee shop to discuss their issues and breakups.
Television critics highly praised the run as having constantly sharp script and chemistry linking the foremost actors (Friends climax watched by 51m) few other scholarly and TV critics gave their reviews: the jokes could make you laugh a couple of time each episode and the stories written were innovative and very original (Havrilesky) one of the brightest series in comedy (Richmond) the show was successful in making a comeback to their viewer’s heat and marking their territory (Carter)
There are very few of the sitcoms in the history of television which have had long-term Cultural impact. It does not matter how much you categorize the TV programs or how much influence the novel reality trend has on it; it is a fact that will remain that television sitcoms are not realistic. It’s impossible for it to be 100% real because TV is not reality. The stories included are however chunks of the maker’s perception. Which they always edit, filter, and script it to manipulate the audiences to drag hug amount of attention and fan following. Rachel’s hairstyle was noticed a lot tit was even nicknamed as “The Rachel” (Jicha) and adopted by many. Joe’s catchphrase “How you doin’?” also became popular and imitated by many as a pickup line or when greeting or making new friends. Chandler’s sarcasm and jokes also influenced viewers it also developed an alternative lifestyle where young people live unconventional domestic lives, it brings to a close way that all you need is some good friends and you can put up family of your choice. This new way of living and developing relationships is not normally seen in conventional society.
Today pluralism has become a basic value of public communication. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, with other factor including pluralism, cultural variety, and acceptance toward other views and value systems has become a need for trend in society. (Gladkova) Television is a type of medium that makes it easy to carry on a conversation or to convey a message; it is a reference point to the culture for most of us. People who watch TV more often tend to compare themselves with those people in the TV and imitate their behavior, their way of talking, their way of dressing, and adopting their catchphrases or specific dialogues. Now take “Friends” in this scenario, it is reviewed that people consider that this is the most realistic sitcom as far as today’s generation is concerned. Observe closely, the story is about three male and three female, all singles, struggling and surviving in New York on their salaries, job and part time jobs, they switch partners just as they change clothes. This is certainly not reality, maybe it is for the writers and the producers, but it is not for the rest of the world. As per the reality is concerned, makers of this show breathe high class lifestyles in town coastal big cities, they don’t look up to religious services and they don’t even know anyone who does, so through depiction of these television shows they end up reflecting the distorted reality of those who make the shows. And the sexual contents were there in excess which do not really set a good tradition, everybody has slept with everyone.
Big changes sometimes happen with sitcoms, in Friends the characters ask out, date, and breakup. If, fortunately they get married, they have babies, or go to London. Writers use this in order to maintain the surprise factor, they couldn’t think of something new and something that can convey a message something useful let say they could have family that adopted a homeless kid. The show do not follow the ever changing context of real line, in contrast the viewer just tune in to see what’s next in the line which is systematically created; what happens next in a plotline. Like what would be the Ross’s reaction when he would see Rachel’s at the airport. Will Emily dump Ross after he took Rachel’s name on the wedding altar? Friends, nevertheless, depict postmodernism, and the absolute value of small community in which individual find his/her identity and safety. There was however no religion involved much, apart from occasions like Christmas. The characters weren’t shown visiting churches apart from only weddings. The other activities like drinking and smoking were however seen as often as it may get which was real enough.
Carter, Bill. “Plot Twists Paid Off For ‘Friends’.” The New York Times (2002 ).
Cosgrove, Mather. “TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows.” CBS News (2002).
“Friends climax watched by 51m.” BBC News (2004).
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Gladkova, Anna A. “The role of television in cultivating the values of pluralism and cultural diversity in children.” Psychology in Russia: State of the Art 6.1 (2013).
Havrilesky, Heather. “Never forget your “Friends”.” SALON (2004).
Jicha, Tom. “They leave as they began: With a buzz.” The Baltimore Sun. (2004).
Parish, Ken. “Farewell to ‘Friends’ The finale to the 10-year series wraps up all the loose ends.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram (2004 ).
Richmond, Ray. “Season Premiere of Friends Leaves Room to Grow.” Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)(1994).
Spangler, Lynn C. Television Women from Lucy to Friends: Fifty Years of Sitcoms and Feminism.United States of America: Greenword Publishing Group, 2003.