One of the shows, whose popularity spread like wildfire, Friends, has somehow retained its popularity and relevance even though the last episode was aired 17 years ago. As we all gear up for a reunion of our beloved friends, let’s look back at the relevance of this classic in our lives to date.
Let’s begin with a question, why would we as a viewer want to stream a sitcom that first aired more than 25 years ago about a bunch of 20-somethings sitting in a coffee shop? The show highlights the struggles, relationships, and adulthood of our twenties in a humorous way. This is a period wherein there is a lot of uncertainty and instability on both professional and personal levels. You are still trying to find your special someone in the messy dating pool and struggling to settle down in your chosen careers. Even though one has begun the adulthood chapter in our life but we still haven’t fully grasped its meaning and miss the good old days, the fun, and the simplicity.
And a sitcom about this “emerging adulthood” was bound to be popular in an era that didn’t focus on this period before but what is it actually that keeps the fan following going even today?
The sitcom began by showing Rachel rejecting the certainty of a stable marriage and saying quote, “what if I don’t wanna be a shoe, what if I wanna be a purse or a hat” instead of choosing the uncertainty and adventure of a fulfilling career and rightly welcomed by Monica with the most iconic line of all time and the bitter truth, “Welcome to the real world, it sucks!!”. We all live a sheltered life as kids but once adulthood hits us we need to start making decisions that are good for us and take reigns from our parents and do our best to find out who we really are.
Ross struggling in his marriage even though he is successful in a career that he is passionate about. Shows us that struggles of achieving a balance between a career and a strong and happy marriage might not be as easy as what our parents and movies depicted after all. Phoebe is tagged as weird because of her unconventional choices and Chandler is tagged as insensitive, someone who masks trauma with his sarcasm but then aren’t we all somewhat like these two. We are weird in our own little ways and who is the society to decide what is normal and what is not and why is weird looked down upon. I think I have masked my disapproval, insecurity, and hurt behind sarcasm way too many times to not be able to relate with Chandler.
This is a period of adventure and playfulness in our life but it also is a period of instability, anxiety, and insecurity, a period of a failed relationships, career setbacks, and uncertainty about the future. Rachel was stuck in a waitress job before finding her calling, Monica does any job remotely related to her interest while chasing financial stability as a chef, let’s not forget Joey, the original McDreamy if I may say, struggling as an aspiring actor. Only Ross among the group has a job that he is passionate about but is teased for his interests and this reminds us of the unrealistic expectation/standard that our society levies on us to either opt for a mainstream career or be tagged as a failure.
Among all these struggles, failed relationships, and setbacks their friendship creates a safe haven of stability in otherwise uncertain lives where romantic relationships fail, families are dysfunctional and career trajectories are uncertain, friendship becomes the most stable and important value in our lives. And this is what Friends taught us that to make it through in life we need a good group of friends and a little bit of humor. And this is why it is popular among today’s youth as well.
As a generation, we are told that we are at the liberty to choose to be anything but we are struggling to find our niche, finding our purpose, and decide whether to chase financial stability or follow our passion. The show depicts a shift in the work culture as well and our current day work culture is marked by chasing our dreams, startups, freelancing, and temporary jobs this gives us a lot more choices but it comes with a cost but so does everything.
A financially stable job might not be that fulfilling either. Even though it makes sure that the green bucks keep coming but it can still utterly depressing and unsatisfying. This can be seen as Chandler’s character struggles with his financial stable but an unsatisfying job. He always comments on how bad his job is and nobody actually likes their job but that isn’t true.
Sadly, we all do believe that. Do what you are good at and not what you wanna do because the struggle is what we don’t like. But we forget there is a charm in struggling for something that we truly want and following our dreams is always somehow more satisfying than stability. And this can be seen in the final season as everyone is finally established in their dreamt career, even Chandler decides to make a shift in his career and do something that he actually genuinely likes.
Friends argue that following passion might be tough but in the end, it will be worth it. A large percentage of the audience has the same uncertainty and struggles as the characters on the show 20 years ago. Somehow Friends, is able to make us feel as watching them is like hanging out with our friends and that feeling of warmth and comfort is what makes this show popular even today. Just like the characters are there for each other when their lives become overwhelming they are there for us as well, to comfort us, make us laugh and sometimes even cry.