20 Aug

Friends ran for a grand total of ten years and was famous not only for its brilliant humour but also for its way of dealing with serious subjects but in a light hearted manner. Nowadays, modern mainstream television programmes like to portray real life problems and illnesses such as eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorder etc. Friends rather did not focus on such problems but rather on the life of the six main characters who did not necessarily suffer from these problems. Eating disorders etc. may have been problems at the time that Friends ran, however they was not as much awareness of them so that the producers of Friends would think to bring them to the audience’s attention. However Friends does focus on certain mental illnesses such as Monica’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as Chandler’s strange flat mate and Phoebe’s mother and her suicide. Also biological problems such as Chandler and Monica’s inability to have children. Friends creates comedy out of these issues, by its being a sitcom, but does taking comedy out of the situation make the issue then more important and obvious?
Monica’s OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is treated as a joke in the show, this may be because it may not be as serious a problem with the illness as some suffer. In real life, some sufferers spend hours moving one object until it is ‘perfect’, however Monica just likes things to be extremely clean and tidy. Not that this is not a problem in itself but one that is obviously great for jokes. In fact, allowing the tv show to actually make light of OCD. The questions is, is this going too far until it is actually insulting or is it bringing understanding and humour to an otherwise dark situation?
Phoebe’s mother’s suicide is another example of a serious problem in which humour is created from. From Phoebe becoming convinced that her mother is a cat to her explanation that her prick from a tattoo needle is the blue dot that looks like Earth from her mother in Heaven. In fact, that is quite a beautiful image and explanation but is dismissed instantaneously by Jennifer Aniston’s character, Rachel.
At the time that Friends was made, the issues that affect us were not as big a problem, and if they were they were not as widely discussed or as publicly known then Friends understandably did not feel the need to tackle the issues. This raises the question of bringing the subject to public awareness if it is not as big an issue in the first place, such as infertility, but does that mean as a growing issue that it should still not be tackled? For instance, Courtney Cox who plays Monica lost quite a lot of weight during the show but it is not actually touched upon in the show itself.
Was it right to make fun of Chandler’s flatmate, Eddie? Who quite obviously has a problem, accusing Chandler of sleeping with his ex-girlfriend and killing his fish, Buddy, and also who continually watches Chandler sleep. Are these just the ravings of a mad man which make good comedy or are they examples of paranoia and another mental disorder? Is it funny to make fun of or is ‘Eddie’ just the resident weirdo we see in every neighbourhood that everyone can poke fun of?
However should Friends, a blatant comedy, be attempting to take these issues seriously? Friends as a program explores the lives and relationships of the six main characters and what it is like to live in New York in your twenties to thirties, the relationships, heartbreak, friendships etc. Could it be that six interlocking lives such as these would never have any mental illness or disorder to worry about? Is the show a sitcom or indeed a comedy drama, focusing on both the laughs and the drama that is real life? This would then make more sense to include further problems that real people in real life cope with, but the problem would then be keeping the humour in the show. By adding humour to these situations, viewers may start to disapprove or in another way, enjoy the light appeal of these issues.

To raise awareness of these issues especially for the benefit of the target audience, young people, would it have been beneficial to include a storyline on a mental disorder such as an eating disorder or a behaviour disorder? This may have done more harm than good but then may also with a show as big as Friends have raised the profile of these problems and drawn support and donations to helping and combating it.

About the writer: Becky has just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing and is very happy with her 2:1. She is friendly, bubbly and just so happens to be the co-creator of Yellow Bunting. She hopes you enjoy it and that you get involved!


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