It doesn’t take much for anyone to spark an interest in whatever controversy they decide to pursue these days since all that needs to be said is that something is ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ and there will be a mob of supporters that will blindly follow the idea like a flock of mindless sheep. In a way, saying such things about current or past shows in the current social climate is more about being trendy and going with the most popular flow than it is about having a genuine and forward-thinking, or ‘woke’ idea. The issue with being woke in this current era unfortunately is that the more woke someone thinks they are, the less likely it is they’ll be able to see past their own ideals and realize that every era has defined itself in a unique and significant way. The downside of this of course is that, as Lynne Verslyus of The Blast points out, people aren’t willing to let the past go and learn from it and instead feel the need to put it on blast and rail on and on about something they can’t change. Being woke in the present doesn’t change the fact that the past so many of us enjoyed happened, and it’s not bound to erase that past from the history books, though some would certainly like to try.
It’s very true that there are issues with the shows and movies of the past that weren’t taken into account during that era since, brace yourself, no one cared quite as much. The sexist attitudes and the overt racism that’s occurred in past movies and TV shows skipped Friends in a big way, but some of the jokes and content were obviously offensive to some people that may not have been old enough to really understand said jokes when they first hit the airwaves. That’s like being offended by Blazing Saddles when you were born two decades after it released, it’s very likely that it might hurt your feelings, but the funny thing is that no one’s forcing you to watch it, as there is still a handy device called a channel changer that allows people to navigate away from material they might find offensive. Those think that Friends was a problem child among the various TV shows must have missed out on a number of shows that have come along since the 90s, and even some of those that were around in the same era as Friends. It could be that they’re trying to catch up and comment about said shows but have yet to really find the time between railing on and on about what they think is wrong with the past while attempting to find out how the present and future can make it better.
If you’re shaking your head at the idiocy of it all at this point don’t worry, you’re not alone. David Schwimmer decided to defend Friends but also doubled back to indicate that he’s more woke now than he was in the past, though he’s always advocated for diversity. In other words he’s willing to defend the show against critics but in a very backhanded sort of way so as not to offend a large number of people. If people really want to look at TV shows that had massive issues when it came to various subjects such as sexism, racism, and other issues why not bag on Married With Children, Seinfeld, or even Saved by the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, and Home Improvement? Ever notice how people that slam anything for being sexist or problematic in any other way are unusually selective, but will argue anyone down that tries to clap back at them? Amanda June Bell of The List has something else to say on this subject. It’s strange really how one can single out just one program to complain about but ignore the same issues that might arise in other shows, though it’s also quite telling since there are a lot of reasons that this could happen. Personal bias is just one of them since Dawson’s Creek and Saved by the Bell were favorite shows of many and nostalgia might prevent them from treating said shows too harshly, while admitting that comedic shows such as Married With Children and Home Improvement, and even Seinfeld, can get away with more since they’re meant to be funny and less dramatic. Splitting hairs is fun isn’t it?
With all that being said the claim that Friends was worse than any other show in the 90s is kind of ridiculous since to really take on that kind of argument one would have to go back more than a couple of decades to really get the feel of what sexism, racism, and misogyny was really like when it came to TV. But as it’s been seen people would rather focus on something that’s not too far removed from public awareness, because digging that deep might take some actual work.