In chaotic New York, every afternoon, a group of friends gathers at Central Perk to have a giant cup of coffee. But yeah, you guessed it, I’m talking about them: Monica, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey and Chandler, those “friends” we all wish we had.
The end of Rachel‘s fairytale dream is the beginning for us of this show full of ups and downs, jokes and laughs. In a period of profound change and experimentation (I’m talking about the period that falls between 1990 and 2000), even the life of this girl from a wealthy family changes forever. She thus throws a change to the tacky figure of the housewife, leaving room for the desire to find her own path, aiming her gaze higher and higher, towards that coveted career in the fashion world.
And, surrounded by Monica‘s meticulous practicality and Phoebe‘s extravagant sincerity, she manages to stand up on her own, without the support of those parents who have placed her in a glass case for her entire life. Between quarrels, smelly cats, bets and lots of coffee, a sisterhood is born.
Ross has come to the end of a marriage he thought was perfect. Chandler is still plagued by childhood traumas that trigger the sarcasm that becomes a distinctive note of his character. And Joey, the womanizer, is always looking for a job as an actor. Three friends who could not be more different from each other, but who work precisely for this reason, a bit like all great friendships.
Chandler is my favorite character, along with Phoebe. He is bright and quirky, insecure but profound, a complex character who spices up the group. His friendship with Joey works almost like a couple relationship, and within the show itself, this aspect is very often ironized, comically accentuated. Yet I have always envied their bond, a friendship so close as to be even stronger than a family affection; an authentic friendship, which few can find in everyday life.
An explosive dynamic
The mixture of these personalities so different from each other, yet so perfectly balanced, created the recipe that made this series the most coveted television dish, and which after many years still turns out to be the “house specialty” of the whole panorama of American comedies.
But, if you think about it, we could consider the bond of these six people almost morbid. They share intimate spaces, homes and thoughts in a sort of Tetris that keeps them tightly coupled with one another. They push themselves towards adult life together, through experiences and obstacles, trying to advise each other in an attempt to survive the uncertainty of twenty years to reach the threshold of thirty unscathed.
Between girlfriends and boyfriends, a goose and a chick, an unfriendly twin, Thanksgiving Day, and many many, really many, laughs, their friendship will always endure in that perpetual “I’ll be there for you” that we all hope to find in a friend.
It was 1994 when this show was first released; nevertheless, the story of Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe and Monica was already permeated by some of those ideals that only took a stand after the 2000s.
First of all, Rachel and the emancipation of women who definitively go from being the classic housewife all dedicated to the family, to being a career woman, full of dreams and ambitions, able to reach the top just like any man. The independent girl who wishes to earn the things she owns.
Moving on to Ross, we find the theme of homosexuality, in particular, that of women, which always takes a bit of a back seat. His wife realizes that she prefers female partners and chooses to form a new family with Susan, in a context of tolerance and equality which, it is true, takes a while to be accepted by Ross, who in the end cannot do without feeling happy for them. An almost idyllic atmosphere of harmony, which goes beyond prejudices, expressed at a time when this important issue was just starting to make its own, and the LGBT community was starting to take a stand. A fresh and culturally open television series especially as regards same-sex marriages, an event of union and love that today should no longer be a matter of dispute, but which nevertheless still seems to retain some hesitation.
Another important topic is the surrogate mother: Phoebe decides to carry the children of her brother and his wife in her womb to give them a chance to be parents. In several American states, surrogacy is a legal practice – albeit a very expensive one – that allows parents who are unable to have children according to the traditional method, to take advantage of the more commonly called rented uterus. But in many countries, including Italy, this practice is considered a crime, while in others it is lawful but only if carried out without payment. In short, the world is still clearly divided on a question which, at the bottom, should be a personal choice.
Within the series, all of these topics are dealt with in a light and fun way, taken with spirit, without debasing or mocking their relevance, but integrating them into everyday life in a natural way.
A stellar New York
Something I noticed while enjoying Chandler’s jokes and Ross and Rachel’s amorous ravings, was Monica’s clothes. Many of the garments used in those years – such as skimpy tops and high-waisted jeans – were taken from recent fashion; so if it weren’t for Chandler’s outdated laptop, videotapes, televisions that take up half a room, or slightly retro hairstyles, you could almost be convinced that you are in front of a modern-day story.
Another detail that downgrades Friends now in a past 26 years ago, are the majestic twin towers that stand out in the New York skyline, a monument of magnificence forever imprinted on those old films, which disappears in filming after the tragic 2001.
What else do you want me to tell you about a show that welcomes stars who have become world icons in its twenty minutes per episode? Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and many other famous actors have appeared in some of the episodes, attracting attention with their talent. Jennifer Aniston herself then became a very successful actress and timeless beauty.
So, with this kaleidoscope of meanings, vicissitudes, characters and laughs, Friends seems to constitute a small galaxy around which we cannot help but orbit, attracted by its eternal lightness. It is from this TV show that you can really learn what friendship is.