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I’ll Be There For You (But Not in A Gay Way): Homophobic Friends

Video editor Tijana Mamula has watched all ten seasons of Friends (and not in rerun-form over the course of years). Why? The gay jokes. The many, many gay jokes. After observing a drawn-out, homophobic conversation between Joey and Ross, Mamula began noticing the underlying homophobia of the show constantly. Surprised to find no one had made a project from it already, she set to work on an intense video endeavor. Mamula wanted to go beyond showcasing the show's homophobic jokes. "The whole point of this project is to show the very extent to which homophobia pervades the show, and how it changes over the years. It only makes sense to do this if you can give an idea of the scope of the issue. Otherwise it would have been like, 'Oh look, there's twelve homophobic jokes in Friends.'"

There is, in fact, ninety minutes'—a whole movie!—worth of homophobic jokes in Friends, as she found. But with some guidelines, and editing with a sitcom-narrative in mind, Mamula cut it down to forty-five. The result was Homophobic Friends, which is not embeddable, but you can find it on Youtube.

Mamula's montage doesn't just treat you to an onslaught of eye-searing '90s fashion. There's Ross berating his ex-wife's new girlfriend (at one point Susan literally saying "We're getting married" cues the laugh track), Steve Zahn's character "coming out" as straight (clearly hilarious because things are hard for teh straightz), and approximately one gazillion "no homo" moments between Chandler and Joey. And it's not just homophobia, there's the transphobia played for laughs when Chandler learns his father has been living as a woman for some time, and lots of gender policing—often from Ross. "I'm just not that comfortable with a guy as sensitive as you," Ross says to Sandy, a straight male nanny (played by Freddie Prinze Jr.), firing him for basically threatening Ross's masculinity. "That's fair," responds Sandy, a typical response from the queer, or perceived-as-queer characters of Friends, who are written to rarely react defiantly, or insulted, or taken aback at the blatant ignorance hurled their way.

a screencap of Ross Gellar holding and looking incredulously at his young blonde son who is holding a Barbie doll
"Why is my boy playing with a Barbie?" #shitRossGellarSays

And that's the thing—Mamula's aim wasn't to bring attention to Friends' wealth of lazy jokes, but their sheer pervasiveness of the show's epic run. "Homophobic Friends [is not an] attempt to ridicule the underlying homophobia, but rather strives to bring this attitude to the viewer's attention in all of its apparent normality."

Mamula found that the homophobic and transphobic jokes in Friends tend "to avoid provoking either aversion or anger, and instead prompts the viewer to be swept away by the hilarity of the situations." Seeing theses moments altogether, one after another, you can see how the audience was presumed to just chuckle and move on. (I couldn't help but be reminded of the site Microaggressions, which documents the little, caustic everyday incidents that add up to much more).

And wait, there's more! "I noticed all sorts of other problematic content, some of which I found even more upsetting, like the place of women and foreigners…You could do a whole series of videos, like Misogynistic Friends and Xenophobic Friends." (See also: this zany montage of the few black characters that have appeared in the show. The overwhelmingly white cast—including the extras, despite the show taking place in New York City—has often been pointed at as one of the show's shortcomings.)

Video remix projects like Mamula's are important to help raise awareness of the pervasive problematic content of both current and past pop culture phenomena. Friends won a total 63 Emmys, and was one of the most highly-ranked shows on television (no sitcom has held the #1 ranked television spot since it went off the air). Homophobic Friends shows an alternative narrative. "The whole thing was a useful exercise in terms of training me to pay more attention to the subtexts of these mainstream shows. That is, this vague feeling of discomfort and hostility that I'd always had watching Friends (or other like-minded shows) crystallized into something that was analyzable."

Thanks Tijana for talking with me and to Jonathan at Political Video Remix for the heads up!

And for more on queer sexuality and homophobia in media, make sure you're reading Garland Grey's series, Sexual Inadequacy!

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Comments

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I watched way too much of this show

Something I noticed when I watched Friends that Mamula’s vid reminded me of is how the show's approach to masculinity changed. You can see in Mamula's opening how Joey and Chandler's hugging went from full, natural embraces to the stilted, bump chests- pat back motion of guys who don't want to look too affectionate towards another man. Anxious masculinity was often challenged or mocked early on but in later seasons it was supported; the mocking instead being directed toward the other person like Chandler's dad or that poor nanny. At some point the mid-ground of mediocre humor that Friends inhabited shifted to a more conservative place. I remember wondering how show I could find mildly amusing in reruns at 6 had turned into something so mean when I watched the new episodes at 9.

Not to mention

that along with the insane amount of homophobic material (especially strong towards Ross's ex wife Carole, and her partner, Susan. Made me rage even harder) there's also an absurd amount of sexist jokes and gender stereotyping. Gross.

Not Convinced

“The whole point of this project is to show the very extent to which homophobia pervades the show, and how it changes over the years." I don't believe this project was successful at demonstrating even a generally pervasive homophobia on the show, much less one that is extensively so. It seems to me that Mamula simply cataloged the many instances in which the show touched upon a gay theme/story line or insinuated someone was gay. Of the 50 minutes of video, there were only a handful of instances that seemed truly phobic to me. Namely, Sandy the manny and Chandler's trans dad. But, even with those, it was one or two characters (usually the guys) struggling with gender norms/differences while the others, in the case of Ross and the manny, laughed at their insecurities or, as in the case of Chandler and his dad, tried to help them come to terms with them. Far from being a homophobic show, I believe "Friends" shined a light on homophobia and made fun of it, much as Archie Bunker and "All in the Family" did in the 70s.

Whether intentional or not, "Friends" helped many Americans laugh at their own fears and prejudices and see how silly they truly were, and they did so from the very beginning. As shown in this video, Ross learns in the second episode that his lesbian ex-wife is pregnant with his child, which understandably takes some getting use to and, quite reasonably, lends itself to lots of laughs. Of course Ross makes some inappropriate, politically incorrect statements. Of course he has a hard time adjusting and figuring out where (or even if) he fits into this relationship that he had no real say in. But,it's important to consider the entire story arc.... In the end, Ross chose to be a father to his child and work with both his ex-wife and her overly aggressive partner to create a stable, loving environment for his son. He never once considered suing for sole custody, as a truly homophobic person most likely would. He never berated or condemned them for being lesbians or tried to teach Ben that they were somehow wrong. Yes, he laughed nervously when they announced they were getting married, but in the end, he not only attended the wedding, he walked Carol down the aisle when her parents chose not to attend. This is not something a homophobe would do.

It's important to remember that the first episode of "Friends" aired in 1994 - before Ellen and Rosie came out, before "Will and Grace", and WAY BEFORE "Glee". An argument can be made that "Friends" helped set the stage for these shows and prepared mainstream America to accept future LGBT characters.

Edit to Previous Comment

Last sentence of first paragraph should read, "Far from being a homophobic show, I believe "Friends" shined a light on homophobia and made fun of it, much as Archie Bunker and "All in the Family" did *with racism* in the 70s."

Not convinced either

I completely agree with Myst72's arguments. I'm gay and wasn't at all convinced by this montage (though I have to admit I stopped watching after about 20 minutes, because of that). I don't remember ever getting the impression that Ross was hostile to Susan because of homophobia and have always understood his behaviour as evidence of him feeling rejected (as he would have done if she'd left him for a man) and perhaps also upset that he didn't know his wife well enough to work out for himself that she was a lesbian.

I found the video on black characters with speaking parts ( "A semi-alphabetical listing of Black actors with speaking roles on Friends") to be a far better executed and more entertaining exploration of the show's politics.

Perhaps calling the show

Perhaps calling the show 'homophobic' loses some of the nuance. These characters don't make fag jokes or imply that gays are disgusting, but they do make the idea of being gay a punchline far too often. The idea that Chandler might be perceived as gay is a frequent joke on Friends and it wouldn't be a big deal if the ultimate message was that having someone confuse you as gay is an insult, it's something that must be defended against. Ross was often supportive of his ex-wife, but that plot point was definitely played up as a slight on his masculinity and Susan was depicted as aggressive.
I do think this video highlights the transition 90s television undertook, from making blatant fag jokes to making softer gay punchlines, when outright hostility was dropped but uttering the word 'lesbians' was still deemed hilarious.

I always read the gay jokes

I always read the gay jokes as encouraging us to laugh AT Ross and Chandler. I thought the point was "ha ha, look at these insecure guys who are so unsure about their masculinity that someone thinking they're gay freaks them out!" Their insecurity and neuroses, not gayness itself, were the punchline.

I agree wholeheartedly with

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of Ross' reaction to Susan. He's not threatened by lesbians, he's simply been deeply hurt by this one particular lesbian couple; his wife left him, and her partner gets to play more of a role in parenting their son than he does. That's devastating. Of course he'll feel angry and competitive when Susan's around, and that's often what the source of his aggression is - a competitiveness toward her, likely rooted in deep jealousy.

That said, his attitude about the nanny was definitely homophobic, or at less non-gender-conforming-phobic (?). The main other example I can think of where Ross is openly concerned about gender nonconformity is when Ben wants a Barbie and Ross is threatened by it, but no one else on the show cares; Ross is played for laughs in that episode, not Ben.

Thanks for your comments!

I don't really believe that the point of Mamula's project was to point out that Friends was the Most Homophobic Show Ever. It's my fault, as a the blogger, for dwelling a bit too long on the content of the montage and not the montage itself. And I do agree that Friends probably did some good in terms of introducing LGBT characters (they apparently won a GLAAD award!).

Her point is to remix ten seasons of show to specifically draw attention to the way often subtle (sometimes not) jokes run throughout. By grouping them all together (you could do this for any show), and presenting them sometimes without context, her point is not the jokes themselves, but their pervasiveness (sorry to sound like a broken record) throughout the show. So I think it's important to keep in mind the conceptual point of the video as well as the content.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Thanks

Thanks Kjerstin. Really good point, one that I myself could have been a little more careful to emphasize! The video's brand new subtitle ("The One with All the Gay Jokes") should help drive the point home.

Still not convinced

This video is 50 minutes long. Friends ran for 236 episodes at 22 minutes each. If you work it out (and I did) that means they spent less than 1% of their airtime making gay jokes. Is that the new definition of "pervasive"?

I bet if you look, they spent more time talking about the Knicks.

Exactly!

I was just looking it up to see how long it ran to do the math may self.

The show ran 10 seasons with an average of 24 shows per season, meaning it averaged 5 minutes per season referencing homosexuality in some form. As you said, not exactly pervasive.

I don't think that makes it insignificant.

The moments might be relatively infrequent, but like Kjerstin said, it's Microaggressions-esque: It adds up into something big, namely, this compilation. Besides, imagine being a closeted queer kid who doesn't know any out people and hasn't seen any other QUILTBAG characters. Having once been that kid, I can say that the occasional reference I heard to homosexuality meant a lot, and the fact that said references were negative and/or mocking? It mattered. Friends may be less overtly homophobic than some shows, but that doesn't mean it should get a pass.

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Agree @Archie Bunker

As I was watching the clips, the first thing that popped into my head was the similarity to All in the Family, when it came to making homo/transphobia seem silly and pointless and antiquated. Friends made fun of the phobes, not the gay & trans characters.

This was my takeaway, too

I haven't made it through the entire montage, but so far, I concur with this. And you said it quite well. In its time, this was handling a touchy subject that wasn't often discussed on prime time with a light touch, and walking a fine line between universally appealing and enlightening. Much, like you pointed out, as All in the Family did with racism. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

Ross champions gay marriage

Wow. So, Ross would have had to "sue for sole custody" for this show to be considered homophobic? He would have had to "berate or condemn them for being lesbians" and "teach Ben that they were somehow wrong"? And why is Susan "overly aggressive"? Did she have to be represented that way? Are all lesbians castrating bitches? And do most of them look like Huey Lewis? And by the way, "mainstream America" hasn't accepted LGBT characters (much less real people), so whatever stage-setting Friends is supposed to have taken care of clearly wasn't all that effective. Gay marriage is still only legal in 6 states, and Hollywood is still rife with homophobia (n.b. Brokeback Mountain and Milk don't change an entire cultural landscape). The truth is, this was a show centered around six straight, white, middle-to-upper class Americans, whose only internal concession to any kind of ethnic difference was Joey being Italian and Ross and Monica being Jewish. All other differences were relegated to the periphery, where they could be excluded and made fun of. So it's precisely because the show is politically correct enough for Ross to walk Carol down the aisle that it's allowed to make fun of all sorts of lgbt characters. Point being, the least offensive shows are precisely the politically incorrect ones - the satires that make fun of the general status quo, like South Park, the Office, 30 Rock, It's Always Sunny in Philly, etc. The ones that can make a token concession to difference and openly call him "Token". I agree with "S": Friends was funny (no one's denying that), but it was really kind of gross.

Mainstream America hasn't accepted LGBT characters???

So, if mainstream America hasn't accepted LGBT characters, how do you explain the eight year run of "Will & Grace" and the huge popularity of talk show hosts such as Ellen de Generes and Rosie O'Donnell?? Not to mention, shows like "Glee", "Grey's Anatomy" and "Brothers & Sisters" that have prominent gay characters and story lines. Who do you think is watching these shows (all of which run - or ran - on one of the major networks), if not mainstream America??

Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that mainstream America is becoming more accepting, not only of gay people, but even gay marriage. Polls have recently found that a majority of Americans believe gay marriage should be legal and gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. It may be slower than we would like, but that is progress no matter how you look at it.

I believe that the presence of gay characters in mainstream media deserves credit for a good deal of that change, including "Friends", which featured recurring gay characters throughout its ten year run. Perhaps my memory is failing me, but it seems to me that "Friends" was the first prime time sitcom to do so.

Hey. So, I'm not saying there

Hey. So, I'm not saying there hasn't been ANY progress. But I do think mainstream media is still extremely cautious when approaching LGBT characters, so it's been liberating to a very limited extent. E.g. I loved The L-Word for a lot of reasons, but it was still a show about a ridiculously good looking group of women, most of whom aren't gay in real life (and if star studies has taught us anything it's that the persona directly impinges on the meaning of the film/show). More tangentially: isn't it troubling that there's no gay male equivalent of The L-Word - i.e. that it was allowed to exist only because it catered to straight male/bi-curious female fantasies? The lesbo couple in Grey's Anatomy: same question. Will & Grace is a whole other bag of worms - like a friend of mine once said, thirty years from now we'll look back at it and say "that's the show they aired before making fun of gay people was bad." And also, why should we shut up and act grateful for these "prominent gay characters and story lines" when there's obviously room for A LOT of improvement? My god, it's like the recent hullabaloo about Bridesmaids being some kind of feminist landmark. Last but not least, I'm not sure our definitions of "mainstream America" coincide. I'm a little hard-pressed to believe in the statistical accuracy of these polls that have recently found that most Americans think homosexuality is a-ok. I don't want to start some heated argument - all I'm saying is, what in the world is wrong with critiquing homophobic content (whether past or present) and asking for fairer, more complex and more frequently recurring representations of LGBT characters?

I thought the "L-Words" was

I thought the "L-Words" was the lesbian response to the mainly all male "Queer as Folk".

To be fair, most tv shows

To be fair, most tv shows have beautiful people in it. Even Ugly Betty wasn't actually allowed to be played by an actress that was less than perfect, so they could do the eventual reveal and make her gorgeous... There are very few mainstream shows where the main characters are ugly, so to make a show about ugly lesbians surely would have been discriminatory?

And yeah, it was billed here in the UK as the female Queer as Folk, so that argument falls down.

Mainstream America

I grew up in a small, rural community in East Texas. I was, until the age of about 24, a fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian. What's more, I've been an out lesbian for the last dozen or so years, spending several years in that same small town. So, I believe I have as good a grasp as any on how mainstream America's views on homosexuality have changed over the years.

For me, mainstream America is that vast stretch of land between NYC and Hollywood full of people living ordinary, suburban (and, less frequently, rural) lives; lives that typically include at least a nominal belief in God and the Christian Bible. A generation ago, when asked their views on homosexuality and gay rights, few Americans living outside of large cities knew anyone who was openly gay or had any positive images of gay people upon which to reflect. Consequently, they referred to their Bibles, preachers and politicians for instruction.

But, 90s media began to change that by introducing a variety of gay characters to the world. Yes, it was a relatively slow process, and yes, by today's standards some of it can be seen as simple, overly stereotypical, etc. But, frankly, I don't think it would have worked any other way. It's unlikely a show like 'Will & Grace' would have been accepted had Ellen not first come out on her show; and, she probably wouldn't have taken that risk if shows like 'Friends' hadn't first tested the waters with characters like Susan and Carol.

And those shows made an impact in two very important ways: First, LGBT youth connected with those characters and realized they weren't quite as alone as they had previously felt. It helped us accept ourselves, and it helped others accept us when we came out. Between the characters themselves, who had endeared themselves to many of their watchers despite their belief that homosexuality was wrong, and the youth who dared to come out in their wake, mainstream Americans began the long process of reconciling their own experiences with LGBT people/characters with what they had been taught about homosexuality. True, most mainstream Christians took a 'hate the sin, love the sinner' approach in which the message of love often got lost in the hatred of the sin; but as we've become more visible and mainstream, more and more Americans have come to accept us and understand that we don't want special rights, but equal rights.

This is, to my way of thinking, huge. (And, to clarify, the polls I mentioned didn't find "that most Americans think homosexuality is a-ok." Rather, they found that most Americans think we have a right to legal civil marriage, which is not the same thing.) If you look at other civil rights movements, I think you will find that we have had quite a bit of success in a relatively short amount of time. While other movements have charted their struggle in centuries, I think we should count ourselves fortunate to have realized such great successes in mere decades. Furthermore, I think we should acknowledge how the gradual steps of mainstream media have helped us in obtaining acceptance.

Homophobia is about FEAR (not political incorrectness)

'So, Ross would have had to "sue for sole custody" for this show to be considered homophobic? He would have had to "berate or condemn them for being lesbians" and "teach Ben that they were somehow wrong"?'

In regards to this particular story line, yes - or, at least, something along those lines. If your positing that the show was homoPHOBIC, then show me where Ross's (or anyone else's) reactions to Carol and Susan were rooted in fear. Let's not change the meaning of the word homophobic to mean anything that we find offensive, insensitive, politically incorrect or overly stereotypical. And again, it's important to consider the entire story line, not just a handful of possibly offensive jokes.

As for typecasting Susan as overly aggressive... certainly they could have gone another way, but I suspect the reasons for doing so had much more to do with comedy than politics.

Oh, the 90s

I just started watching Friends this year, and I'm midway through season three. I am definitely struck by the tired gay jokes, some of which aren't even jokes.

CHARACTER: mentions lesbians
STUDIO AUDIENCE: howls with laughter
I: am mystified

I've noticed the same thing in Seinfeld. Is it just a 90s thing? Like, in that stage between being seen as a demonic threat and getting (a degree of) mainstream acceptance, the mere concept of somebody being gay was just side-splittingly hilarious?

Or am I just missing out on a whole field of humor... I could be going about my day as usual, when I suddenly remember, "I'm gay! LESBIANS!", and then I would instantly have something to laugh about...

I like this '90s gay humor

I like this '90s gay humor theory. A comparison to Seinfeld is interesting since it and Friends were both part of NBC's Thursday night line up when NBC ruled the world in the 90s. Both shows are also about life in New York City. I imagine a memo going around describing exactly how homosexuality should be handled...."There can be open talk of homosexuality, but none of the main characters can be openly gay. A main can be misidentified as gay from time to time for comic effect. He/she should be offended, but not repulsed." Just a couple of rules I saw in play, I'm sure there are more.

Oh, the good old days...

I bet Michelle Bachmann misses the 90s...

MB, circa 2004: “(Gay activists want to) make gays look good, because they (media) didn’t always. If you’ll recall television maybe 15, 20 years ago, if you’d see something about gays it would be an outlandish kind of an outfit, it would be a kind of tittering, making fun. But that’s different now. Now gays are made to look good.”
http://www.dumpbachmann.com/2011/01/michele-bachmann-effects-of-gay.html

interesting

Very interesting post! I've actually had to stop watching a lot of mainstream popular shows because my tolerance for ,lazy, offensive, pandering to the lowest-common-denominator humor has gotten lower over the years. Case in point: How I Met Your Mother. Initially I liked the show, but eventually the gay/transphobic/mysogynistic humor just really got to me. It's not just offensive, it's also boring, overdone and cliched. (Ironic because I actually like Neil Patrick Harris as an actor in other roles). I have a great sense of humor and am definitely not one of those angry/humorless cliches of feminist, but I really wish writers of sitcoms like these would put some actual damn effort into their scripts instead of resorting to the same old tired jokes (typically at the expense of women, queers, minorities, people with disabilities, plus-sized people, etc) that every other unoriginal show out there uses.

Too true

Completely agree, and find it particularly interesting that How I Met Your Mother is more or less Friends 2.0. Notice also the show's xenophobic tendencies... jokes like: this or that "smells like Turkish armpit hair" - why Turkish?!

yeah but.....

The show was about a bunch of young middle class adults in the 90s, the fact that the characters were at times uncomfortable about homosexuality was because they probably would be.
It isn't even homophobia finding it strange that a man's wife leaves them for a woman anyway, that is quite a rare occurence

there was also Robin's remark

there was also Robin's remark about the "unshaven Turkish lesbians", a statement that is both homophobic and racist. the most likely explanation to this is that among the writers there is/was a person with a certain degree of racial prejudice directed against Turks...

Completely Agree

I used to enjoy How I Met Your Mother for silly laughs, but I can't watch it anymore without getting offended. While I think Barney is supposed to be a mildly misogynistic douche (so it makes sense for him to make offensive comments), the show ultimately supports these attitudes rather than critiquing them. I find that, more often than not, the message in the end says that Barney's homophobic/misogynistic/transphobic/whatever comments, while perhaps stated without tact, are generally on the mark. In other words, I feel the writers are usually telling us, "Barney's a jerk, but he's also right."

As for the Friends montage, I can see both sides of the argument. Some of the clips were definitely offensive and the whole thing generally supported a "nothing is worse/funnier than a straight person(read: man) being mistaken for gay" message, but I also thought a lot of the clips poked fun at the homophobia exhibited by some of the characters. All of the scenes dealing with Chandler's father definitely made me uncomfortable though. Does anyone else think it's interesting that they cast a woman (Kathleen Turner) to play Chandler's drag queen father? (I never watched all of Friends, but it's my understanding that his Dad dresses in drag, not that he's a trans woman.) I think there's something more there. Did they think audiences couldn't handle seeing a biological male dressed in women's clothes?

Friends

Ah, good times and a good show. One of the things to remember here is that Friends featured an ensemble cast about six characters, and the homophobia, transphobia, and gender stereotyping that you mention are all part of those characters. It's a common thread throughout the entire series because it's a common series of traits throughout the characters for different reasons, each of which is valid for each of the characters. To condemn the show for lazy writing and cheap jokes about these aspects is to ignore the fact that these are still pretty important aspects for each of the characters.

If this offends you, don't watch it. Remember that you can laugh at a situation without being offensive, because life itself can throw up all sorts of absurdities. Laughter and humour is a defence mechanism, and being able to laugh at yourself is one of the best things you can do in society. I have plenty of gay and transgendered friends who laugh at the jokes in friends, because they have been in the same situations. Likewise, they can laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously.

The simple fact is they put this group of friends together in a way that worked, seemed organic, and wasn't forced. There wasn't a token black person or token gay person. It wasn't a Glee Club - that's a different series and a different comedy with a different group dynamic. That's the magic of friends. They shared the standard view of homosexuality and transsexuality that was prevalent in the 90's - that of ignorance and a lack of exposure. They made jokes because it wasn't part of their life, but they weren't hostile when they came across it. The only hostility came when it was combined with personal betrayal which was believable on behalf of the character. That's not homophobia or transphobia, and it's projecting these subjects in a realistic fashion as much as the characters would experience them during that time. Not every series has to be a promotion for homosexuality and transsexuality, and nor should they be.

Just to point out, some of Mamula's editing makes the homophobia seem worse than it is. For instance, it is mentioned that Susan simply saying "we're getting married" cues the laughter track, implying it's a joke. In fact, this is edited to make it sound homophobic, since there's an awkward pause before this statement, following a statement by Ross, which explains the laughter track for Susan's statement. In this case, the joke is not that the two women are getting married, but that they've announced that they are getting married in response when Ross was expecting something else. It's easy to infer homophobia in this situation if you are looking for it, but the joke would still have been funny if Susan was marrying someone else.

Friends isn't perfect - far from it. But it is natural. That is the point. The characters have their defects, that what makes them well rounded characters. Ross is a bit of a douche, and firing his nanny for making him seem gay is in keeping with his character. But exactly how many apparently-gay characters, in total, have their been in Friends? There's a very small sample, and they act in a non-confrontational manner, and you call it homophobic - that's hardly a substantial sample. The nanny may say it's fair - we know it's not. But we know Ross is a bit of a jerk too. That's why when Chandler rips him off at Cups, we don't feel too bad about it, because Ross deserves it sometimes. It's part of the character, not necessarily the entire show.

Didn't quite hit the mark.

There were just a few maybe phobic jokes in there. But, even with no real context, it was obvious most were not.

Look at the homo sapiens joke for example. That was not even the least bit homophobic, it was there to make fun of Joey's ignorance. But Mamula includes it as an example of a phobic joke. Please explain to me how it is.

Tijana Mamula does her argument a disservice by including such jokes as examples of homophobia.

And just as a matter of info, yes I am gay.

hmm

it should be pointed out that the lives of straight people were made fun of for the majority of the shows run. if the show singled out gays as a subject of ridicule, that would be one thing, but they were just one of many many groups who were the subject of humour (pretty light hearted, unmean humour)

I fail to see how any of this

I fail to see how any of this is homophobic.... instead of spending countless hours on a random tv show looking for some triviality that's not there.. you should probably get a life and start looking and exposing the real homophobes and bigots out there...

I've never wanted to watch

I've never wanted to watch this show, it just never interested me but my friend loves it so she convinced me to watch. I figured I'd give it a shot and yeah I laughed but right now I'm watching season 9 the episode with the nanny. And it was just frustrating me how Ross was acting so I came online to see what others else thought about this or noticed. And I'm glad that I found something that brings awareness to this because throughout the seasons it does become more prevalent and I really don't like it. Anyway glad to see others bringing attention to this.

How does the

How does the homophobic/heterosexist content of Friends compare to other popular shows from the 90s? Is it more or less pervasive?

Friends and prejudices

I always thought "Friends" was awfully PC. How many episodes is there about how bad it is to smoke, to drink or smoke pot?
. So, Pc and homophoby?
But I'm affraid "Homophobic Friends" is rather relevant. How many time did Chandler and Joey behave like they were affraid of being mistaken for a gay couple?
The episode that bother me the most, apart from "the one with the manny" is the one where Chandler meet a women who has only one leg. Which bother him so much that he consider not to date her anymore...Hopefully, for the character, she dump him when she sees that he has three nipple.(???)

Friends: fag-bashing crap

If audiences have any doubt about the virulent homophobia (that is, fag-bashing) of Friends, they need only look at yesterday's episode. First characters laugh at the phrase 'homo erectus' and then - boom - we meet a stereotypical ultra-effeminate queer in a castrating bow tie. If audiences think Friends is art, they should think again.

ONE OF THE 3 WRITERS FOR

ONE OF THE 3 WRITERS FOR FRIENDS WAS AN OPEN GAY MAN

This is an important thing to acknowledge when considering the homophobia in friends and how accepting it was to be homophobic and promote an outdated model of what it means to be a man or woman.

Friends is one of my favourite tv shows, if not my favourite tv show.
I loved it from as long as I can remember till the finale. It was the highlight of my week and many happy memories are invoked when I watch it. I would like to say I think the writing (homophobia aside) was great.

However one sad memory is invoked when I watch friends.
You see, I am a gay man and have always been a gay man.
When I watched friends religiously from a very young age into adulthood.

It was so influential on my that I allowed it to enforce a false impression that as a gay man I am less valid as a man and ultimately my sexuality is nothing more than a joke or a undesired situation for all parties.

they pride themselves on having the first gay marraige scene on mainstream television but sadly I believe they subtly but strongly enforced a depiction of society that could be very damaging to people, gay or straight.

I like to think we are breaking out of the box we have placed men and women and seeing people for the individual's they are and not base our opinions on stereotypes, so I see the casual and tolerated homophobia of friends as nothing more than important lesson in how these subtle things can influence young people. I didn't have any gay role models when I was realising I was attracted to men in a world that often brutally demand I be attracted to females. my opinions of gays were based entirely on the media. on television and as we all know, gays are reduced to nothing more than stereotypes or caricatures or are completely denied of its existence on most tv shows. I can't begin to explain how confusing, depressing and lonely it was to be an LGBT youth but like to think its getting better.

Friends, along with many other casual homophobic influences made me feel ashamed and embarrassed for something that is not only normal, but natural. All day every day I would be reminded that I will never live a normal or happy life and as a teenage who already has to deal with many confusin aspects of maturing this can force many people over the edge. Just because you're "out" doesn't mean you're proud and many LGBT people still feel ashamed and embarrassed for who they are all over the world. Yes we were told
it's ok to be gay and we are all equal but the truth is everything, EVERYTHING is catered to re affirming the status quo that everyone is presumed to be straight unless proven otherwise, often with probing and degrading language that makes you feel like a second class citizen, and ultimately a totally devoid and useless creature because you won't reproduce or take a wife or keep your disgusting lifestyle behind closed doors so nobody has to deal with it unless they choose to.

I would also like to add that

I would also like to add that unless you are LGBT you don't get to decide wether the jokes are offensive
or not because you have never been discriminated against in that way. You don't know how it feels. The same people who can't see why friends is homophobic are the same people who think just because they have gay friends they can't be homophobic and that saying prejudice against straight people is the same as gay people. It isn't.

You're validated in your existence every single day yet we have to constantly question and justify ours. You don't decide what we can or can't get offended by because your opinion of homosexuals and homophobia is formed entirely by external influences that you pretty much don't have to be exposed to unless you choose to, and what you /do/ see of our "lifestyle" is often distorted or exaggerated to nothing more than the butt of a joke.

In the same way I have no right, as a white person, to tell a person of colour that racism doesn't exist or they should
"lighten" up when people make a joke of them because I've never actually EXPERIENCED or been EXPOSED to racism. a guy can call me a cracker, I can get offended sure but at the end of the day the prejudice ends there. I can walk away and be assured in how great it is to be white by simply going about my daily life in the glorious privilege of simply being white and not having to put up with racist bullshit and bigotry. And as a man I have no right to say women are totally equal as men because sexism is still everywhere, in every way of life from
our every day language to our tv shows to news reports and salaries. It's exactly the same for gay people, or trans, or women, or anyone who isn't a white straight man. White straight men are victim
to nobody but other white straight men and everyone else is subject to discrimination for not fitting
the ideal mould society says you should fit.

No we aren't all equal, there is a social heirarchy that is enforced in every day media and culture and it needs to be addressed.

I have recently watched quite

I have recently watched quite a few episodes of Friends in a row (procrastinating of course), specifically seasons four, five and six. I noticed one or two homophobic scenes or jokes, (mostly involving Chandler), and was quite disappointed by them. From then on I constantly noticed a range of homophobic, sexist and other discriminatory comments and jokes throughout most episodes. Now don't get me wrong, I love Friends, and it's still probably my favourite show, but i googled this question to see if anyone had picked up on what I was noticing because it shocked me that this was a show I had watched and loved all these years, and never picked up on this major flaw. The lack of Ethnic and cultural diversity in its actors is also something I had noticed perviously. The rebuttal to this, of course, will always be: "It's just a joke, don't take it too seriously", but when these "jokes" are continuously happening, and made to seem normal and acceptable, they then become acceptable to us. If an incredibly popular and respected thing (TV program or otherwise) made belittling comments about a part of your identity on a regular basis, you're not exactly going to feel very great about that part of yourself, or accepted by the people who accept that the 'jokes' as normal. When I read about the laughter track playing when Carol announces her engagement to her girlfriend I almost cried with rage on a public bus. The treatment of Carol is an absolute joke, and thus gives us the impression that lesbianism is an even lower way to live ones life than being male and gay! Thanks for clearing that one up guys! The thing is, these jokes always make me feel uncomfortable. I never laugh because it's never funny. The writers are honestly genius's, I never fail to laugh out loud during an episode, but their jokes are the best when they they commit to clever humour, AKA, not putting anyone down. I'm probably being a big hypocrite because I am often calling for less PC-ness in our society, and get annoyed with everyone trying to protect everyone from life, but i think this an issue that is serious, and also easily adressed, if people took notice.

Product of Its Time

It's important to remember that the show is a product of the 1990s. The homophobia on the show was characteristic of its time. Ross was probably the most homophobic and misogynistic just because he was victimized by a lesbian. His wife cheated on him and then took his child away from him. If she had cheated with a man, he would have been more of a slut-shamer than a homophobe. Chandler's homophobia is the result of being embarrassed by a gay parent, which back in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was a child, would have been a very big deal. Joey is offered as a foil to the two of them, as he rarely gets insecure about anything and just doesn't mention gays and lesbians or gender issues without a reason. He's basically the show's way of saying that if you're secure about your heterosexuality and your gender identity, you won't have problems with people who break traditions. The women are even greater proof of this, as they make out with each other without any awkwardness.