The last episode of the popular sitcom Friends aired on 6th May 2004, and like the 50 million people who watched the finale, my heart was broken when I finished watching the entire season four years back. A humorous reflection of the American society, its journey of ten years had bits that made us cry, had us rolling with laughter and to a certain extent had us introspecting our lives to search for similarities with the six protagonists of the show. The genius of it lied in many of its innuendos and messages that were portrayed in an extremely satirical and deeply metaphorical manner, which though did not make you think after each episode, but did strike you in certain stages of your life.
The freeness and independence which the characters had made me question my own sense of limitations and the limitations which restrict many of us, especially women. Friends had three very potent female characters- Monica, Rachel and Phoebe, each with their own sets of flaws, quirks and perfections which made them seem very genuine, even though they were scripted. It is this genuineness which sets the perfect stage for these scripted characters to be the models of feminism
Monica is the second child of Jewish parents, the Geller, who has consistently lived under the shadow of her over-achieving older brother Ross. However, these are not my words, these are the words of her own mother, Judy Geller. Crippled under the weight of inferiority, she develops a fierce competitive spirit and a curious case of obsessiveness with organisation and cleanliness. Monica is a fighter, who had made it on her own in New York by following her dream of becoming a chef. An unconditional lover having a dominating personality, Monica’s character should be an example to all those women who are consistently being looked down upon by their parents, spouses or their peers.
There comes a time when she supports her husband by becoming the only earning member of the family in order to help him realise his dream of making it big in advertising. Her searing maternal instincts, her strong professionalism and her vulnerability is endearing, which shows the strength that every woman possesses but she seldom seems to realise. An ode to strong willed, loving women, an ode to Monica.
Rachel is the oldest of three daughters of an extremely wealthy cardiac surgeon, Mr.Green. Years of pampering and comfort had turned her into a selfish and materialistic girl, whose aim in life was to marry rich and move from a setting where her dad bought her everything to one where her husband bought her everything. She met a wealthy orthodontist, got engaged to him and right before getting married to him, realised that she hardly loved the man she was going to marry and left him at the altar. With no job or adequate educational qualification to support her, she reaches out to the only person she knew could help her, Monica.
She becomes her room-mate and as years passed on, worked her way from being a girl totally dependent on others to a woman who followed her dream of working for a fashion giant. Her journey involved her refusing any financial help from her Father, waitressing for a small café, working for smaller clothing lines and then eventually moving on to bigger things. Rachel Green is never afraid to question herself, even in the decisions of love, which is showcased in her long sinusoidal relationship with Ross. She is an example to all those women, especially housewives, who feel powerless in front of their husbands. Her transition from a selfish, amoral and materialistic girl to a mother and a fiercely independent woman shows the depth that any woman possesses but fails to realise. An ode to depth and independence, an ode to Rachel.
Phoebe’s childhood is traumatic, to be subtle. He mother killed her herself by putting her head in a microwave, her father left her when she was little, her step father was in prison, and she later found out that she was adopted. She was homeless growing up which made her stronger as an individual. Phoebe can be defined in a single word, quirky. She is a terrible songstress and yet she plays her guitar to her heart’s content, she looks like a person on prozac when she jogs but she does it anyways and she refuses to accept the money that a bank allocates to her account accidentally, because she believes that she did not earn it.
A refreshingly different ideology, a different appreciation for life and a hippy lifestyle makes Phoebe the strongest feminist in the entire show. She is selfless and generous to the point of insanity- she gets artificially inseminated and delivers three children for her brother and she gives refuge to various vermin in her house and calls them adorable nicknames to name a few. The people who seek refuge in the arms of the usual should look at her life and introspect. Her way of living through different times and emotional stages unscraped while still retaining her individuality shows a perseverance that every woman possesses but often fails to connect to. An ode to being different, an ode to Phoebe.
The women form the core of the feminism associated with this show, but they aren’t the only ones who inspire. Chandler teaches you that it isn’t bad to laugh at yourself, Ross teaches you to acknowledge your inner weaknesses and Joey teaches you to take risks. Friends isn’t just about six ordinary people living a life in disarray, it’s a moral journey into the minds of ordinary that elevates one to understand the extraordinary.