Jennifer Aniston Says ‘Friends’ Is “Offensive” To “A Whole Generation Of Kids”
She hopes comedy can still bring people together.
There is a generational split when it comes to comedy — those who believe that dated jokes, comedic themes, and certain television shows are still as funny as ever and those who think some “classic” films and TV shows just do not stand the test of time.
Jennifer Aniston definitely lands in the former camp.
The Friends actor revealed during a recent interview that she believes comedy is a lot harder to do in 2023 since young people are a bit more sensitive to punching down and making fun of marginalized groups. She cited Gen Z watching old episodes of Friends as a clear example.
“There's a whole generation of people, kids, who are now going back to episodes of Friends and find them offensive,” Aniston told the Associated Foreign Press, while promoting her latest movie, Netflix's Murder Mystery 2.
“There were things that were never intentional and others, well, we should have thought it through,” Aniston continued. “But I don't think there was a sensitivity like there is now.”
Aniston — who played lovable and endearing Rachel Green on the classic NBC series for 10 seasons — said she wishes everyone could laugh more and not take things so seriously.
“Comedy has evolved, movies have evolved,” the 54-year-old told AFP in Paris. “Now it's a little tricky because you have to be very careful, which makes it really hard for comedians, because the beauty of comedy is that we make fun of ourselves, make fun of life.”
She continued to explain that some of the comedy in Friends was meant to educate people on the absurdity of life.
“You could joke about a bigot and have a laugh — that was hysterical. And it was about educating people on how ridiculous people were,” she said. “And now we're not allowed to do that.”
Aniston went on to say that humor is what brings people together and America lacks a sense of humor.
“Everybody needs funny! The world needs humor! We can't take ourselves too seriously. Especially in the United States. Everyone is far too divided,” she said.
Since Friends ended its legendary run in 2004, a number of viewers have rewatched the series with a more progressive eye, noting some glaring (and legit) issues with the show, including the lack of diversity. During the course of all 10 seasons, only a handful of non-white characters even make an appearance on the show.
Some have also pointed over several sexist plot lines that may be seem as offensive in 2023, such as Joey’s constant sexualization of almost every woman he comes across, or in the episode "The One With Joey's Bag” where Joey is mocked endlessly for his unisex bag.
Another example of blatant sexism occurs in Season 9 when Ross loses his mind over the nanny Rachel hired for their daughter — Sandy played by Freddie Prinze Jr. — who happens to be a man. Ross is absolutely befuddled that a heterosexual guy could choose this career path. This later leads to Ross asking Sandy, "Are you gay?" to which he later adds "You've gotta be at least bi..."
There is also the fatphobia surrounding the character of Monica — a once overweight teen — who viewers are constantly reminded about. The show has constant fat jokes at her expense that today surely would not pass any sort of body positivity checklist.
Monica also has a questionable relationship with her father’s friend, Richard, who becomes a major love interest in the show for several seasons. While their 21-year age gap is a huge topic of conversation for the six buddies, it’s joked about often. Richard witnessed Monica growing up being a close friend of the family and even had a daughter that went to school together with Monica. Cringe!
Let’s also mention Ross dating one of his students, transphobic jokes at the expense of Chandler’s dad, that one time Ross tried to make a move on his own cousin, and entire story line about Phoebe being sexually assaulted at her massage job.
This is not to say that Friends was one of the most popular and highly-regarded TV shows of its time. There are millions of people who find the show to one of the funniest ever made. However, not every joke lands the same now as it did 20 years ago.
While Aniston has some good points about comedy bring people together, Friends and other shows from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s do have homophobic, transphobic, and sexist jokes. I think it’s up to the viewer to acknowledge them, note that they aged horribly and watch the best episode of Friends ever made (IMHO) — "The One Where No One's Ready.”