Viewers of Friends are treated to what is depicted as the normal, slice of life reality of six friends trying to make it in the Big Apple. Each of the Friends characters had their hardships, sure, but in reality, the show has tarnished a generation because Friends sets unrealistic expectations for living in a big city, picking a career, dating, and being alive in general.
Friends fails viewers not only for the blatantly obvious reasons - like the arsenal of fat jokes aimed at Monica or Chandler's rampant homophobic quips - but for other, deep-rooted, sinister reasons as well. Friends ruined a generation by perpetuating Ross and Rachel's toxic dating patterns, normalizing Joey's predatory behaviors, and painting New York City from the group's singular, white, heterosexual, financially privileged vantage point.
The show left a whole generation with completely unrealistic expectations, especially when it comes to city life. As many people know, none of the characters on Friends, aside from maybe Ross and Chandler, would ever be able to afford their apartments in the real world. Most likely, these characters would be sharing cramped studios and struggling to pay that rent. For millennials, issues like affording healthcare insurance and paying back student loans make the fantasy of moving to a big city and living a Friends-esque lifestyle completely delusional.
Some of the relationships on Friends are shining examples of healthy, functional partnerships, like Monica and Chandler. This couple works through compromise and accepts each other wholly. Monica and Chandler kiss after years of friendship and it blossoms into something real and beautiful. It is a relationship built on a foundation of friendship, trust, and honesty.
The same cannot be said for Ross and Rachel, who are the show’s major will they/won’t they couple. During the 10 seasons of the show, Ross and Rachel get together, break up, get married, get divorced, have a baby, and then finally end up together. Throughout all of that, the relationship is extremely unhealthy. Ross is controlling, jealous, and insecure. Meanwhile, Rachel won't let Ross get over her, but she also won’t forgive his mistakes. Ross and Rachel pretty much torture one another for 10 seasons. And yet, this is the couple everyone loves?
Friends is also a fan of never letting relationships die, as the show brings back Janice, Richard, David the Scientist, Barry, and others. Long story short, don’t look to Friends for relationship advice because you’ll end up thinking it’s a great idea to get back together with that cheating ex. But hey, maybe that's why there's now a generation of ghosting, breadcrumbing, f*ck boys, and other horrible relationship practices with catchy nicknames.
The characters on Friends talk about money... like, twice. Seriously, these are six 20-somethings pursuing their dreams in New York City. In reality, there should be a lot of talk about money, especially since the central characters have vastly different incomes. For example, Ross has a PhD in paleontology, which landed him jobs at a museum and a university. Meanwhile, Rachel works as a waitress at a coffeehouse. However, the fact that these characters fall into two totally different tax brackets is only addressed once in “The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant.”
Unfortunately, friendships between people who earn a great deal more or a great deal less than each other would have to cross many bridges, but not in Friends. While the their difference in incomes could have served as an excellent way to educate viewers on class differences, it fails to do so. Even though we know as viewers it is "just a TV show," it is pretty disheartening to see Rachel work part-time at a coffee shop and not cry herself to sleep every night thinking about her mounting debt, as many millennials do.
Almost every episode of Friends opens with all or a majority of the six main characters kicking back at Central Perk, their local coffeehouse. In fact, many of the show's scenes take place at Central Perk in the middle of the afternoon, you know, a time in which all the characters should have been at work.
Of course, some of the characters could have believably been at Central Perk at 2 pm. Joey was a semi-employed actor, Phoebe was a masseuse, and Monica was a chef, so it’s conceivable they could have been off, in-between shifts, or working later that day. However, Ross, Chandler, and Rachel all worked traditional 9-5 jobs, which would make the likelihood of any of them being available for that mid-day cup of coffee very slim.
The Friends idea that most of us are available for that mid-day coffee, yoga class, lunch, or really anything else is very privileged. Instead, most of us are too busy working or too broke to kick back at our local coffeehouse in the middle of the afternoon.