How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization
David Hopkins

While I’m all for the spirit of this article and how society has become anti-intellectual, I have to disagree with the choice of example.

For one thing The Big Bang Theory is a better instance of this, as the four male leads are all incredibly successful academics while Penny is an unintelligent failed actress turned waitress whose apartment is a mess and car is broken, and yet the entire premise of the show positions her as the normal one and the men as sad little losers to be ridiculed. The average joke in this show is ‘LOL check out these nerds!’ It’s standard, lazy, predictable Chuck Lorre comedy (don’t get me started on Two and a Half Men) and is occasionally referred to as a show about geeks, for geeks. This is just undeniably false. It’s for dullards to laugh at geeks. Fuck Penny.

But as for Ross and how he pertains to all this, while there’s an element of sad truth in the idea his so-called friends reacting negatively whenever he attempts to talk about any of his interests, there are a few notions I would like to challenge.

First, the idea Ross is the romantic and that he is any way a sympathetic character. This, and him being in the wrong about being ON A BREAK are the status quo where he is concerned and neither are correct. Firstly, Rachel says out loud to Monica that they broke up before she finds out. Not on a break. Broken up. Relationship over. They gloss over this information immediately and it was probably just a writing oversight, but he certainly wasn’t cheating, though we can debate the rights and wrongs with sleeping with somebody else so quickly after a break-up, but that’s neither here nor there.

More importantly is the notion Ross is the nice one, the romantic one, the sympathetic one. Ross is not a nice person. He’s a good friend, and he’s thoughtful and all of that, sure, but he’s also incredibly controlling and obsessive and closed-minded. The way he treats Rachel before and during their relationship is pretty gross, frequently acting like she is his property. He doesn’t listen when told to back off, and he consistently assumes a position of superiority, framing himself as the voice of reason even when he is in fact being unreasonable. His behaviour regarding Mark and toward Rachel’s job are not okay. When Rachel breaks it off with him, she’s 1000% right, given the stunt at the office (which he of course, doesn’t see as inappropriate). Seriously, watch Friends again through the eyes of a a world that is less tolerant of this kind of male behaviour, and it’s pretty difficult to side with Ross in most of his major storylines.

I will say that one of the most frustrating things about the show is how far Ross falls in terms of his intellect. He begins the show as the smart one and says witty things a lot. By the end he’s a complete moron who we are TOLD but not SHOWN is intelligent. He’s getting 8 spray tans on his front and 0n his back. He’s wearing women’s shirts on dates. He’s using his high pitched goofy voice with frightening regularity, rather than his classic sympathetic ‘huh?’ The entire tone of the show was dumbed down over time, but Ross is the greatest victim, turning into a cartoonish slapstick. Though to be fair Schwimmer is a pretty good physical comedian.

In summary: People should read more and aspire to intelligence rather than fear it, Big Bang Theory is a better example of the trend away from that, and Ross was not a good person.

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