Funny, I was Bing watching Friends a few months ago. I was surprised to find that where I did not previously have strong opinions one way or the other about the characters during the original airing; I do now.
Ross reminds me too much of many “late bloomers” that I once knew: nerdy, passionate people who made what they love their career. Hardly a victim!
It is suddenly Pheobe that I detest. She is actually quite mean – with values that are easily set aside when it suits her. Conversely, Chandler has grown on me. He became more credible, more principled in later seasons.
I don’t think the mistreatment of Ross can be pointed to as the trigger for the dumbing down of American (not Western, if you please!) society. In the same way that Murphy Brown didn’t prompt a rise in single motherhood. Correlation does not imply causation and in these cases I think it was more an acknowledgement of a phenomenon in progress than a trigger.