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

I applaud you, the author, for your interesting take on “Friends”; however, it would seem you’ve never really watched the juggernaut of a show.

“Joey is the goofball. Chandler is the sarcastic one. Monica is obsessive-compulsive. Phoebe is the hippy. Rachel, hell, I don’t know, Rachel likes to shop.”

These succinct labels are at their best, approximations, and at their worst, offensive.

Chandler was more than merely sarcastic; he worked initially in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration, a pursuit that requires at least some degree of intellect, and later, in advertising, where creativity is a must. His jokes (not all) could be quite clever, and often went over the heads of his compatriots, even *gasp* Ross.

Monica was a chef at a top NYC restaurant, a job which required a culinary acumen, an intellect vastly different than that of a paleontologist, yet an intellect nonetheless. There’s evidence of her being a decent writer as she was hired to be a food critic back in the early seasons. And her emotional strength was unmatched. While Ross got only praise growing up, she got only insults and mockery from her parents. While others would crumble, she rose above. That doesn’t necessarily prove her “intellect,” but I felt I had to mention it.

Phoebe did have hippy-like tendencies. She also managed to afford living in NYC working as a freelance massage therapist and musician. Of course she didn’t have the same intelligence Ross has; she grew up on the streets and never had a typical education. Yet somehow, partly because of her brains (probably mostly), she made it work in one of the most notoriously difficult cities to live in. And, if you recall, she even made Ross see her point-of-view on evolution in “The One Where Heckles Dies.”

Rachel was spoiled. Rachel loved to shop. In the Pilot, there was nothing more to Rachel. Yet through the series, she grew. She worked her way up the corporate ladder at Ralph Lauren utilizing her savvy fashion sense, another form of intellect. She became a mother. Scratch that. She became a working, single mother, because Ross, in his *infinite* wisdom, was shocked to discover that condoms don’t always work. She’s even offered a job at Louis Vuitton, which is probably like the Harvard of the fashion world (I don’t know because I don’t really understand fashion. It should also be noted that I had to look up how to spell Vuitton — classic Anne Hathaway in “Devil Wears Prada” move).

On Joey, I must concede. He’s adorable and hilarious, but alas, he’s not that smart. I believe actors can be incredibly intelligent people, but Joey wasn’t exactly a great actor. Fair’s fair. You nailed Joey.

I get I’m going overboard here. But how could I not? I’m the kid that wrote about “Friends” in his college admissions essay. But I do think your narrow-minded view of “intellect” is insulting to the rest of the “Friends” characters. Of course the show was not without its issues. As you aptly point out, the cast was “all young, all middle class, all white, all straight, all attractive (but approachable), all morally and politically bland.” You’re right. But you misstep on that last line: “all equipped with easily digestible personas.” Perhaps they’re easily digestible to those who refuse to actually watch the show and acknowledge the facts, which I have hinted at in my above descriptions. But to people with brains, they’re much more than the narrow labels you use.

You make some good points sir. But alas, you’re blinded by your one-track-mind understanding of intellect. You might need to get your left phalange checked. The “Friends” are all intelligent in their own ways (maybe not Joey).

To paraphrase Phoebe: Come on Mr. Hopkins. You used to be a teacher. Think a little deeper.

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