How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization
David Hopkins
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I disagree on all accounts.

Let’s get a few things straight first. Ross was an academic. That’s what it is you’re calling “smart” or “nerdy”. It’s not that Ross made particularly smart decisions. In truth I’d say he made numerous stupid decisions and wasn’t very reflective. He was very jealous and a control freak, had huge problems with being honest and hurt his fiancé at their wedding, in front of everybody. He loved self-pity and would only see what he had when it was gone already. His many failed marriages are proof of his rash decisions. He’s an academic and definitely very enthusiastic and smart in his field, but outside that he was pretty much like everyone else. Maybe even worse.

The show was built around likeable characters with flaws. Friends was the pioneer of the soap opera turned sitcom, the whole point was that all of these characters are constantly having all kinds of struggles to overcome and in that are ridiculous figures. I think you’re also misunderstanding his friends’ disinterest with his work. He talks about dinosaurs constantly, he has sculptures in his home, the running joke is that he can’t shut up about it. The point is that all his friends did hear his stories again and again. When Phoebe’s physicist love interest is introduced, the characters are a lot more interested in hearing about his endeavours, asking him, how planes work and listening to what he has to say.

Of course, the show wasn’t perfect. And I agree that Ross was sometimes the joke for his nerdy interests. But so was Monica for cleaning all the time. Or Rachel for being a drama queen, or Joey for being slow and bad at his job. Or Phoebe for having strange interests and an unusual taste in art. And of course Chandler whose jokes caused constant eye rolling.

What I’m actually reading here is a defective perception of the world, a classification in “smart” and “dumb” that’s so naive in its principles that I feel pushed back to middle school — recess with the guy who started smoking, who’s convinced no one’s getting it, you know, no one’s getting it! It’s just not that smart. Yours is actually a very simplistic notion of how the world works, or how certain people get to the positions they’re in, or what the role of entertainment is, can or should be. (Especially when you call it a “downfall” through TV when right now we have the best television that has ever been created since the invention of the art form.) If you want to get more people into theoretical physics, it won’t help telling them that they should stop finding Kim Kardashian interesting or that all there is to them is “shopping”. That’s just stupid.

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