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    6 White Complainers in NYC: Contemporary Diversity and the Lasting Appeal of Friends

    Humorous jab aside, I recently read an article here about the appeal of Friends to a younger generation of Netflix users. While the platform itself eases the process of binge-watching, what do we think about the notion of diversity which is presented here? This isn’t a desire to recast Friends using actresses and actors of colour. Rather, it’s a meditation on what exactly these six white characters offer that elicits such interest and intimate connection. Is it because they’re the same on the outside but diverse on the inside? Is there a philosophy of entertainment which trumps race to viewers of Friends, or do are the characters themselves constituent to a desire for "emotions" transcending narratives of culture, ethnicity, and race (each of these ideally intersecting, rather than divorced from, class)?

    Edit: Munjeera brought up a good point about the diversity of the cast members themselves, and the ways in which some character in the show attempted to maintain an authenticity to themselves (specifically the "Holiday Armadillo" episode). The point about love is something really important to consider too: love of others, love of self, love of life as is, and as it could be.

    Musing aside, I what I was hoping to convey is why these individuals in particular seem to transcend Netflix user social borders marked by culture, ethnicity, and race. And, perhaps more importantly, is this the standard which must be met when creating a narrative of love and friendship? What does Friends make self-evident and what does it silence?

    • Agreed. Why has Friends maintained its popularity transcending generations and race? I think the actors are genuinely nice and humble people. Whenever I have seen them in interviews they have never ever come across as arrogant and always thank the fans for embracing them. They also seem to really like each other. It is TV magic, sometimes called lightning in a bottle. Maybe whoever writes this article can shed some light on this mystery. – Munjeera 6 years ago
    • This is a good topic and definitely has a lot of room to talk about. How would Friends have looked if Chandler was gay? or if Ross and Monica were POC? Would it still have worked as well as it seems to universally? I've never encountered a person in my own life who has watched Friends and didn't like it. The author of this article could also speculate on what makes the character's feel so real. Is it the actor's natural chemistry off-screen? Is it the fact that the actors were all paid the same and negotiated as a group for their contracts to make sure they were all treated as equals? And why do the many copycat shows (How I Met Your Mother, Baby Daddy, Happy Endings, The Big Bang Theory, etc.) that try to capitalize on the construction of the narrative, try and fail to achieve that same level of comedy and emotional connectivity? Of all the shows listed, I think How I Met Your Mother comes the closest, but there are points in the narrative and it's execution that I feel are lacking and disappoint viewers. – Nayr1230 6 years ago
    • I agree with these comments and your article idea. I've noticed too with Friends that the writing perpetuates gender stereotypes in ways that may not transcend race. Perhaps their problems are contained within their "whiteness," so to speak? – daniellegreen624 5 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    Speaking as an older brother and as an educator of colour, I think part of the appeal of Friends lies in its lack of political connection in addition to its status as a piece of a nostalgic past. My reasoning is two-fold:

    1) You make the great distinction that this show, though aired on Netflix as a means of easy access, ended up in the hands of a younger generation of viewers. Likely, this demographic witnessed, in some form, semblances of “the 90s” (as I’ve arbitrarily designated for this comment) which contemporary popular culture talks about. Here I look towards alternatives to TV such as YouTube, Instagram, and Vine: each of these mediums’ mot popular users are, arguably, in their late teens, twenties, or early thirties. Through these figures, a younger demographic has access to forms of entertainment from decades earlier suffused through the “internet stars” whom they watch.

    2) You point how, albeit briefly, how the romanticism that is Friends appeals to a generation of viewers inundated by programs of diversity and tolerance. Friends, in all its simplicity, is conflated with an “essence of humanity” which had predominantly been the focus of many approaches of multiculturalism (this is more of a Canadian perspective, however) acknowledging difference BECAUSE we are all the same. Whiteness is conflated with this essence because popular culture is embedded with an acceptance of racism’s history. But there is an even stronger desire for the ability to express individuality influenced but not indebted to constructions of race or cultural ethnicity. Friends, though it can be critiqued as “White people complaining” offers viewers an unadulterated form of entertainment aligned with, as I mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal of multiculturalism: we’re all different but that shouldn’t stop us from coming together. This understanding, of course, not attending to the diverse ambiguity of Friends’ characters or the lack of attention paid to realities such as class, gender, etc. in one of the largest metropolitan spaces in the world.

    The Effect of "Friends"

    I liked your piece until the end when you extended your argument to “the ancient times.” From a rhetorical perspective I see the logic; it’s certainly true from our perspectives informed by the Civil Rights Movement & 2nd Wave Feminism. But, as someone sharing a similar orientation regarding the nature of popular culture as an educative force, it’s limiting to shift your argument so dramatically away from, what I assumed to be, a critique of early 20th century, 1st wave feminist discourse as they appeared (like ghosts) in sitcoms in the late 20th, early 21st century.

    Your argument regarding the private and public spheres as they “clashed” in the various sitcoms was great. It’s startling to see how the revolutionary properties of feminism, first in more property & fiscal terms then later as “the personal is political,” can be simplistically gleamed from these shows. In particular, your research regarding associations of masculinity and femininity along comedic binaries (men don’t cry, men are stupid, women MUST separate their personal lives from their ‘public’ ones around men) underlines how easy it is to become satisfied when these examples are compared to how things were “back in the day.”

    The most intriguing conclusion you’ve left is the notion of “family” as a site of recovery. Family is what reconciles sexism and disempowerment. It’s very interesting to see how all the “revolutionary” components aside, gender differences are excused because there is a desire for something intimate. As you began, the actions of a 6 year old prompted you to make this piece.

    Your article was well-researched and your argument was easy to follow. But I think someone else to consider it the notion of desire as it subtly embeds feminist discourse within popular culture. Humour, though a hegemonic tool you successfully argue for your piece, is nonetheless employed for its disruptive properties. While it can generate an imagined communal “truth”, that self-evident “oh that’s just what men/women do” moment can also present a desire for something conclusive. This is especially true when considering economics and labour; its cool to see how the desire to avoid work draws attention to what these sit com moments, sexism aside, offer in terms of leisure or escapism.

    Reinforcing the Traditional Patriarchal ideologies through Situation Comedies

    A disclaimer: I’ve only followed the anime up to the third generation; after that I’ve only seen a few episodes. Game-wise I only played up to the Diamond/Pearl era.

    Your idea of Pokemon in captivity, i.e. the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding it, was best captured when you started talking about the various uses for them by the staple “Teams.” Growing up, Team Rocket, Aqua, and Magma presented a very simple premise for me: capture Pokemon to increase a centralized power’s influence. Team Rocket under Giovanni sought to power under a single figure (hence the creation of Mewtwo) while Team Aqua and Magma, under Archie and Maxie, wanted to fulfill an ideology of “balance” (capturing Kyogre/ Groudon). What I’ve been hopefully trying to emphasize thus far is that Pokemon under these teams were necessary for the control of power.

    Team Flare’s final goal, though similar to the above in that power through Pokemon involves a willing abuse of their inherent nobility, means the capture and elimination of a non-renewable resource, the Pokemon themselves. You made two statements which really echoed in my head: Pokemon as inherently loyal and noble, and as requiring governing bodies because of their nature. Team Flare’s final goal, that is the deliberate murder of Pokemon as an energy source, seem to represent the furthest spectrum of the Pokemon captivity argument. Nonetheless, it’s still a part of a larger picture which makes necessary the captivity of Pokemon for power. Whether you’re a trainer, a ranger, or one of the Team leaders, the debate for Pokemon in captivity ultimately results in the necessary domination of these creatures for their own protection (and for their owners/human partners benefit of course).

    Great effort regarding the scope your research for your arguments, by the way. My only criticism is that you didn’t really give me your perspective. Of course, this is a debate but I was hoping to hear your own thoughts as well as opposed to the well-informed but nonetheless neutral middle ground this piece ends on.

    Pokémon and the Animals in Captivity Debate