Friends debuted on NBC in 1994, introducing us to a cast of six white people who could somehow afford to live in Manhattan, despite spending all day at a coffee shop…
Created by David Crane, Friends is one of those re-watchable comedy classics. Thanks to its ten years on the air, there are hundreds of episodes to peruse when you’re running low on new Netflix content. And while the series is often a laugh-out loud, but heartfelt, tribute to the power of chosen family, it’s also a problematic fave. The series lacks racial diversity, fat shames Monica incessantly, and makes more homophobic jokes than a mediocore standup comic in the 1980s. With all that in mind, one of the show’s most offensive plotlines still has to be the putative love story surrounding Ross and Rachel…
The never-ending ballad of Ross (David Schwhimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) begins in Friends’ pilot episode. Ross’ love for (Read: obsession with) began in high school, when she was his sister Monica’s best friend. Back then, Rachel was unattainable to Ross; she was a popular cheerleader who wasn’t mean to him, but wasn’t attracted to him, either. And, just like countless male heroes in Gen X teen movies, Ross’ sense of entitlement convinced him Rachel was his One True Love.
After thinking about it all week, I’ve concluded there’s nothing about this toxic romance that holds up in 2021. So, rather than racking my brain to find bright spots in Ross and Rachel’s relationship, here’s a list of the four most offensive things about this One True Pairing. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list of all that’s wrong with Ross and Rachel as a couple. Such a project would be too labour-intensive for one woman to pursue!
Ross Is Next Level Possessive
Jealousy is human. Most of us (unless you’re perfect, like Lizzo), probably succumb to petty jealousies on occasion. At the same time, adults realize we’re at least supposed to try and keep such insecurities in check. Well, not Ross Gellar! If a man so much as talks to Rachel, he’s livid. Remember when Ross almost ruined Rachel’s new job as a stylist at Bloomingdale’s, all because he felt threatened by her handsome colleague, Mark? When your boyfriend jeopardizes your dream job, he deserves a good jettisoning.
They Can’t Communicate With Each Other
The debate over whether Ross cheated on Rachel is the 1990s version of Plato’s thought experiments. People will continue debating this issue for hundreds – nay, thousands – of years.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Rachel requests a “break” from their relationship after a particularly acrimonious argument. Convinced a break means their committed relationship is at best on hiatus (and at worst, over forever) Ross dulls the pain with a hookup. When Rachel discovers Ross’s one-night stand, she excoriates him for cheating on her and loses all interest in reconciling.
This is the one and only time I’ll ever defend Ross, but I personally believe the word “break” implies a suspension of monogamy. And even if that’s not what Rachel intended, requesting a “break” is ambiguous, so I don’t think we can fault Ross for straying. At the very least, this dude has plausible deniability!
What this incident definitively proves, however, is how horrible Ross and Rachel are at communicating with each other. Are we really supposed to root for a couple who can’t agree on the definition of basic words? Burn this love story to the ground!
They Don’t Respect Each Other’s Passions
Ross and Rachel are portrayed as opposites. He’s a nerdy PhD who loves dinosaurs and works at the museum, and she’s a cool boss lady rocking the world of fashion. Both are legitimate careers that require knowledge, skill, and grit. I’m equally impressed by each of their careers, and yet, these characters are not remotely impressed by each other. Rachel mocks Ross for not being “a real doctor,” and Ross makes it abundantly clear he finds Rachel’s work frivolous.
Without respect and admiration for each other, what is Ross and Rachel’s love based upon? Respect is a necessary precondition for lasting love. Why do these characters end up together? Why????? I don’t even understand how they’re friends, so how could they possibly be True Love? Personally, I’m not turned on by the story of a man who wants a woman simply because he couldn’t date her in high school. It’s not romantic that Ross wears Rachel down over several years, until she eventually gives up her dream job in Paris for him…
Love Shouldn’t Be This Hard!
Sure, love takes work. As a married woman, I know even loving relationships aren’t a walk in the proverbial park. However, Ross and Rachel’s romantic history is a travesty. If you see someone every damn day – and even share a child with them in later seasons – it probably shouldn’t take a decade for you to get together. I mean, not if you’re mature adults who are supposed to be together. If it takes ten years to decide you’re MFEO, you’re probably not. Admittedly, this is just my opinion, but I’m also pretty sure I’m right…
Ross and Rachel spend entire seasons obsessing over other people. Hell, Rachel even has a romance with Ross’ best friend, Joey! Sure, Ross mistakenly says Rachel’s name at his wedding to another woman (effectively derailing the marriage just as it’s beginning); however, that doesn’t change the fact he proposed to someone else in the first place. People who love each other typically don’t marry other people…
Ultimately, portraying Ross and Rachel’s disastrous relationship as aspirational deluded the millennials who grew up watching the show. Now that Gen Z are becoming Friends’ devotees, an entirely new generation will be miseducated by this sit com. Gah!!!!