I have a working theory that I’d like to share with all of you. It’s been developing since the late ‘90s, when I discovered Friends and realized what it was like to model my adult life on six fictional characters. Those six were heralded at the height of their unprecedented pop culture popularity and still even now as one of the most attractive, cohesive, funny ensembles on television. But what if Friends really wasn’t a true ensemble piece, at its core? Sure, the actors got equal screen time and pay (which we know because those contract negotiations were reported on by the media, at length). But what if there was a secret main character who discreetly drove the action of the show? I submit to you that there is a secret main character of Friends, and that that main character is Rachel Green.
Think about it: it’s Rachel's arrival in New York City that gets the show in motion. She has the widest character arc of the crew, making the leap from coddled rich girl to self-sufficient career woman (in her dream field, no less) and confident(ish) single mom, all in the span of the series. Her love life and haircuts generated more watercooler discussion than anyone else’s. And, let’s face it: she was the best dressed. But the proof doesn’t end there. Here are 11 GIFs that will show once and for all who’s the real boss of Central Perk.
1. When She Walked Into Central Perk In A Wedding Dress And Started It All
The Friends pilot kicked off a phenomenon, and the inciting action of that pilot was Rachel stumbling into the coffeeshop in a rain-soaked wedding dress. The implication is that the Friends weren't really the Friends until Rachel Green arrived.
2. When She Exemplified The American Dream
Determined to stand on her own two feet, Rachel paid her dues as a less than stellar Central Perk waitress. But she wanted more, and managed to fashion (get it?) herself a career in retail, landing jobs at Bloomingdale's and Ralph Lauren. Get. It.
3. When She Always Stood Up For Herself
Rachel knew her own value. And while some might see her confidence as bitchiness or vanity, it was an trait that she needed to hold on to in order to fully redesign her life. Love yourselves, ladies.
4. When She Was Half Of The Show's Signature Will-They/Won't They Couple
Ross and Rachel were the hotness in the show's early days. They had fans' hearts pounding long before Monica and Chandler's relationship hit the scene.
5. When She Was The Show's OTF: One True Feminist
Always be your own windkeeper. Make Rachel Green proud.
6. When She Stood Up For Herself, Even Though It Meant Losing Someone She Loved
The first Ross and Rachel break-up was a rough, raw episode. But I have to give mad respect to Rachel for sticking to her guns and protecting her own heart. And, by the way, they were not on a break.
7. When Her Sarcasm Rivaled Even Chandler's
In which Jennifer Aniston does not get enough credit for her contribution to the show's humor.
8. When Ross Saying Her Name Made For The Most Epic Cliffhanger Ever
Rachel's very name drove one of the show's most insane plotlines. And fans spent the summer wondering what Ross meant, if Emily would stay, and what Rachel might have to say about it. That's some power, right there.
9. When She Was The First One To Have A Kid Of Her Own
To be fair, Phoebe was pregnant first, and Ross shared custody of Ben with Carol and Susan. But Rachel was the pioneering Friend when it came to carrying and parenting her own child. She might have been unprepared, but she was also brave as hell. Even if she couldn't make out the sonogram picture.
10. When She Was Still An Enigma After A Whole Decade
11. When She Got Off The Plane
Bringing everything full circle, it was Rachel's decision to stay in New York that helped to cap off ten years of Friends. Not bad for a spoiled Long Island princess.
So, there you have it. It's Rachel Green's world and we're living in it. Just don't tell the rest of the gang.