This Heartbreaking 'Friends' Fan Theory Could Explain So Much About Ross
Another day, another super depressing Friends fan theory. Wasn't the idea that Phoebe imagined the entire show traumatic enough? I guess not, because blogger D. F. Lovett has come up with an even more plausible and downright distressing Friends fan theory that could explain so much about Ross' increasingly erratic personality. Did Ross actually lose custody of his son Ben? Viewers with sharp memories will recall little Ben was last seen in Season 8 before he vanished for the rest of the series with precious few mentions. This coincided with a particularly dark period in Ross' life when he was freaking out over people eating his sandwiches, sleeping with a student, and once pretending he was spending time with his son by constructing a fake Ben out of clothes and a pumpkin to trick Monica.
Ross only got weirder as the seasons wore on, culminating in off-putting moments of homophobia and sexism, like when he could not deal with his daughter Emma having a male nanny. The darker truth is, Ross always suffered from Nice Guy Syndrome and it only got worse the older he got. His issues of entitlement could very well have gotten so out of control that Carol decided to fight for full custody of their son. Lovett writes:
"People like to give Ross the benefit of the doubt, wondering if perhaps he was a better father off-screen. Perhaps his children met but the audience never saw. The more likely answer is that he was such a deadbeat father that he completely faded away from his son’s life, pretending to his family and so-called friends that he still saw a boy he barely knew."
It's a distressing thought, but it could very well be true. Take a look at the evidence.
In Early Seasons, Ross Was A Devoted Dad
During Carol's pregnancy, it was important to Ross that he stay involved. He made it clear that he wanted his son to know him and during Ben's early years, Ross was often seen with his son. Ben came over to the apartment to see his Aunt Monica several times, and when Chandler and Joey left Ben on a bus, Ross was livid. Even as Ben got older, Ross wanted to make sure his son learned about his Jewish heritage. For a long stretch, Ross was clearly involved with his son, but his onscreen visits dwindled the older Ben got.
Ross' Behavior Started Getting Stranger And Stranger
In the first couple of seasons — monkey parenting aside — Ross was one of the show's most normal characters, but his behavior became increasingly destructive and self-absorbed as the series progressed. Not only did his visits with Ben become infrequent, his day to day behavior was downright alarming, at times. A violent outburst at work over a sandwich cost him his job, he completely took over Carol and Susan's anniversary dinner after his first breakup with Rachel, he made a pass at his cousin, and he dated one of his students.
As Ross became more and more focused on his own life, Carol could very well have seen the signs and taken full custody of their son for Ben's own good. After all, Ross wasn't exactly there for Ben as he got older. Ross' multiple marriages and job changes left him in a chaotic state of flux that left little time for him to be a dad.
The Curious Case Of Emma
When Rachel became pregnant with Emma, Ross became obsessed with being there for every single step of the pregnancy. In fact, he asked Rachel to move in with him so he wouldn't miss out on anything. While Ross' self-absorption doesn't abate, he follows through with his commitment to be there for Rachel and Emma. He is a present and attentive father to his daughter, but curiously, Ross never mentions Ben meeting Emma. It's almost as if Emma is his one and only child.
Could Ross have viewed Emma as his only chance to be a decent father? If he had lost custody of Ben, his obsessive need to keep Rachel and Emma as close as possible during the pregnancy and right after Emma was born would make so much more sense. He knew he would never have a real relationship with his son, but he had a shot at being a less erratic father for his daughter.
He Almost Lost Emma, Too
Not long after Emma is born, Rachel moves back in with Joey, who is arguably more of a father figure to Emma during her first year of life than Ross is. While bachelor Joey was making room in his life for all the sacrifices a parent has to make for an infant, Ross went back to his erratic lifestyle. In fact, when Rachel decided to move to Paris, Ross was far more concerned about getting a proper goodbye from Rachel than he was about what the distance would mean for his relationship with Emily.
Is this because Ross was actually a terrible father? Friends was a sitcom and it can only show so much, but given how extensively Ross' time with Ben dropped off to the point where his son never met his daughter, I'm stamping Mr. Lovett's theory as totally plausible. As sad as it is to contemplate a beloved character secretly being a truly terrible father, the evidence is not stacked in Ross' favor on this one.
Enjoy spending the rest of your day contemplating all of the built up resentment adult Ben must have and how hard teenage Emma is probably rebelling right now.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its original version.
Images: NBC; Giphy (4)