Although considered one of the most iconic sitcoms of the '90s, that doesn't mean Friends and its storylines have been exempt from scrutiny. Stepping up to defend the beloved show, Matt LeBlanc responded to claims that Friends is problematic in a new interview. And while it's understandable that he'd stick up for the series, his remarks may inadvertently ignore a few important issues.
While promoting the upcoming season of the BBC series Top Gear, LeBlanc attempted to address the criticism surrounding some of Friends' plots, which have been deemed politically incorrect by fans online. According to BBC, the actor who played Joey Tribbiani said,
"I've heard those rumours too about people taking pot shots at 'Friends,' but I don't want to get into that. I disagree with all that. On 'Top Gear,' we tend to steer clear of any sort of political content, nothing too topical."
Instead suggesting that the show is timeless, LeBlanc continued,
"On 'Friends,' we steered clear of that kind of thing too. 'Friends' was about themes that stand the test of time — trust, love, relationships, betrayal, family and things like that.”
Although the show ended more than a decade ago, viewers have recently called attention to storylines that some have deemed homophobic, transphobic, sexist, and non-inclusive in nature, according to the Daily Mail. Even a quick search on Twitter brings plenty of criticism to the forefront.
The beloved sitcom revolved around a group of friends in their 20s living in New York City. The six main characters included Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Ross Geller, Chandler Bing, and of course, Joey. Over the years, the show has continued to spark memories that fans will never forget. However, recent criticism regarding the show's arguably insensitive inferences appear to have given some an entirely different interpretation of the sitcom that many have come to hold so dear.
Though plenty of the moments may feel warm and fuzzy to diehard fans, there are others which critics have pointed out may not be socially appropriate in retrospect. While the show did manage to incorporate LGBT storylines into its narrative, the way in which the stories were handled have been considered unacceptable in hindsight.
As pointed out by the U.K.'s Independent, one of the storylines that has come under scrutiny is Ross' disapproval of Ben playing with a doll, which has been viewed as homophobic. Then there's the issue of fat-shaming, which occurred when Monica's weight became a constant punchline on the sitcom. Meanwhile, VH1 pointed out the offensive undertones when it comes to the story of Chandler's father, who was a gay drag queen.
Add in the fact that the entire cast was extremely white throughout Friends entire 10 years on air, with very few guest stars of color ever appearing in any of its 236 episodes.
As Washington Post pointed out in 2016, criticism surfaced when Friends landed on Netflix a couple of years ago, opening it up to a new and younger fanbase — who were apparently appalled to hear some of the socially insensitive jokes and topics introduced on the sitcom. (Still, there are plenty of other people who defend the show, just as LeBlanc has.)
It's also worth pointing out that Friends existed before the days of social media, during a time when it was more difficult for people to share their thoughts publicly on issues such as these. That may explain why it's taken so long for the conversation to gain traction, though that doesn't necessarily make these types of punchlines excusable.
While LeBlanc’s comments seek to defend the character of Friends, there are obviously some troubling issues that cannot be excused. And because of fans on Twitter, it doesn't look like they'll be brushed under the rug any longer.