16 Times When “Friends” Handled Some Tough Topics Well

1. When Monica slept with a guy on the first date, it was no biggie.

“The first episode when Monica sleeps with a guy on the first date (Rachel and Phoebe also do this at some point in the series). This may not be a big deal by today’s standards, but back then it was a step in normalizing women’s sexuality and stepping away from double standards.”

2. Changing the idea of a “conventional” and “normal” family completely throughout the characters’ developments.

“There’s often the ‘traditional family’ that’s portrayed in sitcoms, with a mom, dad, and their children. Friends flipped the scripted and featured other variations of families like Ross raising his son in a blended family, Rachel becoming a single mother, or Joey remaining unmarried.”

3. They showed numerous times that people of the opposite sex can be friends in a platonic relationship, with no romantic feelings involved.

“Even though basically every friend kissed the others (including the men kissing each other and the women kissing each other), for the most part, there was no questioning whether people of the opposite sex could be friends without romantic tension. For example, I love the episode with the cheesecake; when Rachel and Chandler see that the cheesecake is still not picked up, Rachel grabs Chandler’s arm, and they get very close. It’s such a sweet little gesture with no romantic undertones.”

4. Monica and Chandler couldn’t biologically conceive children and started the process of adoption.

“They accepted they would never have their own baby and decided to adopt. There was a lot of very real pain in that performance, from considering donors to going through the adoption process. There were comedic moments involved, of course, but the whole storyline was handled really sensitively.”

5. When Phoebe agreed to be a surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law, but still struggled with the idea that she wouldn’t be the one to raise the triplets.

“How they handled Phoebe passing over the triplets after she gave birth. It was delicate, but funny at the same time, when discussing a very difficult experience.”

6. And when all the main female characters took their own unconventional approach on motherhood and fertility, from unplanned pregnancy to adoption to surrogacy.

“I always liked how all three women experienced different ways of having a baby that were not the “typical” way. Phoebe was a surrogate, Rachel got pregnant from a one-night stand, and Monica was unable to have children biologically so she adopted. Although each situation has questions and was not 100% realistic in some instances, it’s refreshing to see that people become parents in a way that isn’t ‘married couple try for a baby and succeed right away.’”

7. When it showed that a breakup is sometimes necessary, even though both people still have love for the other.

“Breakups are always heartbreaking, especially when you’re still in love with someone. Monica and Richard had to break up because they were at different points in their life, and Rachel and Ross had to end things because of trust issues. Before Friends, I always thought a breakup meant there was no longer any love involved between two people.”

8. Rachel and her mother had a conversation about being “trapped” in a relationship and held back in life from feeling so.

“The conversation between Rachel and her mom, when her mom announces that she’s leaving her dad. Especially the part where Rachel’s mom says, ‘You didn’t marry your Barry.’”

9. When Monica and Richard realized that they were at different points in life and needed to split ways.

“Monica and Richard broke up because they realized they wanted different things in life.”

10. Chandler had to move away for his career but didn’t expect Monica to abandon her life to follow him.

“Chandler is temporarily moving to Tulsa. I liked how Monica ultimately stayed in New York. Chandler understood that Monica’s career was really important to her, and that she shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice her career for the sake of his.”

11. Some of my friends struggled with money and keeping a stable career, and some didn’t.

“With all the flack and rewatching in my early twenties, early Friends was highly relatable. Especially during the pandemic, when I lost my job and some of my friends didn’t.”

12. How Ross, Carol, and Susan were able to keep and maintain a blended family, including involving divorce and a same-sex marriage.


“When Ross walked Carol down the aisle. It needs to be realized that Ross was angry. He felt that Carol cheated on him with Susan. Anybody in his place would be angry at Carol too. Yes, I definitely agree that the show did have some inappropriate homophobic jokes because it seemed OK at that time. But overall, Ross’s character, although problematic, wasn’t a homophobe.”

13. They showed numerous times that you can start over in your relationships, career, and life.

“They address the issue of not being really satisfied in the career you have, and it being OK to start over, even when you think you’re too old.”

14. When they showed how messy divorces can be from all perspectives.

“Several of the characters went through a very realistic approach to how messy divorces can be. From how Chandler’s parents’ divorce ruined Thanksgiving for him to Ross’s issues with custody and time shared with his son between his ex and her spouse.”

15. When the show had Joey break certain “manly rules” and what it means to be masculine.

“He didn’t care what anyone else thought about him and Ross taking naps together and his willingness to save his friends no matter what (the one with the jellyfish sting). Joey was also able to see the benefits of being a more selfless lover and that gender is a societal construct (wearing women’s panties after Phoebe admitted she wore her boyfriend’s boxers, unisex lipstick, and handbags for men). He wasn’t afraid to show his male friends affection either.”

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