I watched a few minutes of the Friends Reunion, last night. I wasn’t impressed by the passage of time, so much as the effort that most of the cast members had put into fighting time:
The worst complement: “she hasn’t aged a year, she hasn’t changed at all.” Because it tells us that we must stay young, frozen in time, to have value or beauty.
Let’s get real. I would have watched the full reunion, if it went down this real road:
“Friends: The Reunion” doesn’t have any interest in going down that kind of road — though for a moment, it almost seems possible it might. Perry has mentioned in the past about how his addiction struggles impacted his time on the show to the point that he had to enter rehab. The special ultimately declines to discuss any his troubled experience explicitly, but it nonetheless lingers around the margins with palpable unease. When his castmates talk about staying in touch with each other, he cracks a joke about how he doesn’t hear “from anyone” so dryly that it’s impossible to tell if it’s actually a joke…
…The reunion is so insistent on the show being nothing but a benign joy, in fact, that it only made me think harder about all the ways it wasn’t. “Friends” famously included so few non-white characters in its version of New York City that most every subsequent sitcom trying to capture its appeal feels obligated to include a joke about it. The series featured a surprisingly progressive storyline about Ross’ lesbian ex-wife and new partner raising his son (neither of which factor into the reunion), but also included so many homophobic and transphobic jokes that it quickly became a cornerstone of Chandler’s personality and family history. These shortcomings have also been viewed billions of times around the world, and it would have been revealing to see the cast and crew reckon with its less sterling reputation now, too.
It’s hard to talk about kindly, fairly, but I watched a few minutes of the Friends Reunion last night, and gosh was it sweet, nostalgic, great seeing them come together, and the memories flash across their eyes.
Wrinkles, plastic surgery polish, puffy faces, pot bellies, teeth surgery, substance abuse problems, divorce, career successes and losses—the toll and blessing of years was upon them.
I was impressed by the memories, the nostalgia for life, for times together, for a different era—but, too, I was impressed by society’s Pressure, particularly on women, a Pressure we all know about, but saw last night in high def color: to erase the years, to be perfect, to pretend everything is as happy and perfect as That Time when the Friends didn’t change at all for 17 Years.
Only, it’s an open secret that there’s been suffering, struggles, joys, all of it—life. And if only that Pressure could let up, just for a minute—we could celebrate that, too.