People shouldn’t overlook problematic moments in TV classics

October 12, 2020 — by Lihi Shoshani

“So you’re just a guy who’s a nanny? Are you gay?” 

When read out of context, this line likely comes off as being homophobic or encouraging toxic masculinity. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a famous quote from Ross Geller, a character on the classic television show “Friends."

The show aired from 1994-2004, starring Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Matt Leblanc and Lisa Kudrow. Although “Friends” is a family favorite, it is filled with homophobic, transphobic and sexist moments.

People need to stop publicly supporting shows like "Friends" and, instead, encourage the industry to stop making jokes out of marginalized communities. "Friends" watchers are not blatantly homophibic, sexist or transphobic people; many of them are teenagers I know who simply enjoy watching a nostalgic show from the ‘90s. However, they need to realize that ignoring the exploitation of the LGBTQ+ community or other minorities for laughs is unacceptable, even for a nostalgic experience. 

Hollywood has recently been trying to make progress in accepting and supporting minorities, yet so many people continue to undermine these changes by supporting homophobic, transphobic and sexist shows.

Some defend "Friends" by explaining that the show was aired in the ‘90s and that these jokes were more accepted back then, but these jokes did not magically disappear. “How I Met Your Mother” aired from 2005-2014 and included so many transphobic jokes that no amount of defending can conceal that it was inappropriate or that the directors didn’t know better. One joke indicated that if a man had feminine qualities, he had a vagina and non-trans actors continually used the t-slur.

“How I Met Your Mother” was only made because people continued to support shows like "Friends," incentivizing directors to make similarly inappropriate jokes in new shows. It’s necessary to put an end to this, by not watching "Friends" and acknowledging the show’s problematic aspects.  

No one should defend these shows or normalize the inappropriate comments that are made. As suggested by Oliver Lee Bateman, writer of Vogue article, “Why Sexism and Homophobia in Old TV Shows Is Such a Big Problem Today,” starting a conversation about these negative aspects is the only way to make constructive change.

“No matter what, questioning the past is an impulse we should never discourage… We learn from the past only by constantly challenging it, with our reappraisals serving as the starting point for the more aware and inclusive world we all deserve to inhabit," Bateman said.

Hollywood is slowly becoming more enlightened in 2020, but it’s much more difficult to evolve when people still support the shows that include awful portrayals of minorities. It’s crucial that people address this misrepresentation instead of ignoring it, and overall, aim to make Hollywood more inclusive and accepting. In order to change the industry for the better, people should publicly boycott shows that stereotype and discriminate against minorities. We need to make a stand by avoiding these harmful shows in order to spread the word that homophobia, transphobia, fat-phobia and victim blaming has been left in the past.

 

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