Loving 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S' While Black

How it feels to love this show as a person of color.

Loving 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S' While Black

Friends is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, from pop-ups and clothes inspired by Rachel, to other articles talking about how dated they think it is. So, with all this going on, I felt it was timely to talk about how conflicted this show made me feel when I was younger. I would tell people that, when they would ask what my favorite show was, usually those my age at the time. At first, I would get "Oh that's cool" responses. Then, the older I got it, turned into "Oh, really? Why?" turned-up-nose responses. I also got the "How is that your favorite show? You're black." responses. So, I just stopped talking about it as much, and enjoyed it alone. I thought at that time, people were just teasing me back then, or trying to make me feel like a sellout in some way.

But, now that social media has become what it is and I'm an adult, I reexamined why I got those reactions. I understand where other black people were coming from with the show, and them feeling as though it wasn't reflective of New York or themselves. I didn't feel this way, but that didn't matter. I loved all kinds of shows when I was younger, including the black ones. I never didn't watch a show because of the race of the cast, just whether I liked the story or not. So, when I was learning about people not liking this show, I got it. I started to also feel as though I had to defend my love for this show.

It was like those around me, and in general, wanted to only like black shows, or have a black show as my favorite. Let's be clear, Friends is my favorite sitcom. I don't know if that was obvious yet; I just wanted to say it. I still loved Martin, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Family Matters, Moesha, and etc. But, as I said before, that didn't matter to people. Was it mandatory to have a black show as my favorite? And, if not, I wasn't considered black?

The reason I loved Friends so much was all in the writing. I felt like the show's sense of humor related to mine in a way. I got the "funny" they were trying to be, even as a youngster. It was clever, the running gags were unique, and also, it's the first show I watched that made me want to move to new York, even though they obviously filmed in Los Angeles, but that's how convincing it was. I just enjoyed the camaraderie they had amongst each other.

I started watching this show in reruns one night, when nothing else was on. I had heard about it, and just left the TV on the channel it was on. After a couple episodes, I was a fan. Then, I decided to watch the show in realtime. At that time, it was airing Season Five, so I continued all the way until the finale. I only knew who Courtney Cox was, of course, because of Scream.

One reason Friends gets the black lash it does is because people like to gripe about how overrated and unfunny they think it is. That's how people started comparing it to Seinfeld. That made it even more polarizing. It was a comparison I never understood; they are not the same. I always compared it to Frasier, which is probably just as incorrect. But, they gave me the same feels when I watched them, so there's that. But, that's the thing. Friends had situations you could relate to, no matter what your background was, and that's why it was so popular.

I'm way past defending my love for the show, but I've never heard or read anyone of color getting crap from people because they did. So, I figured I'd talk about my experience. This show is far from perfect, and there are some dated things and jokes throughout. Unfortunately, time can do that to a show, but its overall themes of friendship, and 20-somethings trying to figure out their lives, will forever be relatable. That struggle is universal, no matter what race you are.

Let me be clear! This is just what I've gone through liking this show. I'm not saying this is how people of color generally feel about this show, or any show, with a white cast.

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Travis Johnson

 Aspiring actor and writer, Pop Culture lover and alien. With a penchant for beef jerky, gotta have that jerky.


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