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"Friends" cast members sitting on set

These Controversial 'Friends' Storylines Wouldn't Fly Today

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By A. Elise

While "Friends" may be one of the most iconic sitcoms to hit prime time television, some fans of the show have noticed that some of the storylines are highly controversial and simply wouldn't fly today. While they were very popular episodes at the time, these episodes seen with new eyes might not be as well-received.

So, which episodes are controversial, and why? Will these episodes be addressed on the upcoming reunion set to film and air for HBO Max this year?

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"Friends" cast members on set
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"Friends" introduced perhaps its most controversial storyline in one of its most popular episodes, "The One With the Prom Video." In a flashback, Courtney Cox portrays Monica in a fat suit. She goes on to make several additional appearances later on.

Today, this storyline is widely regarded as cheap, lazy, and fatphobic. Most of the jokes involving Monica involve eating and making a mess. It's too much of a caricature to be realistic for modern viewers, which can make for a disappointing rewatch.

"Friends" cast members on set in Monica's kitchen
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The next storyline is one that the show's creators have mentioned regretting too. Marta Kauffman has expressed some regret with the way they handled Chandler's father, played by Kathleen Turner, being transgender. Kauffman says that the jokes were too much. The jokes largely involved misgendering the character and making fun of her appearance.

Kauffman said that they did not have a lot of knowledge about transgender people in the 1990s. She implied they would have addressed things differently if they were making the show today.

Giphy | Friends

The pilots of "Friends" was also largely controversial. Reading original comments from critics of the time sheds light on how controversial the pilot was for its time.

One critic described the show as a commercial but "smuttier." This may be a reference to Monica sleeping with a man on the first date. It also mentions Chandler describing a dream in which his penis was a ringing telephone. One reviewer said, "it's sad to see them degrading themselves" regarding the cast members.

"Friends" cast members posing in picture frame
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"The One with the Metaphorical Tunnel" proves that gender and sexuality have always been a controversial point for the show to cover. Ross was one of the characters with the biggest issues regarding these issues. In this particular episode, Ross expresses fear that his son will be gay because he plays with a Barbie instead of a G.I. Joe.

Sexuality also comes into play in episodes like "The One With the Nap Partners," where Ross fears that people will think he is gay for taking a nap on the couch with Joey.

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