Archive for October, 2015

If you managed to make it through the first part of this blog entry then congratulations! If you decided to skip right to this piece then, well, that’s still cool. As long as you’re reading something I’m happy.

First of all I’ll link to the article in question. I’d recommend you reading it first. I’m going to focus on 90% of it in this blog (I’ve cut out one section that quotes from the show because it’s not really needed for that section) but it’d be good for you to read through it first and form your own ideas. The more contrasting ideas the better in my eyes.

The article is here:

http://www.thefrisky.com/2015-02-25/is-ross-geller-a-mens-rights-activist/

The intention is not necessarily to overly defend Ross’ negative character traits, more that I am going to try and show that Ross is quite a long way from being an MRA. And even if, by the end of this article, I do have to cave and say he’s an MRA, well then you can be damn sure I’ll prove how Rachel is an MRA as well.

First off I just want to say that I don’t have the same opinion Beejoli Shah has when it comes to the TV programme Friends. She says it’s become ‘officially cool to hate on “Friends’ since it went off the air. I can honestly say I don’t see that same kind of negativity when it comes to the TV show. People I’m friends with seem to still enjoy it as much as I do. Sure, we don’t always agree on TV shows but Friends has never really been something that I’ve seen go out of fashion. That said, maybe I’m just friends with people who actually share my interest in comedy.

Anyway, I am a huge fan of Friends: I own the 10 season boxset, I used to own the videos (when videos were the pinnacle of technology) and I have my TV pretty much set to Comedy Central where reruns are daily here in the UK. That said, Friends isn’t noted for its consistency. There are numerous mistakes throughout the series, which are mostly forgiven due to the fact I find it hilarious. However, there are two instances that have always, always bugged me:

  1. In series 9 (I think), Phoebe is about to move in with Mike and there’s a whole episode around the fact that Phoebe has never had a serious relationship or lived with a guy. That completely ignores the storyline with Gary, the policeman who she actually moved in with back in one of the mid seasons (4 or 5 I think, the one where they don’t drop the ball for 12 hours). Admittedly it was only for a short time, she moved out after Gary shot a bird, but it was still serious enough for her to live with the guy!
  2. Shortly after Chandler and Monica got together, Joey becomes a little jealous of their closeness and wants to find a relationship like theirs. After being told that Monica and Chandler were friends first, Joey hits on Rachel, saying that he ‘saw her first’. When Rachel rejects him, he says ‘Damn, I wish I saw Phoebe first.’ This is despite at least two episodes (the pilot and The One With the Flashback) where Joey is friends with Phoebe before Rachel even makes an appearance! In fact, he’s sat with Phoebe in the coffee house in the very first episode, right before Rachel runs through the door in her wedding dress!

So what does all that prove? Well, aside from the fact that I watch Friends far too much, it simply illustrates that consistency is often pushed aside in order to bring comedy to the forefront. As the seasons progress the characters become less likeable on the whole and morph into hugely exaggerated caricatures of their former selves. In the case of this article, it means Ross’ unlikeable traits: his jealousy, possessiveness and borderline arrogance are highlighted in an attempt to bolster the comedy. In the same way: Joey becomes borderline retarded, Monica goes into full OCD territory, Chandler becomes a snivelly weasel of a man, Phoebe crosses the boundary into full on neurotic narcissist and Rachel reverts back to high school prep girl for the most part.

It’s slightly unfair to highlight the most undesirable traits of Ross’ character and make no mention of the fact that from season 6 onwards the characters all undergo transformations and move away from the grounded, mostly real, individuals they were for the first half of the series.

So, is there any appreciation of the fact that all the characters become one dimensional stereotypes after season 6? Not really. We do, however, get an added layer of how the show, during its initial few seasons, was sexist. I actually agree, the show was as sexist at the beginning as it was ground-breaking. Unsurprisingly, though, it’s only the sexism (and racism) towards women that is mentioned:

That’s not to say I don’t see its limitations. It took half a series to give up the “Monica is desperate for a man” storyline, nine seasons for a black love interest, and in today’s America, Joey would be labeled a street harasser and lambasted by a viral video.

Well, it might have taken half a series for Monica to stop being desperate (though that could simply be because she actually did get a man, so I’m not sure if that counts) but they spent the entire 10 seasons presenting Ross and Chandler as utter buffoons who can barely talk to the opposite sex without coming off as complete morons, even after Chandler gets married. In fact, Chandler spends the first four seasons bitching about not having a girlfriend, often asking the others why he seems to be striking out all the time.

It didn’t take nine seasons for a black love interest, at all. It took nine seasons for a black love interest that lasted longer than a single episode. However, any decent Friends fan knows there was a character before Charlie called Kristen Lang that both Ross and Joey went on a date with (in season 7/8 I think). Lang was played by Gabrielle Union, a black actress. In fact, Ross has been out with Julie (Chinese heritage though born in America), Kristen (black) and Charlie (black) so, essentially, he’s the most progressive of the 6. Not bad for a scummy MRA, right? Neither Phoebe, Rachel nor Monica have been out with anyone who wasn’t white. Joey also dated Charlie and Kristen while Chandler sticks with the girls in that he never dated a woman who wasn’t white.

As for Joey, if you can point me in the direction of any scene in the series where Joey actually harasses anyone then I’ll be very surprised. Yes, he sleeps with a lot of women, yes he has his famous ‘how you doin?’ line ready whenever he sees an attractive woman but there isn’t one single instance, that I can recall anyway, where he could be considered a harasser. If he was to be labelled a street harasser it would be due to overzealous feminists who just love to be offended!

There are some reasons rattled off as to why the above downsides of the series can be ignored, none of which are the same as my above reasons, which suggests that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes. There’s also a pretty fundamental error, especially considering this article is written by a ‘diehard “Friends” fan’:

Ross’s Season One girlfriend was Chinese

I’m going to assume this is referring to Julie, as she’s the only Chinese person I can think of that Ross ever dated. Anyway, Julie didn’t appear until season 2. We first see her getting off the same plane as Ross during the first episode of season 2. Might be a little pedantic but if she’s going to make an elementary mistake like that then there’s no reason why the rest of her article won’t be full of mistakes.

There are then a number of reasons given to explain why Ross is the weakest of the 6 characters (something I disagree with, but we’ll leave that for now):

It’s no secret that Ross was always the weakest link in the beloved six — his hair was over-gelled, he was always creepily touchy with his sister Monica, and he could literally never, ever be wrong.

She seriously criticises him for his hair, using that as a reason to say he’s a weak character? I’m going to assume that there’s at least an arbitrary attempt at humour throughout this article and pretend that’s just a bad example. He was always creepily touchy with his sister? Well, that link sends you to this page:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ciarapavia/14-reasons-monica-and-ross-may-have-forgotten-they-were-rela#.irwoKvG1R

Which is absolutely loaded with out of context moments that, when actually played fully, are deliberately awkward for comic effect. There are a couple that maybe fit the bill but generally they’re all explained just by watching the full clips. So yeah, can’t really hold that one against him! Also, he’s proven wrong a lot of times. Even in the instances that are mentioned in this article.

As I said earlier, normally I wouldn’t have even bothered to give this article the time of day, but the next paragraph is what really demonstrates the utter idiocy that is laced throughout this article. Never mind the fact she’s absolutely adamant he’s an MRA, because she’s the authority on MRAs or some shit, she actually compares him to Elliot fucking Roger!

But where else have we heard that “I’m just a nice guy” shtick before? Oh, right, Isla Vista mass murderer Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. The nice guy fallacy is exactly that — a fallacy — based on the theory that women should want to be with a guy based on his self-determined virtue, and Ross Geller, well, he’s your ultimate over-entitled “nice guy.”

Elliot Rodger was a disturbed young man who killed numerous people before killing himself. To use that tragedy as a comparison to a fictional TV character you simply don’t like is one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever read, and I’ve read some pathetic shit. Elliot Rodger’s manifesto was an absolute headspin of narcissism, arrogance, insecurity, jealousy and misplaced superiority. Even at his worst, Ross Gellar, a fictional character let’s not forget, was not even a 10th as psychotic as Rodger. And even if he was, there are numerous instances of the others, especially the girls, embodying the same undesirable traits. Does that make them comparable to Rodger? Didn’t think so.

I’m already pretty certain this is a troll article. I mean, no one can seriously compare a fictional sitcom character to a disturbed mass murderer, surely? Was Rodger a mass killer or a spree killer? I’m never sure where the boundary is. Anyway, not important, on with the article!

‘He’s The Poster Child For Nice Guy Syndrome

Ross pined for Rachel for years in high school, and when she showed up at Central Perk in a rain-soaked wedding dress, he wasted no time in asking her out the same night she should have been doing the Cha Cha Slide with Barry — which, fine, not really a men’s rights patented move, but weird and creepy all the same, Geller. But she said yes! And then … Ross did nothing. Except whine for over a year about how he was basically in the friend zone (another men’s rights construct!) with Rachel, and hide phone messages she got from other men in Monica’s cookie jar. Somehow, despite his secret longings, not only should Rachel have known how brightly his love for her burned, but she should have rewarded his efforts at being such a gosh darn good dude by returning his affections (as she ultimately did, when she found out he was ready to take her to her senior prom when she thought she was being stood up).’

Hmm, he wasted no time in asking her out, that much is true, but I don’t see this article mentioning the time Rachel wanted to ask out her assistant Tagg only a couple of hours after he had broken up with his girlfriend, despite the fact he had earlier declared he was getting back with her after discussing about whether or not Rachel believed in ‘the one’. Of course, Rachel being friendzoned by Tagg and then still proceeding to chase him doesn’t put her in the same league as Ross? Or the fact she went after Joshua not long after his divorce. Where’s the article trashing on her for her creepiness? And anyway, it’s not like it was Barry who ran out on Rachel, it was made pretty clear that Rachel hadn’t been in love with Barry for a long time (despite him coming back to look for her seconds before Ross was going to ask her out).

He may have hid phone messages, but he did actually try to ask her out numerous times. As he himself says, if it wasn’t for ex-fiancés or Italian guys then it wouldn’t have taken him so long.

At the beginning of series two, when Ross moved on and began a relationship with Julie, what did Rachel do? That’s right, she moped around like a little bitch and did everything she could to ruin his time with Julie – she tried to delay them having sex because she didn’t want them to, she gave Phoebe duff information when Julie wanted her hair cut and, later on in series 3, she convinced Bonnie to shave her head again because she knew Ross wouldn’t like it. It’s not like she didn’t pine after Ross without taking action either. In fact, while Ross might have been a douche and made that list comparing her and Julie, it took Rachel getting wasted and leaving a message on Ross’ answer machine before she had the guts to do anything about it. A message that, ultimately, split up him and Julie.

Even when they weren’t together, Ross was still on one about how Rachel should act, despite offering her none of the same considerations. He hid her messages (again with the message hiding!) when a man called new mom-Rachel for a date and Ross, who was staying home to watch baby Emma, took the message. He even preyed on a seemingly desperate woman to make Rachel jealous, after he saw her kiss her coworker Gavin. But it was Ross who was hitting on Rena Sofer’s shop girl character in front of Rachel while she was pregnant. Hypocrisy? Nah, it’s totally cool, trust me, Ross Geller is just a nice guy.

If we’re going down the route of ‘he wanted to make Rachel jealous’ I hardly think it’s fair to omit the fact that Rachel once got herself a boyfriend she didn’t even like (and who was stealing from her) simply to make Ross jealous shortly after they’d broken up.

It was also Rachel who nixed the idea of him going on a date with Kate, the shop girl character who called him Indiana Jones and who actually started flirting with him first (btw Shah, the character’s name was Kate, so at least I’m giving the woman her credit by treating her as a character and not simply a nameless prop!). Unless my memory deceives me (which, in this case, it doesn’t) it was in this very episode that Rachel essentially told Ross she didn’t want him to date anyone while she was pregnant. She wanted him to be at her beck and call at all times. Ross’ response? He agreed, because he was that dedicated to her and their baby. Sounds a bit unreasonable on Rachel’s part, if you ask me. Rachel got the number of that man after giving birth and going on a girl’s night out with Phoebe. At no point had it been suggested that Rachel had ‘allowed’ Ross to date again, yet she goes out and gets a guy’s number. So, who’s the hypocrite now? Not only that, but Rachel tells Phoebe what happened at the store when she sees her in the coffee house. Phoebe’s response essentially boils down to “stop being jealous and get over yourself.”

As for preying on a desperate woman to make Rachel jealous, yes he did do that. However, this was after the writers had gone to great pains to show just how inept Ross actually is at social interaction with women by having him hit on pretty much every woman who was in the coffee house at that time, one woman even being hit on twice. He even says himself, ‘none of the sane ones wanted to come back with me!’ So Monica’s obsession with getting a boyfriend is thinly veiled misogyny yet Ross’ utter ineptitude is also thinly veiled misogyny? Damn, how do you women even leave the house?!

The ‘nice guy’ conversation is one for another day but it really bugs me that us men get ragged on so much for thinking we deserve a ‘nice girl’ yet I’m constantly seeing posts by women saying how much of a good man they deserve simply because of their own virtues. Entitlement is bad, waiting for someone who is deserving of your love and attention is not.

He Loves To Objectify Women

Perhaps this will come as no surprise, given the pedestal that Ross placed Rachel on for over a decade, but if Ross was going to win the Geller cup for anything, it would be for his objectification of women. There was the time he couldn’t stop ordering pizzas just to hit on Caitlin from the pizza place. Girlfriends can’t be ordered with extra pepperoni, Ross. When he slept with Chloe, the spiky haired hipster girl he cheated on Rachel with (I know, I know, they were on a break), he almost exclusively refers to her as “the hot girl from the copy place.” And that came after half a season of talking about how hot she was. Ross Geller can put his penis inside you, but damned if he’ll respect your personhood by calling you by your real name.

Wait, so simply wanting to flirt with someone is objectification? Then what about all the times Rachel flirted with both Tagg and Joshua before she was even dating them? Does that not count? I mean, at one point Rachel even put her arm through Joshua’s as he was trying on a jacket to make them look like a couple. Holy Horror, Batman that must have been awful!

Or what about the time she ordered Tagg to redo the sit-ups he’d just done as she was annoyed she missed them. Or the time she gets Joshua’s ID and makes it kiss her ID. Or the time she gets with Paulo despite the fact they can’t have any decent conversations due to his limited English (she even says later that it was just ‘crazy animal sex’ or something similar). Or what about Phoebe and the time she couldn’t choose between the fireman and the teacher? One reason was because they both had super hot bods. Or the episode where the girls have a night at Monica’s and want to eat a pizza simply because it was supposed to go the hot guy across the street? Or the time Monica and another woman fawn over the best man at a naked wedding a prospective photographer has shot? Or the time Phoebe is obsessed with getting Will, Monica’s formerly fat friend, to take his shirt off?

Or how about the fact that for about 6 seasons (until Ross moved in) the whole gang spied on a neighbour that was only referred to as ‘ugly naked guy’, formerly ‘attractive naked guy’?

I get that not using someone’s name might be seen as a little rude, but it’s hardly the dehumanisation that this article claims. In fact, they only refer to her as ‘hot copy girl’ when talking to each other, when talking to her they actually use her name. Plus, let’s not forget that Chloe herself refers to Ross as ‘the dinosaur guy’.

Objectification was laced throughout the series, it was bound to when we’re talking about 6 20-somethings who are not in relationships. Ok fine, Ross used to refer to her as ‘hot copy girl’ or variations thereof, but are we seriously going to pretend that those sort of descriptions don’t occur in real life, between both men and women? Let’s get a little sense of perspective. If that’s one of the worst things about Ross then I don’t see too much of a problem.

Incidentally, the first time he mentions the hot girl from the copy place is in an episode where female objectification is again supremely important to Ross: The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy. He tells Rachel about his fantasy of sleeping with a gold bikini-clad Leia, which is fine as we all have our sexual fantasies (you’re the stern editorial director, I’m the wayward blogger who has to make up for the lack of page views this month — just me?), but Ross’s would be significantly less odious if it didn’t involve a woman physically chained by her neck and held as a captive prisoner of a hermaphroditic Hutt.

This is just plain daft. First of all, it’s not just men that fantasise about Princess Leia, plenty of women are awe-struck by that costume too. Not only in sexual terms but just in terms of the outfit itself. If women hated it, why is it a near constant cosplay idea at nearly every comic con, every year? Fact is, it’s become iconic, even to those who don’t like, or have never heard of, Star Wars.

If you actually watch the whole of the film in which that costume appears you’d know that Leia eventually overcomes Jabba the Hutt using the very chain she’s enslaved with. Leia is known for being a pretty strong character and not relying on others too much. You can see it as an objectified woman at the beck and call of a disgusting alien, or you can see it as an imprisoned woman taking her own life in her hands and getting herself out of a situation.

Plus, does Rachel actually have a chain around her neck in that scene? Didn’t think so. Ross likes the costume, he’s not cumming over the thought of literally walking her around like an animal.

And anyway, regardless of all that, let’s not pretend that women don’t enjoy BDSM or rape fantasies. Ragging on a man because he perhaps wants to play slave master comes across as nothing more than ‘I don’t like what you like, therefore you’re wrong’. Truth is, the fantasy suggested by Shah in this very paragraph is pretty much a slave and master routine, just without the physical chain. So yeah, stupid point. Moving on.

Honestly, it’s a shock he even got far enough to objectify Carrie Fisher and Rachel in one fell swoop, given the fact that one of the reasons Rachel didn’t want to date him after they had already kissed was because she found a list where he tallied her flaws — one of which was her allegedly chubby ankles. Totally cool and normal! Even after having a daughter, Ross still didn’t learn to respect women. It may have been Joey who called Emma’s nanny Molly “hot nanny” for an episode, but it was Ross who first referred to her as “so hot I cried myself to sleep.”

Dammit, I really didn’t want to have to agree with Shah at any point in this blog, especially after the fucked up Elliot Rodger comment, but I kinda have to agree here. It was definitely a douchebag thing to do. I mean, I can almost understand it because he had been so desperately in love with Rachel for so long and was, at the time, in a relationship with Julie that seemed to be progressing really well so I can see why a list seemed like a good idea. However, it’s probably not the best thing to do when there’s a chance she could see it.

Ultimately, the whole ‘she’s not Rachel’ as the downside to being with Julie lost its romantic edge when Rachel found the note. Let’s not forget that Rachel did actually point out flaws in Ross’ personality both as revenge for the note and, many years later, when she was trying to convince Ross to sleep with her when she was overdue with Emma.

And while we’re talking about crass comments, let’s not forget it was Rachel who was so taken by the ‘hot’ eye doctor (that, humorously, turned out to be Richard’s son) that she was ‘thinking about jamming this pencil in [her] eye’.

When He Isn’t Objectifying Women, He’s Mansplaining Instead

And when he isn’t ogling women because of how they look, he’s busy being as condescending as possible. For example, all Phoebe and Rachel wanted to do was tell him about their self-defense class, and he immediately took over the conversation to tell them how useless their class was and to incorrectly share how unagi is the Japanese concept of total awareness (it’s actually zanshin). And then there was the time when Phoebe presented her fairly salient theory for not believing in gravity and evolution, and Ross was incapable of maintaining his composure, instead over-explaining just how wrong Phoebe’s belief system was, despite her begging him in multiple scenes to accept that they both can just believe in different things.

Ah mansplaining, the bastion of patriarchal oppression that only men seem to do! Feminism doesn’t hate men at all, it only names really annoying habits after men for fun! You know, mansplaining, manspreading, manslamming, manterrupting, etc, etc. They’re all just ironic digs at the things men do that annoy us all. At least, that’s what you believe if you’re a fucking moron. Gendered annoyances like mansplaining are code for ‘we don’t like it when a man does this, it’s not sexist because we’re a movement for equality.’

Are we forgetting that both examples of mansplaining given above end in Ross actually losing? Rachel and Phoebe constantly get the better of him in the episode with Unagi. Eventually, he picks on two women in the street he thinks are Rachel and Phoebe but aren’t. What happens? He gets chased down the street by the two women and, presumably, beaten up.

In the episode where he berates Phoebe for not believing in gravity or evolution he eventually concedes that Phoebe may have a point, only to be berated himself for giving up his beliefs to easily.

So yeah, mansplaining Ross doesn’t exactly end up a winner.

Or the time when he self-tanned so incorrectly (twice!) he had to go to an entirely new tanning salon just to even out his half alabaster white, half jerky brown skin tone. The female tanning salon employee had barely begun to explain how the booth worked before he cut in with a “I’m gonna stop you right there, Linda. Does it look like this is my first time?” before speaking even more loudly and slowly, as you would to a small child, to describe exactly how he wanted to be tanned. Unsurprisingly, he still fucked it up on try three. Meanwhile, if Joey or Chandler shut him down in his times of ultimate mansplaining, he seemingly has no problem being put right in place.

You mean that time he was already pretty tanned and the woman tried to tell him how the tanning process worked? That was nothing more than an over-exaggerated response for comedy effect. Ross knew what an utter loser he’d been by fucking up at the tanning salon so he didn’t need to hear it again. This was actually us laughing at Ross’ expense. Another example of him being made out to be an utter loser.

Again, are you forgetting all the times Monica shut him down? Are you forgetting the fact that it was Phoebe who shut him down after he kept on at her for not believing in gravity or evolution? Are you forgetting the time Rachel shut him down when he accused her of not saying goodbye to him before leaving for Paris? Point is, Ross sometimes gets ahead of himself but there are numerous times when he gets put in his place by Rachel, Phoebe and Monica and he accepts it.

He Can’t Handle Female Success

Despite the fact that he’s surrounded by hordes of women who are successful in a variety of ways, and holds his own doctorate, nothing is more intimidating to Ross than female success. Remember when Rachel had just started working at n Bloomingdales and was taking her job very seriously, as one who has waited for years for their dream job is often wont to do? Was Ross supportive? Nah. He mercilessly harassed her about her platonic friendship with her male coworker Mark, and then showed up at her office when she had asked him not to, set fire to her desk, and had the nerve to demand an apology when she got home later that night.

I never liked Ross in these few episodes. His insecurities and jealousy really hurt him as a character and hurt the entire comedy of the show. It did spawn the ‘we were on a break’ running joke but, ultimately, those are some of my least favourite episodes. I actually agree with Rachel on this one, he wouldn’t listen to her and him thinking she should apologise to him was really quite fucked up.

However, there is a quote that I think explains Ross’ reasons. Not long before the episode where they ultimately go ‘on a break’ he is quite candid with her about why he’s asking so insane. I can’t remember the exact quote, but he basically tells her that Carol cheating on him and the breakup of his marriage was really tough. He then says he loves Rachel more than he loved Carol and can’t bear the thought of losing her as well.

Overly sentimental, mushy and not really a good reason to behave the way he does but, for me, it at least explains why he behaves the way he does. The fact that he’s been in love with Rachel for years and now thinks he may be losing her is going to make him act weird.

Let’s also not forget that Mark’s relationship with Rachel was suspect. He meets her in a diner, offers her an interview, takes her to dinner and then works closely with her. Not saying that we should always be suspicious but, considering what Ross went through with Carol, it’s understandable why he might be suspicious. Add to that the fact that he phones Rachel after their argument and Mark is in her apartment and, again, it becomes clear why he might think his relationship is over.

Things aren’t much better outside of his romantic relationships, either — as it turns out, Ross is incredibly uncomfortable when he’s forced to share the spotlight with any womsn. He makes no secret of being his parents’ favorite child, even though Monica’s inferiority complex is perhaps her only characteristic more defining than her compulsive need to clean. When their father Jack bequeaths his Porsche to Monica, after letting all of her childhood mementos be ruined to preserve Ross’s, Ross is quick to point out that not only was he the smart and accomplished one, but also a medical marvel. When against better advice he starts playing his keyboards at Central Perk, he only stops because he fears that Phoebe will stop playing music if he keeps playing, because he’s just that good. And he is truly incapable of shutting up about the fact that he is technically a doctor, to any woman he meets. Why not just whip your dick out and demand a female fetch you a ruler? It just seems easier.

Wow, two examples. Big deal. There’s also the time Ross lends money to Monica after she loses her job. There’s the time he buys Phoebe a bike after hearing that she never had one as a child. There’s the time he paid $200 to keep a porcelain dog after Joey’s stuff was being taken away. Ross has many annoying traits (as do the others) but he’s definitely not afraid of doing the right thing. The medical marvel is bought up in one episode and never mentioned again. The keyboards are bought up in one episode and barely ever mentioned again. He stops playing because he doesn’t want Phoebe to stop playing. It was a one off joke that was never played again.

As for the PHD thing, well done for attaching a clip that actually doesn’t include him bringing up the fact he has a PHD. It’s Amy that brings it up as a way of shaming him for not earning more and Rachel that corrects her. Sure, Ross then claims it’s as good as an MD but, tell me this, if you worked your arse off to get a qualification that not many people get, wouldn’t you want to tell people about it? Well done for shaming a man who’s proud of his academic achievement.

He Needs His Men to be Men

The biggest irony of Ross’ miserable existence is his deep-rooted desire to make sure that the men in his life are, in fact, men. When his son Ben was playing with a Barbie, Ross went to extreme lengths to get him to play with any other seemingly masculine toy, foisting a monster truck, a dinosaur soldier, and GI Joe on Ben over the course of the episode to get him to give up his doll. (He succeeded, in yet another win for the heteronormative patriarchy.) Things didn’t change much a few years later, when Rachel tried to hire the ever-delightful Freddie Prinze Jr. to be Emma’s nanny (imagine Ross’ surprise when ‘Sandy’ turned out to be a man!), and true to form, Ross did not take it well. Ross’ first question to Sandy was a skeptical “Are you gay?” before jumping into his best deep-voiced impression of a man’s man to grill Sandy on why a man would ever want to work in childcare. He then started in on Rachel for wanting to hire Sandy:

I must admit, I hate the two episodes mentioned above for the very reason mentioned above. It was completely out of character for Ross to behave the way he did. We learn over the course of the series that he once had dance lessons, he likes to take a bubble bath and throw on some Kenny G, he held tea parties for his imaginary friends when he was a child, he wore makeup on his T-zone with Chandler and Joey and he went to the ballroom dancing champions with a date (not that that’s not manly, but at the time it wasn’t as popular as it is now in the mainstream). He’s not been afraid to show his feminine or vulnerable side throughout the rest of the series so the two episodes described above just do not fit into his overall character development. The fact he says his dad berated him as a child for not being ‘manly’ goes against the whole ‘favourite child’ and ‘medical marvel’ thing.

Again, I can kinda see why he gets a bit annoyed over the Barbie thing. This was 1995, might not seem a long time ago but, having grown up in the 90s, it definitely wasn’t as progressive as we like to think. It could also be seen as a response to the absolute battering he took by Carol and Susan. I’ve always hated the way Carol and Susan treated him in season 1 and season 2, effectively making him a 3rd wheel in the birth of his own child. Maybe getting Ben to hold a GI Joe was the only way Ross could think of getting Ben interested in something he likes. Either way, it was out of character for a man who never really seemed shy about being ‘girly’.

#NotAllMen

And if this isn’t enough to convince you that Ross Geller is indubitably a men’s rights activist (he tried to start a clubhouse solely for divorced men! How much more convincing do you need?), let us not forget the time he gave men’s rights activists their rallying cry

Ah dammit!! I can’t believe I fell for this. I mean, this whole article is satire right? Like, Shah can’t be that monumentally stupid? I mean, what’s so terrible about starting a club for divorced men? It’s not like there aren’t women only clubs, gyms and parking spaces. So what if men want to spend some alone time together, why is that suddenly such an abhorrent thing?

As for the ‘rallying cry’, if you actually watch the full length clip of that scene he follows it up with ‘some men will do anything to keep a relationship together’. This is from the fantasy episode where the friends all imagine if one thing in their life had happened differently. In this scenario, Ross is still married and Rachel actually went through with her marriage to Barry. The scene in the coffee house is just after Rachel has found Barry sleeping with another girl and stormed off (despite the fact she was seriously considering cheating on him with Joey) and Ross has had a rather unsuccessful threesome (“what can only be described as a twosome”) with Carol and Susan, Carol effectively cheating on him with his blessing. Rachel actually apologises to him and says something along the lines of ‘I guess us women aren’t much better’.

I figured Shah was actually being serious until that last bit. I mean, come on, the ‘rallying cry’ of MRAs is notallmen? Because notallmen is such a bizarre concept to imagine? Men being annoyed at being lumped together in one category for all sorts of ridiculous shit is somehow worthy of being seen within such narrow parameters? Fuck outta here with that shit!

So what has this whole blog proved? Well, aside from the fact that I watch far, far too many repeats of Friends, it shows that slating Ross as an MRA is a pretty stupid thing to do. I mean, by all means, label him if you want to but don’t be surprised when people see through your feeble attempt at cherry picking justifications whilst ignoring pretty much everything that stands in counter to your views.

I don’t disagree Ross had some annoying traits but they are no worse than the annoying traits of any other characters. My most hated character in the entire series is Rachel, but you don’t see me writing an entire article saying Rachel is an entitled, selfish, narcissistic bitch who effectively manipulates Ross throughout the entire 10 years of Friends. Actually…didn’t I do that in part 1?!

I love Friends, I grew up watching it (it finished in 2004. I was 18 in 2004) and I always found it had the best jokes, the best situations and was pretty consistently well written. Yeah, season 6 onward was basically a show about 6 walking stereotypes who barely progressed but the first 5 seasons are still, I think, some of the best sitcom episodes I’ve ever watched. I don’t really have an emotional connection with any of them, except maybe early Chandler, but the thing that worked was the group dynamic. They didn’t all need to be hilarious in their own right as the best comedy came in their interactions with each other.

I guess what I’m saying, after all that, is that you can label Ross an MRA all you want, but his list of annoying traits are not exclusive to him. Rachel, Phoebe and Monica all demonstrate many of the same characteristics that are deemed so unlikeable in this article yet seem to escape censure.

If Ross Gellar is an MRA then so are Monica Gellar, Phoebe Buffay and Rachel Green. See how easy it is to label people using arbitrary standards?!

Advertisements

So, I should probably start off this blog entry with a couple of apologies. Firstly, I’ve gone well over a month, again, without writing anything. Sorry about that. Not that you’re waiting with baited breath or anything but it’s pretty strange for me not to write at least one entry a month. Truth is, the start of the school year is at the beginning of September and this year has been a bit more hectic than most. Secondly, I mentioned at the end of my last blog post (which was way back in August) that I would be writing an entry that explored why modern men were/are so angry. That is still definitely on the to-do-list it’s just become something much bigger than I had anticipated. It will be finished, but once I actually started putting it together I realised it’s actually a pretty big topic so I want to get it right!

Whilst that entry has been put on the backburner, for now, there have been others that have squeezed their way to the front. Today I want to look at something that has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. It started off innocuously enough, I found an article about the character Ross Gellar on the TV show Friends that simply followed the ‘someone has come up with an alternate theory’ path which was quite interesting. However, it was an article that was linked within that article that really made me laugh. And I wasn’t laughing because it was funny, I was laughing because it was just such a ridiculous article.

The first article I read actually wasn’t too bad. It was a theory on why Ben, Ross’ son, doesn’t appear much towards the end of the series. It all centres on Ross’ increasingly erratic behaviour and suggests he lost custody due to this. It’s here if you want to read it:

http://www.closeronline.co.uk/2015/09/is-this-the-devastating-reason-ross-son-disappeared-from-friends

It’s not a bad theory but there are a few holes in it. However, alternate theories that don’t quite fit into the mythos of the series aren’t totally unusual so I was willing to let it go. However, I then noticed something interesting. The article posits the idea that Ross is actually an MRA. Normally I would gloss over something like that, but in my wisdom I decided to click it.

Needless to say, it’s such poor journalism from a supposed Friends fan that I can’t take it seriously. Normally I wouldn’t put so much effort into defending a fictional TV character but being a rather large Friends fan myself, I decided I’d at least take a cursory look.

This blog initially started just as a rebuttal about this article but then I started to think about Friends as a whole. For all the complaints about Ross Gellar made in the article I’ll be looking at I began to realise that they are character traits shared by most of the other main characters, even the women. I figured if I could compare Ross’ character to the female character it’d be a good way of highlighting just how daft it is to apply real world labels to fictional characters. Ultimately, if Ross is an MRA then the other characters are as well.

This blog grew so big that I’m splitting it in two. This first half will deal with some of the more unsavoury aspects of the series, mostly the misandry present in the first few series and then the emotional manipulation of Ross by Rachel throughout much of the show’s 10 series run. The second will deal with a direct rebuttal to the article claiming Ross is an MRA. Ultimately my intention is not to rag on Friends too much, it’s simply to highlight the fact that all of the characters have unsavoury traits to them and singling out Ross is just plain weird.

To put this out there straight away, my least favourite character is Rachel. In much the same way this article tries to paint Ross under one specific label, I’m going to tear Rachel to shreds and show that the cherry picked arguments used to show how Ross isn’t actually a ‘nice guy’ can also be used against Rachel and, to a lesser degree, the other two female characters, Monica and Phoebe.

Now, I’m not one to go around defending MRAs, I have as little time for them as I do for feminists, but this isn’t about defending Ross as an MRA, it’s about exploring arbitrary labelling of TV characters and how easy it is to do if you are willing to cherry pick and manipulate the traits you select.

If you want to skip this first bit and go straight to the refutation of the article claiming Ross is an MRA then just go to the sidebar and you’ll find it there.

So, onto the show itself. Where to start? Well, how about the fact that the 3 main male characters were all sexually assaulted at some point in their lives? That seems like as good a place as any.

Ross’ sexual assault is a little bit more contentious as it’s never made clear how old he is. In the episode that guest starred Brad Pitt it’s revealed that Ross once kissed the 50 year old librarian of his school. When asked how he could do it, he replies with ‘she didn’t look 50.’ In response to this, Chandler says ‘did she look 16.’ It could be argued that this also meant Ross was 16 as well. That would legally mean he was old enough to consent. However, it still doesn’t account for the fact that she, as a member of staff at a school, was in a position of power and authority and, as far as I’m aware, still not allowed to make out with students, 16 or not. Maybe an American can back me up on that one. He doesn’t seem too traumatised by the ordeal, but it’s still an odd subject to broach in the name of comedy.

Chandler’s assault comes in the episode where he goes to Joey’s tailor. While measuring his trousers, the tailor gropes Chandler’s genitals, something that is then played for comedy later on. It turns out both Joey and his dad have been sexually assaulted by this man but, typically, it is played off as an awkward experience and nothing really comes of it.

Joey’s is slightly more sinister – he was raped as a teenager. Quite aside from being repeatedly assaulted by his tailor, a throwaway comment in a later series suggests he was taken advantage of when he was in school. I made a post about this on my Facebook page but it bears repeating here. In series 8, Monica gets a bad review in the restaurant she works in. To help re-inflate her ego, she takes a beginners cooking course, with Joey in tow. After they leave the course, Joey says how much he enjoyed it, that he got to eat great food and got an A for the first time since 7th grade “and I didn’t have to sleep with the teacher this time.” Now, we can argue semantics on this one and say that he’s simply saying he didn’t have to sleep with the teacher to get a grade, unlike the time he slept with the reporter who he did a Reader’s Digest interview with in order to stop her from publishing disparaging comments he made about soap viewers. That would be acceptable if the quote simply said ‘I didn’t have to sleep with the teacher’. But it doesn’t, it ends with ‘this time’. The implication is very clear: he did sleep with the teacher the last time it happened. 7th grade would make him early teens. That’s definitely statutory rape at the very least and probably falls under some kind of emotional manipulation. Joey is known throughout the series for being promiscuous. Well, do we now have a reason for that? Maybe. It’s a throwaway line intended to simply reference Joey’s penchant for sleeping with women, however it’s worded incredibly badly for a joke and actually lets us into a very dark secret about Joey’s past.

So that’s one thing to consider, all three main male characters experience some form of sexual assault throughout their fictional lives and each one of them is treated as nothing more the comic fodder to laugh at. There are no deeper conversations, they simply move on with their life and that’s it. None of them seem overly, outwardly affected by it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

One thing that really bugs me is the way male characters in general are treated in the first 4 or 5 series. The secondary characters get the short end of the stick: Gunther is just as hopelessly in love with Rachel as Ross is and is shown to be utterly socially inept when around her. Just another example of a man barely being able to function when around an attractive women. Fun Bobby is an alcoholic who becomes boring when he goes teetotal. Rodger the psychiatrist is intrusive and judgmental. The three firefighters (from an episode when the girl’s attempts at ‘exorcising’ past relationship torments fails badly) are shown to be serial adulterers ad all round narcissistic morons. Paul ‘the wine guy’ guilts Monica into sleeping with him by using a cheap pickup line that, it turns out, he’s used on numerous women. The football player that Rachel dates after breaking up with Ross is a moron who steals from her.

And the main characters are just as bad:

Chandler is a whinging loser when it comes to women. He even goes on a self-pitying rant after he and Kathy break up, declaring he ‘moans about their not being any decent women then drives away the ones that dare to get close to him’ (I’m paraphrasing slightly). Monica’s response is to basically exclaim ‘you’re a guy’ after her and Rachel have had their own little self-pitying ‘you’ve just described every guy we’ve ever been out with’ speech. He’s utterly inept around attractive women and is shown to be shallow and needy. He’s my favourite character but that doesn’t mean I don’t find his development to be somewhat stunted and one dimensional. His insecurities ruin his relationship with Kathy and he expects him and Monica to break up after their first big fight because he’s so unable to function in a relationship. He’s constantly being told what to do and how to fix his mistakes and, at some points, is even abused by Monica.

Joey is a simpleton whose life revolves around food and women. He’s an average actor who sleeps his way on to the role of Dr. Drake Ramoray. The earlier series actually present him of somewhat average intelligence, but that disappears by about series 4 and he’s shown to be utterly moronic. It seems his trade off for being good with women is that he can barely look after himself, relying on Chandler to pay the bills and Monica to provide food. Because, apparently, a man can’t be good with women and intelligent. He has his moments of clarity, but these are comically played up as out of the ordinary.

Ross is obsessed with Rachel to the point it borders on a hindrance to his everyday life. He is treated terribly by Susan and Carol when it comes to the birth of his son, Susan effectively muscling her way into the debate and trying to claim that Ben is just as much her baby as it is Carol and Ross’. He’s presented as whiney and judgmental and completely paralysed by the memories of him and Carol’s relationship. On a slighter more sinister note, he’s emotionally manipulated by Rachel for pretty much the whole 10 year run, but more of that later.

That’s not to say that all male characters are treated badly: Ethan is a really good character (manipulating Monica into bed aside), Gary the policeman is devoted and loving, Mike and David provide likeable partners for Phoebe and, of course, Richard is shown as loyal, noble and wise. However, a few good characters doesn’t mean we can overlook the poor portrayal of other male characters.

The thing that, in my opinion, really casts a shadow over the whole series is Rachel and Ross’ relationship. I don’t really like Rachel as a character, she’s narcissistic, overly whiney, entitled and just really, really annoying, I know it’s supposedly a cornerstone of the series, the whole ‘will they/won’t they’ thing, but to me Rachel comes across and manipulative and controlling. I’ll talk more about Rachel in the second half of this blog entry but this is specifically focusing on her actions.

I’ll see if I can explain without rambling on too much:

He spends most of series 1 pining after her, not much she can do about it as she doesn’t know so this isn’t really her fault. However, it’s at the end of series 1 she finds out he loves her and, rather quickly, she realises she quite likes him, too. She goes to the airport to surprise him with flowers, only to see him with Julie. That’s where series 2, and her manipulations, really begin.

She does everything she can to ruin his relationship with Julie, from trying to delay them having sex to lying to Phoebe about which famous person Julie wants her hair like. Ultimately, she send Ross a drunken message telling him she’s over him. This despite the fact she knows he’s about to take a big step with Julie and get a pet. This ends up with him dumping Julie, making the infamous ‘list’ and then not talking to him because of it. I’m not saying that’s deliberate, but her message sends Ross into a maelstrom of uncertainty which leads him to ruin things with both Julie and Rachel.

Then they get together and their relationship actually seems to be going pretty well. That is until the beginning of series three when she shows herself to be a spoilt, selfish little victim. In The One Where No-one’s Ready she throws a huge strop and decides she’s ‘not going’ to Ross’ important event because he ‘humiliated’ her. This is despite the fact the whole episode’s premise is that Ross needs to leave at a certain time and he needs everyone to be ready. He eventually loses his cool at the whole group but it’s Rachel who decides to act like an utter cunt. He does shout at her, but that’s only after she faffs about with what to wear (something you think she’d already have picked out considering she must have known about this in advance). She then gets changed into her pyjamas and threatens not to go. In the end, it’s actually Ross who apologises and grovels for Rachel to forgive him. She manages to make herself a victim despite the fact Ross had a simple request that she chose not to follow. I always hated her for that.

Then they break up. For me, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I’ll talk about it more during part 2 but Rachel is not completely blameless in the ordeal. However, it’s after they break up that her manipulation really shines. There’s an episode where Ross is supposed to be on TV. Rachel hurts her ribs in a fall and essentially guilts Ross into being with her all night, to the extent that he misses his TV gig. Ross is still in love with Rachel at this point and it shows he will still do anything to be with her.

Then there’s the end of series 3 where she breaks up his relationship with Bonnie by telling him she still loves him. This is after convincing Bonnie to shave her head again as she knew Ross wouldn’t like it, thereby enhancing her chances of getting back with him. The whole deal with the letter asks Ross to accept the blame for what happened to their relationship.

At the beginning of series 4 they break up again, this time for good, apparently. She then decides that she can’t cope with Ross’ budding relationship with Emily so tries to push Joshua into a relationship as she can’t bear to see him happy. Then, she decides she still loves him (surprise, surprise) and flies to London just before he’s about to get married to tell him she still loves him! Ultimately she doesn’t tell him, but she messes with his head enough for him to say the wrong name at the altar and pretty much ruin his marriage before it begins. Then, she decides to go with Ross on his honeymoon. Actually, I’m not sure she can really be blamed for that, but it was still a stupid thing to do.

After that her meddling doesn’t seem as sinister but it’s still there. She and Ross kiss just after Monica and Chandler announce their engagement. Again, not sure you can really blame her as it’s Ross suggestion to have ‘that one night’ where ex couples get together again. However, she still decides to tell him she loves him, even though she knows he’s working through his issues with Emily.

Then, she seduces him using the ‘I went backpacking across Europe’ story. Then, while pregnant, tells him she doesn’t want him dating anyone else. Then, throughout the pregnancy, she effectively gets in the way of his relationship with Mona. Then, the final episode finally reveals that Ross wants to be with her (surprise surprise) and sees him chasing after her to the airport. Ultimately, they reunite and it’s all hunky dory.

There are some parts of that that Rachel can’t really be blamed for and large portions of the series that show Ross seeming to cope fine on his own. However, the point I’m making is that Rachel knows Ross still loves her and she uses that to her advantage. She never allows him to forget how much he loves her, even when he’s trying to move on with his life. She’s always there, just waiting to claw him back and keep him thinking that there might be a chance, no matter how small, that they will get back together. She ruins at least 3 of his established relationships, 4 if you include Mona (though that’s harsh on her as she was pregnant) and 5 if you include the possible relationship with Kate that Rachel nixes almost immediately.

I dunno, like I say I don’t like Rachel so maybe this is all a little unfair and exaggerated in my head, but there doesn’t seem to be another arc that seems quite as meddling as Rachel’s.

So yeah, after all that it’s really up to you to make your own mind up. Friends is one of my favourite sitcoms and probably one of the only American sitcoms I can watch regularly. I quite like 2 and a Half Men and Rules of Engagement can be quite funny sometimes but even those shows have rather negative portrayals of men.

I’m not saying you have to dislike Friends, I’m just saying that for all its merits and for all the top quality comic moments it contains it is still very limited and stereotypical in its portrayal of not just the main characters, but a whole plethora of supporting and guest male characters.

I’m sure someone can write a blog entry detailing how the show is limited in its portrayal of female characters. To that I say go right ahead, nobody’s stopping you. I’d love to read it!

So that’s it. Ultimately you can come to the conclusion that Friends is full of misandry and negative, stereotyped portrayals of men, or you can see it for the comedy it is and any negative portrayals are simply there to enhance the comedy of the show. It’s really up to you.

If you want to read the article on Ross being compared to an MRA, check out part 2. For now though, I’m off to watch some of Chandler’s best moments on Youtube! If you want an idea of what I’m like as a person, Chandler’s a pretty good model.