Friends is one of those television shows that became so iconic that it defines an entire generation. In the 1990s and early 2000s, kids and adults alike tuned in every week to watch Chandler, Phoebe, Ross, Monica, Joey, and Rachel hang out at Central Perk, fall in and out of love (sometimes with each other), and navigate their 20s and 30s.
The show gave us catchphrases like "We were on a break!" and "How you doin’?" It has proven to be a timeless hit, with its popularity enduring even today. Thanks to Netflix, Friends (and its catchphrases) was able to engage a whole new generation of viewers, while those who grew up watching the show have re-watched it as adults.
But is Friends the same witty, hilarious show that we remember from when we were younger? In many ways, yes. It still holds a lot of appeal to viewers. There are some things about Friends, however, that you’re only going to notice if you’re an adult watching the show.
How can the Friends characters afford these apartments?
The world of Friends is magical, and not just because of entertainment it’s provided over the years. Friends introduces us to a sort of fantasy version of Manhattan — where rent is affordable enough that 20-somethings can have a spacious apartment. This is something completely unimaginable if you’re an adult who knows how expensive New York City living is. As of 2020, the average rent for an apartment in Manhattan came in at a whopping $3,790.
We know that Monica’s giant apartment, which she shared with Rachel, is in her grandmother’s name and rent-controlled, which helps to explain how she can afford to live there, despite being a chef just starting her career. It’s likely she charges Rachel, who is unemployed when she first moves in, little to no rent. Then we’ve got Ross, the paleontologist; Phoebe, the masseuse; Joey, the rarely-employed actor; and Chandler, who works in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration. None of them seem to be particularly wealthy, or in especially lucrative fields, and Phoebe and Joey don’t even have stable jobs. So how are they paying rent, let alone covering costs for food and transportation around the city?
When do the characters in Friends go to work?
Adding to the confusion about how everyone in Friends can afford to live in Manhattan is the fact that they never go to work. There are a few scenes where we see them at their jobs, like the one where Rachel’s boyfriend Paolo hits on Phoebe in the middle of a massage session and the one where Ross has a meltdown in front of his boss, but the hours they work seem to be sporadic. Even when Rachel is waitressing at Central Perk, she spends more time socializing than pouring coffee.
If you’re a kid, you may not think much of it, but, as an adult, you can’t help but wonder how these people have so much time to hang out with their friends. Coordinating hangouts can be tough, especially with six people working at vastly different jobs with varying hours. Yet the gang seems to be able to get together every day of the week. How do they do it?!
Chandler is a terrible friend
Chandler is the lovable dork of the Friends group… but is he, really? He constantly complains about his lack of seductive skills, especially when compared to Joey, but is he playing everyone? Chandler’s made some pretty manipulative and selfish decisions, putting girls above his friendships numerous times. He seems trustworthy, but, at the end of the day, you probably shouldn’t leave your girlfriend or sister alone with him.
He kisses Joey’s girlfriend and ends up having a relationship with her. In a flashback, it’s revealed that, in college, he and Ross had a crush on the same woman and both agreed stay away from her. But at their class reunion, Ross learns that Chandler had broken their pact and made out with her several times.
Later in Friends, Monica and Chandler enter into a secret relationship after a one-night stand turned into something more. Ross is far from thrilled when he finds out, but eventually forgives the couple because they’re in love. It’s not the first time Chandler has hooked up with a friend’s sister, though. In an earlier episode, he kissed two of Joey’s sisters, eventually admitting he couldn’t even tell them apart.
Ross can be pretty immature and self-involved in Friends
In the opening episode of Friends, we’re introduced to Ross, who is going through a less-than-amicable divorce. He may be heartbroken, but couldn’t he show his ex-wife a little bit more sympathy? We’re talking about a woman bravely coming out as a lesbian in a time before equal marriage laws. Kids may not realize just how complex of a situation Ross is in, but adults can see that Ross should be more supportive of a woman he cares about finally coming to terms with her sexuality. Instead, he makes it all about him. He’s also grossed out by his ex-wife’s breast milk which is, frankly, immature. Women lactate, Ross. Get over it.
These aren’t the only times Ross is less than supportive of the women in his life, either. He feels threatened when his girlfriend Rachel has a male friend and coworker, so he sends her flowers and stuffed animals at work to remind the office that she’s taken. After they break up, he dates another woman and is visibly disgusted when she shaves her head. He treats women like possessions, instead of human beings.
Give Friends character Gunther a chance
Gunther is the most under-appreciated character on Friends. A background character who didn’t even have a line until the second season, Gunther is best remembered as the barista suffering from unrequited love for Rachel — but he is so much more than that.
The script writers didn’t really round out Gunther’s character, so the actor playing him, James Michael Tyler, made up his own backstory for the grouchy barista. "I’ve always thought that Gunther lived in New Jersey somewhere," he told OK! magazine, noting, "I think he probably had a long commute to get to Central Perk. … Maybe that’s why he was so cranky. He had like 15 stops on his commute."
Gunther is clearly dedicated to his job, and he’s also dedicated to Rachel. Unlike some of her other suitors (we’re looking at you, Ross), he doesn’t try to force her hand and respects her personal boundaries. While his devotion to Rachel might come off as creepy to kids, if you look more closely as an adult, you realize that he’s actually loving her from a distance, while giving her some space. Rachel could do a lot worse.
Phoebe is still traumatized by her childhood in Friends
Phoebe often speaks casually of her childhood as if it were no big deal. Her upbeat personality might fool kids watching Friends, but adults can see that Phoebe’s rough life impacted her more than she lets on. She writes songs about her mother’s suicide, something we know left her devastated, even years later. After her mother died, Phoebe, who was just 14, found herself living on the streets and soon moved in with a man who is implied to be several years older than her, hinting at possible sexual abuse.
While she normally seems cheerful and well-adjusted (if a little kooky), we get some clues that Phoebe is still dealing with her traumatic childhood. When she can’t live with Monica’s micromanaging anymore, she slowly moves her things out of their shared apartment, unable to confront her. She also has some beliefs that puzzle her friends, such as that her deceased friend’s spirit lives on in pencils. They write it off as eccentricity, but Phoebe’s behavior is likely just her way of processing all of the loss she’s experienced in her life.
Chandler has some deep-seated insecurities in Friends
Chandler is another Friends character who is dealing with some serious issues. While Phoebe uses music to help cope with her childhood, Chandler channels all of his past problems into sarcasm. Younger audiences view his quips and jabs as humorous moments, but, to adults, it’s clear that Chandler is an insecure guy looking for love.
He’s unhappy at his job, has trouble sustaining a healthy relationship, and is still dealing with his parents’ divorce. He takes his identity as the funny man of the group a little too seriously, flying into a rage when Ross has a joke published that Chandler swears he came up with. Other people might have let the incident go, but Chandler’s need for approval and acknowledgement pits him against his friend. Fortunately, as the series progresses, we see Chandler mature. He’s still funny and sarcastic, but he repairs his relationship with his father and enters a stable relationship with Monica.
Monica’s masochistic career choice in Friends
We know from flashbacks that Monica was chubby throughout her teens. Her overweight past is a running gag throughout Friends, and younger Monica is shown to be several sizes larger. She eventually slims down after overhearing a college-aged Chandler commenting on her weight.
While many elements of the "fat Monica" arc are problematic, we can appreciate her work in developing healthier eating habits, and it’s great that she felt good in her body as an adult. Though, given her past issues with overeating, you’ve got to question her career choice. It seems like being a chef would be a constant torment, surrounded by tons of food all day. Kids probably think it’s cool that Monica was able to turn her love for food into a full-time career, but any adult who has ever struggled with emotional eating or any kind of food addiction knows the agony of trying to avoid foods you desperately want but know you shouldn’t have. Monica has a talent for cooking, sure, and is a great chef, but the show oversimplifies this situation, and doesn’t tackle the question of how she manages to avoid temptation.
Joey’s tragic ending in Friends
When you’re watching Friends as a kid, Joey is the one everyone wants to be or wants to date. His dreamy looks make him completely crush-worthy, and he’s even a sort-of-celebrity actor! He definitely has the coolest job out of his friends. All this makes the last episode, in which everyone is partnered up except Joey, even more depressing.
Joey may not be the brightest guy, but he’s definitely sweet. He takes care of Rachel when she finds out she’s going to be a single mother, and even proposes to her, offering to help raise the baby with her. Women pretty much throw themselves at Joey wherever he goes, and it seems like he’s never without a date. This might be fun in your 20s, but, when the show ends, everyone is a decade older. Joey has watched his friends fall in love, start families, and move on without him. It’s a tragic end for the guy who seemed to have everything. Kids may not understand how heartbreaking the finale is, but adults can see that the writers set Joey up for a lonely future.
What happened to Ben in Friends?
Remember Ben, Ross’ firstborn with ex-wife Carol? The early seasons feature Ben pretty heavily. We get to watch Ross find out that Carol is pregnant and that she is going to raise the baby with her partner, Susan. Ross fights for shared custody because he wants to be in his son’s life. He even makes sure that his kid embraces his Jewish heritage, teaching him all about Chanukah. We get to see Ben as a big kid in Season 7, pulling an epic prank on Rachel with his dad. The father-son duo seem to have a pretty tight bond, but, in the last couple of Friends seasons, Ben is nowhere to be seen.
Ben isn’t even at Ross’ wedding to Emily. It’s possible his moms just didn’t want him flying to London, but that doesn’t explain why Ben never even meets his sister, Emma. By the end of the show, it’s easy to forget that Ross ever had another kid because it seems like Emma is his only child. Did the producers just decide to ghost Ben’s character from the show and hope no one would notice? Did Ross suddenly become a deadbeat dad?
Friends has a major diversity problem
This one probably went over your head as a kid. It’s not really noticeable at first, but the more episodes of Friends you watch, the more you realize (at least as an adult) that the show has a huge problem with diversity. The main cast of Friends is white, which isn’t too unusual, but there’s also a noticeable lack of non-white guest stars.
The absence of racial diversity on the show is even more bizarre when you consider the fact that it takes place in New York City, which is one of the most racially diverse cities in the world. A third of the city’s population was born outside of the U.S. and even more of its residents are of non-European or multiracial descent, so where are all of these people on Friends? The Big Apple is a melting pot of cultures, but Friends does a terrible job of portraying this.
Friends characters Ross and Rachel never really left high school
Anyone who grew up watching Friends saw Ross and Rachel as the couple to beat. They had their ups and downs, but, in the end, they proved that they’re each other’s lobsters. Rachel was Ross’ first love, and it seems like their relationship was written in the stars. Who didn’t cheer when Rachel got off that plane?
As a kid, a love like the one Ross and Rachel have was something to aspire to. As an adult, the fact that they can’t seem to get their act together is frustrating. Ross has loved Rachel since they were teenagers, and it seems like they still have the same level of maturity as they did in high school. Their relationship is full of petty moments, like when Ross makes a pros and cons list to see if he should ask Rachel out, and when Rachel childishly demands that Ross drink fat to prove his devotion. Their squabbles make for a great comedy, but a terrible relationship.
Why doesn’t anyone on Friends ever take public transportation?
Friends, as we all know, takes place in one of the greatest places in the world: New York City. Any New Yorker worth their salt knows their way around the public transportation system. So why don’t we ever see Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica, and Phoebe using it?
At least half of the gang doesn’t make a lot of money — for some time, at least — and most of them don’t have their own cars. Taking taxis (aside from the one Phoebe inherits from her grandmother and illegally drives) all the time adds up quickly, so we have to assume that the Friends gang does use public transportation frequently, even though we rarely see it. Unless they’re just so buzzed on Central Perk coffee all the time that they run everywhere. Or perhaps they’re too afraid to use public transportation after the time that Chandler and Joey left Ross’ son, Ben, on a bus.
On Friends, Monica and Chandler make adoption seem a lot easier than it is
Towards the end of the second to last season of Friends, Monica and Chandler learn that they can’t have biological children in the episode "The One with the Fertility Test." Over the course of the final season, they come to the decision to adopt, and the series ends with them taking home a pair of newborn twins. While this is a happy moment for the couple, it’s also wildly unrealistic.
According to the website Fund Your Adoption, adopting a newborn is not that easy. The process can be long and arduous, taking anywhere from two to seven years. Adoption can also be quite expensive, according to Adoption Network. Considering that the Bings depleted their savings between their lavish wedding and Chandler changing careers, not to mention the massive house they bought in the suburbs at the end of Friends, it seems unlikely that they have enough extra money to comfortably afford adoption. There is also the fact that, by adopting two kids, Chandler and Monica are doubling their household expenses, making finances even tighter.
Rachel’s career on Friends is pretty implausible
How on earth does Rachel go from a waitress at Central Perk to a jet-setting darling of the fashion world over the course of Friends? Sure, she’s always had an interest in fashion, but did she have any background in the industry (aside from shopping) when she started applying for jobs as a buyer? Yet somehow she manages to work her way up from an assistant to a buyer, climbing her way up the corporate ladder until she is offered a job in Paris.
While it might seem like Rachel paid her dues by making coffee for a couple of seasons, it still seems unlikely that she’d so effortlessly break into the fashion world without a background in the industry or at least an unpaid internship. We also know that Rachel’s work ethic is not the greatest — even after landing her dream job, she’s always seen hanging out at Central Perk. So what’s the deal? Did she really come by her job honestly? Or did someone, like her rich father, pull some strings to help her land her big break?