During the 2010s, reboots became a major trend within the entertainment industry. From "Saved By the Bell" to "Frasier" to "iCarly," so many of the classics from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s have been enlisted for a comeback, per Us Weekly. And sure, these fan-favorite series are perhaps being used as pawns to get people to subscribe to the gazillion streaming services that have hit the market, but the nostalgia factor is undeniable. However, as fans have continued to watch the oldies as they anticipate these reboots, it’s been easier to notice that some of the shows and characters we used to fawn over are actually pretty problematic.
The lens with which we view society is starkly different now than just a couple of decades ago — meaning that typical TV tropes like the old cat-and-mouse and "be mean to the girl you like" plotlines don’t only seem outdated in the 2020s, but for audiences who are only discovering these series now on streaming services, it also seems outlandish that some of those character arcs were even allowed to air. While public opinion is always arbitrary, some of the actors who played those esteemed roles themselves also agree with the criticism.
We bring you the stars who’ve admitted that their biggest roles didn’t age so well.
David Schwimmer addresses Friends’ not-so-friendly tendencies
Classic as it is, "Friends" has simply not aged all that well. The mega-hit show has remained a cultural staple despite going off the air back in 2004, but one of the side effects of that type of longevity is the scrutiny that comes with the changing times. Once heralded as a progressive show, "Friends" has more recently been criticized for its lack of diversity, homophobic and transphobic jokes, toxic masculinity and sexism, and overall othering of characters that weren’t the core six (via The Edge).
One particular character has raised eyebrows — Ross Geller. Between the ridiculing of his ex-wife’s same-sex relationship, that cringey storyline about wanting to have sex with his cousin, and the fan theory that he eventually lost custody of son Ben because he wasn’t a good father, Ross has left a sour taste in young fans’ mouths. Though David Schwimmer, the actor who played the now questionable paleontologist, has never spoken directly about Ross’ flaws, he has addressed the criticism surrounding "Friends."
"I feel that a lot of the problem today in so many areas is that so little is taken in context. You have to look at it from the point of view of what the show was trying to do at the time," Schwimmer explained to The Guardian in 2020. "I’m the first person to say that maybe something was inappropriate or insensitive, but I feel like my barometer was pretty good at that time. I was already really attuned to social issues and issues of equality."
Ian Harding is well aware of the ‘Ezria’ controversy
Even when the "Pretty Little Liars" was at its peak, critics weren’t amused by the Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding) and Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) matchup. The show, which aired on Freeform in the 2010s, was geared toward teens to college students — so naturally, it was going to be melodramatic and full of sex, forbidden romance, and teenage blunders. However, the "Ezria" pairing was just a tad too much for some viewers, considering the fact that it was actually statutory rape (via HuffPost): Aria was 16 years old when they first met, making Ezra, who was about six years older, around age 22.
Critics were concerned, but the target audience seemingly ate it all up. Showrunner Marlene King even called the relationship "super sexy" and compared it to "Romeo and Juliet" in an interview with Cosmo. Harding, however, alluded to the fact that he was surprised people weren’t more taken aback by the affair. In the early seasons, a company pulled its ad from "PLL," and the actor assumed it was because of the inappropriate coupling.
"I was like, ‘No s**t, our relationship is illegal!’" Harding told Cosmo. It turned out, though, that "Ezria" wasn’t the issue after all. The company in question apparently had a gripe about Emily and Maya’s lesbian relationship, rather than about the teacher-student angle. "So, I could be seen as a statutory rapist, and people are like, ‘I know, but love knows no bounds, as long as there is a penis and a vagina involved,’" Harding observed.
Robert Pattinson has openly criticized Edward Cullen
Following in the steps of the "Harry Potter" franchise, "The Twilight Saga" created pandemonium amongst tweens all over the world in the late 2000s. Being Team Edward or Team Jacob was an actual identity marker, and the two groups just didn’t commingle. While vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) stole hearts everywhere, the fictional couple’s relationship hasn’t aged well considering the fact that he was technically 87 years older than her and also a perpetual stalker, per ScreenRant. It was meant to be a story of hopeless romance and never-ending desire for one another, but in actuality, the fact that Bella was portrayed as a character incapable of functioning without Edward reeked of emotional manipulation and abusive control.
Though the films caused astronomical fan fare, Pattinson himself revealed that he wasn’t too fond of his beloved vampire alter ego, admitting to Vanity Fair in 2011 that he didn’t "particularly like" playing Edward. Though he was resentful of the character mostly because of the attention it got him, he was also caught on camera revealing that if he weren’t an actor in the movie, he wouldn’t be a fan either.
"The people who don’t like ["Twilight"] are generally people who haven’t seen it, and they’re like all judgmental and stuff and cynical," Pattinson joked to Moviefone. "But I think I am a judgmental and cynical person, who would just mindlessly hate it without having seen anything. I just think I’m a bad person."
Ed Westwick says Chuck Bass is gone for good
There’s a fine line between a bad boy with a troubled upbringing and an entitled rich boy with no respect for boundaries. "Gossip Girl’s" Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) definitely crossed that line — and he did so from the jump. In the 2007 pilot episode of the uber-popular teen drama, Chuck tries to force himself on two women, a plotline that would never see the light of day today, per Refinery 29. He first pushes himself onto Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) to the point where she has to give a stiff kick where the sun don’t shine. But that doesn’t stop him from then trying to pick up baby-faced Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) mere minutes later.
Throughout the series, Chuck proves to be quite entitled, controlling, and manipulative. While the writers tried to redeem him by showing his soft spot for Queen Bee Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), per ScreenRant, hindsight shows that it’s not necessarily enough amends for the havoc he wreaks. It seems the spin worked at the time, though, given the fact that "GG" diehards (a.k.a. Upper East Siders) spent the majority of the show’s lifespan rooting for him and Blair to solidify their romance.
Since the show’s end back in 2012, Westwick hasn’t said much about the "complexities" of his starting character, but he was clear about never bringing him back to the screen. "Nah, that’s not gonna happen," he told Radio Times in 2017. "I did so much with that character — it’s played out, man. It’s done."
Neil Patrick Harris has put the legendary Barney Stinson to bed
"How I Met Your Mother" was once a fan-favorite sitcom, but its misogyny is just one of the factors that makes it pretty cringey to watch today, according to BuzzFeed. Between the objectification of women, the fat jokes, and the listless ruses to get women into bed, it’s no wonder Barney Stinson makes so many people uncomfortable (though, to be fair, Barney’s pals at least tend to call out his inappropriate behavior, per ScreenRant). But add in the overall lack of diversity and accusations of racist stereotypes, and you see that "How I Met Your Mother" seems to tick all the wrong boxes.
All that aside, however, in its hey-day, the sitcom was an eyeball magnet for CBS. In fact, unlike other shows that unfortunately previously got cancelled after one of its stars came out, "HIMYM" remained a fan fave after actor Neil Patrick Harris publicly came out as gay in 2006 — a year into the series’ run.
Maybe because he now recognizes the toxicity of the character or maybe because he’s simply put the chapter behind him, but as beloved as Barney was, NPH has been on the record saying he wouldn’t reprise the role if the show was to get a reboot. "I really just look back on that chapter with great fondness," the actor told TV Guide in 2018. Noting that he "miss[es] the players within it," Harris added, "I just don’t feel like there’s anything left to do, really."
Alexis Bledel on Rory Gilmore’s unexpected turn
They say when good girls go bad, they’re gone forever and typically, that transformation is exciting to watch on screen. But that just wasn’t the case for Rory Gilmore. Her transformation from a straight-laced, goody-two-shoes who cared about the world around her to chaotic serial cheater who strings people along really threw "Gilmore Girls" fans for a loop. Her first affair, which happened in Season 4 of the show’s original run, shocked the masses — but by the time the series came to a close three seasons later, viewers had learned to live with the character’s self-destructive and selfish behavior, per Vox.
However, when "Gilmore Girls" was rebooted on Netflix, and it turned out Rory had maintained her more unsavory ways, old wounds were opened again for fans of the beloved show. And, as evidenced by BuzzFeed‘s 2019 piece, "25 Times We Literally Couldn’t Stand Rory Gilmore," she was solidified as reckless and polar opposite of who she was introduced as.
Fans were outspokenly unamused by this time, and it seems Alexis Bledel, who played Rory, shared their sentiments, admitting on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that she didn’t expect the character to go so far left. "I remember getting that script and thinking, ‘This is so out of character!’" she recalled of the Season 4 shocker. "… I think they had created this character who is so seemingly perfect that they had to throw something at her. But I think we overcorrected. Clearly we overcorrected."
Steve Carell doesn’t see a place for Michael Scott in today’s ‘climate’
Sure, we loved him as a bumbling, unfiltered office manager back in the day, but since "The Office" is still one of the most-watched shows on streaming platforms, it’s safe to say fans are still rooting for Michael Scott. However, if we’re being fair, he’s also one of the most outrageous TV characters of all time. There’s hardly a single inappropriate line the so-called "World’s Best Boss" didn’t cross at Dunder Mifflin, per ScreenRant. From sexual harassment and racial bias to even accidentally striking an employee with his car — you name it, and Michael Scott probably violated it in the cringiest way possible.
It was all funny and somehow endearing back in the 2000s, but actor Steve Carell himself has admitted that "The Office" would never be greenlit if it were presented today. In 2018, he told Esquire, "The climate’s different. I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior … A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That’s the point, you know? But I just don’t know how that would fly now. There’s a very high awareness of offensive things today." Welp, he’s probably right.