7 ‘Friends’ Moments That Have Become Horrifying With Age
I refused to watch Friends growing up. I was too busy doing cool things, like learning Elvish and not getting fingered, to figure out which one was Joey or follow who was on a break. But now it’s available on Netflix, and I’m always looking for a good reason to stay inside, so I’ve been binge-watching along with the rest of the country. And holy shit. This show shouldn’t be called Friends. It should be called Fatalistic Ruiners Who Just Want To Watch The World Burn, or Ruthless Psychopaths Who Will Stop At Nothing To Destroy Each Other, or just Enemies.
Episode after episode, I watched with an outsider’s eyes as these sociopaths enacted emotional and physical violence on the ones they claimed to “be there for.” Here are just some of the unimaginably savage acts of line-crossing that they perform against one another. They should not have been able to remain friends after any of these incidents.
#7. Phoebe Is Sexually Violated At Work By Rachel’s Boyfriend
In Season 1, Rachel dates a charming illiterate named Paolo, who is from the part of Italy that invented a-spicy meat-a-balls. He speaks nearly no English, but Rachel was in need of a tool to emotionally devastate Ross (more on that later), and Paolo was the perfect tool for the job. He seems to care only about sex and has no sense of personal boundaries or appropriate topics of conversation. On a scale from “cold oatmeal being eaten by a monk” to “rampaging gorilla with a boner,” Paolo is “momentarily dormant sexual predator.” He’s never not hard.
Despite knowing that Paolo has the sexual self-control of a one-year-old Dalmatian at the dog park for the first time, Rachel decides it would be a great idea to tell him that Phoebe is a masseuse and where she works. He makes an appointment with her without asking her beforehand if she’d be comfortable massaging him, which she visibly isn’t. He drops his robe in front of her, revealing he’s totally naked; not even a courtesy towel around the waist. By the look on his face, he enjoys her discomfort.
What’s a little sexual harassment between friends?
As soon as Phoebe gets within groping distance, Paolo begins stroking her leg, and then grabs her butt with both hands. According to Section 130.52 of the New York state penal code, unwanted physical contact with a person’s bathing suit areas is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to a year in jail. But don’t worry about the mood being ruined — the moment (along with him showing off his concealed boner) evokes a huge laugh from the studio audience.
Sexual assault in the workplace! *cue laugh track*
Phoebe is clearly very affected by this, as she tells all her friends at Central Perk what happened. Everyone except Rachel, of course. Instead of calling the police, or at least having him banned from the spa, or at even leaster calling Rachel immediately, Phoebe is just worried about Rachel being mad at her … for … cheating with her boyfriend? It’s such a bizarre moment to watch, now that sexual assault is a thing. Ross encourages her to tell Rachel because it’s “a feminist issue,” but his tone makes it unclear if he means standing up for herself or letting her gal pal know that her boyfriend is a philandering dog.
But one thing’s for sure: They all know for a fact that Rachel will be mad … at Phoebe. Observe this interaction:
PHOEBE: She is gonna HATE me.
ROSS: Yeah, well …
What. The. Hell.
If you were assaulted by a friend’s romantic partner, that incident would be enough to tarnish that friendship for a long time, if not forever, regardless of how well each party handles it. The guilt of knowing you brought a predator into your close circle of friends, the regret of your friend losing someone they were falling for, the trauma of being violated in your workplace, the mutual shame of the whole moment. And that’s without the added layer of being certain that your friend would blame it on you. That’s a “see you never” moment if there ever was one.
Rachel, to the surprise of all, handles the situation without blaming Phoebe, but she still reacts as if she found out she’s been cheated on, not that her friend has been violated. Even if she had handled it perfectly, there’s no way those two women will be dancing in a fountain together for a while after that.
#6. Rachel’s Sadistic Destruction Of Ross’s Happiness
For any new viewer who comes to the show without the sheen of nostalgia, it becomes abundantly clear very early on that Rachel’s main objective in life is to get Ross to commit suicide.
“You’re my lobster. Now go ahead, jump in this pot of boiling water.”
Ross has been crazy in love with Rachel since high school. He’s so moony and obvious about it that Rachel has to notice. If we are to believe that she actually doesn’t know he has feelings for her, the only explanation is that she is a legitimate psychopath who has never experienced emotion. He’s constantly about to confess his feelings for her throughout the early episodes in ways that are utterly transparent, but she still doesn’t get the message before he stops short or gets interrupted. If she is a sane, conscious person, even one who’s up her own ass in a big way, she knows that he loves her and is afraid to say it, but she allows him to painfully attempt to tell her again and again and again. She allows him to suffer over her at every opportunity. The reason is obvious: She enjoys it. She lusts for his pain. His desperate, unhappy attention is her only fuel.
“I’m with codependent.”
All Ross wants to do is get married and have a family. While this does end up happening with him and Rachel, she spends most of the series purposefully torpedoing every chance he has at such a partnership. Rachel is a key component in the demise of every marriage-bound relationship he has.
— Rachel decides on a whim to fly to London with the intention of stopping Ross’s wedding to Emily (whom she set him up with in the first goddamn place), but decides against destroying his life once she arrives. However, her presence is enough to stoke the part of Ross’s brain that’s been in love with her since high school (it’s about 85 percent of his brain), and he says Rachel’s name during the vows instead of Emily’s. Unsurprisingly, Emily hightails it immediately after the ceremony and begins planning their divorce. However, Rachel makes up for it by going on Ross’s honeymoon by herself, all expenses paid. What a friend!
— She convinces his girlfriend, played by Christine Taylor, to shave her head so he’d no longer be attracted to her. It works. He found someone, and she removes his ability to be aroused by her. For Rachel is the boner queen! All other queens must fall!
Her plan leads him right back into her arms, but not before she writes him an 18-page letter (“front and back!”) explaining that he needs to take the blame for their first breakup. When it comes out later on that he didn’t actually read that point, she dumps him again. But it was never about being with him; it was about suckling the sweet, sweet nectar of Ross’s pain. For the record, I’m not saying women do this. I’m saying Rachel does this.
— She makes fun of Ross for dating a younger woman, which is pretty rich coming from someone who only gets wet for doctors and sexual predators. Despite really liking her, the idea that she’s too young gets into his head, and he breaks up with her. This isn’t totally on Rachel, but she contributed to the group mocking. Oh, also? She fucks the girl’s dad. Nice going, Rachel! Nothing sabotagey about that!
Ross and Rachel do get together down the line, but only (we can assume) after Rachel tires of waiting for Ross to kill himself.
#5. Chandler And Joey’s Relentless, Widespread Sexual Harassment And Poor Treatment Of Women
This entry alone could be an entire article, so I’ll be quick: Chandler and Joey are gray-area sexual predators.
Resting up for a long night of harming women!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh come on, it’s a sitcom. They’re just being guys.” Cool, so:
— Chandler asks his female employee on a date instead of firing her, and then fires her anyway.
— Both men pretend to be someone else in order to sleep with different women, which is rape — the kind that’s pretty difficult to prosecute.
— Throughout the entire series, Joey relentlessly tries to fuck his platonic female friends in a fashion that suggests a diagnosable lack of impulse control.
— Chandler leaves a woman handcuffed to her desk overnight in her underwear.
— Chandler dates Janice on and off for years, despite openly despising her, lying to her, badmouthing her behind her back to his closest friends, and overall treating her like shit. The joke is that Chandler hates her and dumps her as soon as he takes her back. On this show, it’s comedy. On the show about Janice’s life, it’s a nonstop nightmare.
That show would be a hit, by the way.
— Joey is eager to get to a Thanksgiving party with models who plan to drink a lot and not eat much at all. He (and Ross this time) is so psyched about being around these women who wouldn’t go for him if they had their wits about them. Women with low BMIs are more likely to black out, especially if they drink a lot all at once on an empty stomach. Joey cannot wait to go have sex with some hot women who can’t consent. Chandler and Joey talk about getting women drunk on several occasions, which in passing is NBD but in reality is pretty fucking low.
— When Chandler moves in with Monica, Joey only seeks hot young women to live with him in order to have easy access to their beds.
Lesson learned: Keep these guys away from your female friends.
#4. Ross Fucks His Girlfriend At Work And Wakes Up Naked In The Middle Of His Workplace In Full View Of Children
If your buddy banged his lady over the cash register at the Starbucks where he worked, then fell asleep on the counter until late morning, only to be awoken by a crowd of staring kids, you’d be concerned for him, right? Like, that would be a conversation. “Hey man, you feelin’ alright?” No one does that sort of reckless maneuver if they’re not mentally ill. Plus, you’d expect him to immediately lose his job, putting pressure on you to support him emotionally and perhaps even financially. Fortunately for Ross, the incident was never even a blip on his boss’s radar.
Really, though. HOW WAS HE NOT FIRED?!
Not the most professional thing to do.
Ross and Rachel have sex for the first time in the museum he works at. Which is like, cool, okay, good for you. That’s fun and spontaneous, Live your life. But if you’re pulling a varsity move like that, you need to be careful about it. Set an alarm on your sport watch, at the very least. Not these guys! Somehow, they end up fucking from one end of the museum to the other, all the way from the planetarium to the Neanderthal exhibit, where they fall asleep under a pelt (presumably something of value to the museum, but sure, make it your wet spot). They sleep late enough for the museum to open (10 a.m.? 11 a.m.?) and are only woken up by a crowd of horrified schoolkids. (Part of this is on their teacher, a nun, who does nothing to move them along and in fact seems to want the kids to see the naked sex-adults? That teacher is unforgiven, too.)
How was Ross not fired for waking up dick-first butt naked in his place of business? That is not forgivable.
#3. Monica Hooks Up With Her Doctor (Who Watched Her Grow Up)
Here’s a good rule of thumb, no matter what reality you live in: Doctors shouldn’t fuck their patients, especially if they used to babysit that patient when she was a child.
The messed-up-ed-ness for this one is pretty much solely on Richard (Tom Selleck), who is not officially a friend, but he is a family friend of the Gellers. And even still, it’s such a toxic situation that it’s inconceivable that anyone else in their friend group was ever okay with it.
“First, do no harm. Second … eh, never mind, go for it, you’re so cute together!”
Richard is the family’s eye doctor — which is suspicious, because none of them wear glasses. But sure, whatever, they were friends outside of that. He watched Monica grow up, and even references seeing her swim in his pool (Jesus Christ). They end up getting together, which they acknowledge is wrong and creepy, but mostly because he’s old. The fact that he was a medical professional who was treating her for an eye injury is an afterthought, after the idea that it’s weird because they knew him from childhood.
Sure, it’s not like he was her gynecologist or therapist or neurosurgeon, but just because his area of expertise is less invasive doesn’t make the Hippocratic Oath any less applicable. It’s not like he’s her bike repair guy or even her tailor; he’s still got the upper hand in the dynamic between them. We have no idea how many times Richard has done this in the past, and we have no idea how old Monica was when he started to notice her in that way. The whole thing stinks, regardless of how long they were together. Especially when Monica makes out with his son later on.
But also it’s Tom Selleck, a male sex witch, so it’s at least partially understandable.
You know you want a ride.
#2. They Kill Their Downstairs Neighbor
Mr. Heckles was a classic Giuliani-era New York weirdo. He lives alone, tells white lies about his life, and gripes about his younger neighbors who haven’t been there as long as he has. But can you blame him for asking them to lower their volume? He does live below an apartment where six adults, who all inexplicably have the same work schedule of ~4 hours a week, are constantly hanging out, having screaming fights, exclaiming various emotions, realizing they’re in love with each other, having crazy sex, checking their phone messages, having parties, and yelling “WE WERE ON A BREAK.” He’s a middle-aged guy who presumably lives on a fixed income and doesn’t seem to leave his house that much. So his entire life is 24 hours straight of their drama playing out directly over his head. That … sucks. I don’t want to listen to my roommate watch Friends, much less overhear those actual situations happening in real life.
That theme song along is enough to drive you to madness.
At his wit’s end, Mr. Heckles takes to banging on the ceiling with a broom to get them to shut up. (For some reason, he needs to stand on a chair to do this. Which is not their fault; they have no control over how high their ceilings are. This is the only way they are blameless.) While frantically trying to get them to pipe down one night, he falls off the chair, presumably either snaps his neck or hits his head, and dies alone. His last moment on this earth was full of anger, frustration, and desperation. He died a bad death. It is their fault. They add insult to injury by taking all his belongings, as it turns out he left his entire apartment’s contents to them in his will. They give away and/or break all of it.
They are bad people and he is dead.
They share drinks to make sure they’re not being poisoned by each other.
If you and a group of friends were communally responsible for a helpless old man’s death, that would absolutely affect your ability to remain buddies. In reality, they all would have silently packed up their belongings and left town for different cities, never to talk again, with fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be cursed with a wasting illness or stalked by his ghost. These guys? They frown for a bit but are back to the hijinks by the next episode. What a bunch of emotional terrorists. Speaking of which …
#1. Phoebe Is A Terrorist
Phoebe’s whole thing is that she’s a free-spirited hippie, but most people forget she’s a threat to society. She makes passing references about not wanting to go back to jail, which no one really questions. I guess they all just assume she chained herself to a redwood in college and don’t ask for any clarification. However, she has much more nefarious plans.
In Season 5, Episode 11, Phoebe says her New Year’s resolution is to pilot a commercial jet. However, she’s not interested in doing this above-board. She wants to do it in the way that will terrify an entire country. Observe:
“I’m gonna go to the airport. I figure if I wait around long enough, one of those pilots is bound to leave a plane unattended.”
It would not be the only time she tried to ruin a plane journey.
PHOEBE. NO. DO NOT STEAL A PLANE.
What use would she have for flying a commercial jet? It’s simple: She wants to commit a massive terrorist attack to make a point about our country’s treatment of animals. She’s clearly been waiting and planning this heist for a while, and has been watching carefully to spot any weak spots in airport security. Stealing a plane is not something goofy flower children do for fun; it’s the act of a terrorist. She’s militantly vegetarian, so she was probably planning some sort of PETA-related act of psychological intimidation to scare everyday Americans into giving up meat forever. We’ll never know, since she doesn’t make it to the airport, but one thing’s for sure: This episode aired January 7th, 1999. I’m not saying she was involved in the September 11th attacks; I’m just saying her whereabouts on that day should be looked into.
Learn that nothing can kill a friendship faster than a game of Children’s Bible Trivia in The 7 Best Board Games for Destroying Your Friendship, and check out this snake that become pals with a hamster in 5 Real Animal Friendships Straight Out of a Disney Movie.
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