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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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I’ll Be There For You?

‘So no-one told you life was gonna be this way…’

If you want to follow that phrase with four claps, you are probably familiar with Friends. The hit sitcom aired from 1994 to 2004; 23 years on, it remains one of the most popular TV programmes ever. This week’s news that it is now available to stream on Netflix UK has been greeted with much delight.

There are numerous online articles dissecting why exactly Friends was and still is so very popular. Others blame the downfall of western civilisation on the popular sitcom.

Such discussions aside, however, Friends has had a long-lasting influence on our culture as a whole.

Been out for coffee recently? That’s (at least partially) thanks to Friends – the TV-introduction of ‘Central Perk’ coincided with the UK’s embrace of coffee shops in the mid-90s.

Ever asked someone how they’re doing? Blame Joey Tribbiani’s famous chat-up line.

Could I be any more serious? Ask Chandler – his sarcastic emphases are all over our everyday vernacular.

No-one could have predicted what an impact a simple sitcom about six friends – with no real plot developments aside from the interpersonal relationships of the characters themselves – could have on what we do, say, and think. Friends is a brilliant example of just how easily and subtly television can form us.

This leads me to wonder: what is forming our culture today? If, over the course of the last 20 years, Friends has moulded the way we interact and speak, what will people look back on in 20 years’ time and pinpoint as today’s culture-shifting phenomena?

Friends is a classic mix of things that are good and true and beautiful – friendship, loyalty, honesty – and things which are twisted and broken – casual sex, selfishness, and jealousy. That’s part of what makes it so relatable.

So, what are we doing about this? Where and how are we spotting and encouraging those things which are good in popular culture, and where and how can we be messengers of the gospel in that which is twisted and broken?

Monica says to Rachel in the first ever Friends episode: ‘Welcome to the real world. It sucks! You’re gonna love it.’ Whether or not anyone told us that life was gonna be this way, this is the real world. How we interact with it – and how we love it – will form us and those around us in many different ways.

Nell Goddard
Nell is a Writer at LICC.


Nell Goddard


  1. East Enders has spawned several
    generations of poor speech, nastiness combined with sentimentality, lack of respect for authority, violent behaviours as normal and general amorality.

    By Jane Gould  -  5 Jan 2018
  2. Very good insights, Nell. Thanks for the challenge to seek perspective on our cultural influences and provide some leadership in our own circles about what is life-giving and what is life-draining.

    By Norm Beers  -  5 Jan 2018
  3. Such an excellent comment to lead us into the New Year, Nell. Rom 12:2 comes to mind. Am looking forward to your writing this year.

    By John Samways  -  5 Jan 2018
  4. A perceptive article and particularly informative to those of us outside the “Friends generation” who seek to understand our adult children and their preferences for living in the 21st century.

    By WiKiNi  -  5 Jan 2018
  5. I have never heard or come across “Friends” . I believe what you say about it affecting the way people react and behave.perhaps i am too old. born 1930.

    I was aware when I taught in a large comprehensive school for 20 years that childrens names followed TV programmes new names got invented GARY, DARREN, KEIRA, were 3. I can think of lots more. You could tell which year children were born by the TV caharcters whos names they inherited.

    By mary quenby  -  5 Jan 2018
  6. I loved Friends – and did find it relatable. I believe now that Friends also reflected a community – the friends themselves, along with Gunther, Trigger, Big Fat Hairy guy etc. I see all around that people seek and long for community and belonging – even if that community is online.

    By Sharon  -  5 Jan 2018
  7. As a Headteacher and Leadership Consultant my regular question to colleagues was – and still is – ‘What are the silent messages we are giving to children in school?’ There is sometimes a disconnect between the declared aims and values of a school and the children’s lived daily experience.
    They are learning all the time and sometimes the hidden curriculum is more powerful than the taught one. I think it was Winston Churchill who said ‘First we shape our environment and then it shapes us’. As Jesus said: We need to be watchful. The truth will set us free.

    By Chris Edmonds  -  5 Jan 2018
  8. Very insightful Nell. It is the TV adverts that are alarming. Marriage, heterosexual relationships, cars as the most desirable items. Thank you and the LICC team for keeping us ‘watchful’.

    By Ann Page  -  5 Jan 2018
  9. Having volunteered to help our youth group I see that people tend to be glued to their mobile phones. however they still know what is going on ‘their’ worlds it’s just that they don’t talk to each other about it verbally. Trying to talk them becomes more challenging, perhaps this and social media is the legacy we will remember in 20 years time.

    By Stephen Bateman  -  7 Jan 2018

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