‘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.
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 is a Writer at LICC.