Is a 1994 sitcom still too progressive for 2020 India?

While we are in self-quarantine in the times of novel Coronavirus, one of my favourite things to do is to watch a famous American sitcom for the 51436384 thtime. It’s the one thing I watch on Netflix, even though I bought the subscription to watch movies and documentaries. YES, I AM TALKING ABOUT F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

In addition to defining wit, sarcasm, and the very ideas of friendship, there are other things that the show did subtly (or not) which we seldom notice. In my opinion, F.R.I.E.N.D.S was way ahead of its time — progressive and liberal, something that the India in 2020 is still struggling to achieve. This article will try and explore some of these, which is imperative because we have a long way to go, and we can at least start by taking some inspiration from the sitcom and try normalising what they did some two decades ago.

  1. Women giving importance to their careers over relationships

Well, one of the most important lessons that we must learn from the show is how, at several points in it, the female protagonists prioritised their careers over their relationships. And it’s absolutely necessary and okay for women to do that. Even today, women’s careers circle around the idea of ‘settling down’ and ‘marriage’. Transferrable jobs are just not okay, let alone women stepping out to work.

In the show, I want to highlight two instances to exemplify my view.

Remember how in the third episode of the ninth season where Monica is almost ready to move to Tulsa because Chandler got transferred, but she finds out that she’s getting another offer at a famous restaurant Javu’s? The fact that Monica chose her job and her career over her relationship only goes on to show how much it meant to her. In India today, how many women are ‘allowed’ to do it, let alone be willing to!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFwN5hluDbc

Episode 15 of season 3 had Ross and Rachel taking a break, which broke all our hearts too (sobbing). However, did we notice how Rachel chose her work over their anniversary? We all fantasise things for our special days, but how many of us can actually tell our partners that we would be working on those special days, and justify putting work first.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWwgLKPTLT0

There are a lot of other episodes where our female protagonists choose work over their relationships, but not letting work affect them either. Maybe we should embrace and learn from this.

2. Homosexual relationships

You probably saw this one coming. F.R.I.E.N.D.S normalised same sex relationships and marriage long ago, something that is still a distant dream for India. Homosexuality is still not very prevalent in the public discourse. I mean, we saw the first movie that dared to show gay protagonists in 2020! And I don’t know how well received that was.

Credit: metro.co.uk

The TV show dared to show this unusual yet a very natural thing when none of us would’ve even thought of it. Maybe we can learn something from this. Although, gradually we are starting to normalise same sex relationships, with Kerala being one step ahead and adding it to their school textbooks. Maybe there is some hope after all.

3. The idea of childbirth

From Monica and Chandler’s adoption plan to Phoebe’s agreement to being a surrogate for her brother, the idea of childbirth was redefined in the TV show. The Surrogacy Bill 2016 restricts surrogacy to a huge extent, with only female relatives being able to become surrogates. And of course, adoption is an option but it is long and tedious. Henceforth, both these options are not very pragmatic or easy.

Credit: Pintrest

Again, showing that surrogacy and adoption are just as normal as regular childbirth, gives us a perspective we want as a liberal society.

On the one hand, F.R.I.E.N.D.S had flaws that fat-shamed Monica and sexist jokes. On the other hand, the sitcom also paved way into the future, being years ahead of its time. The Indian community needs not only to see it from an entertainment perspective, but from a learning point.

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