Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Friends as Cultural Signifier (really!)

So, I've taken to DVR-ing old episodes of Friends and watching one before I go to bed. It's soothing to me. I went through my 20s with the kids from Friends and watching them is a little like going home for 22 minutes. Is that sad? That's not sad, is it? Ok - it's a little sad. I'm cool with that.

Friends started in 1994. So, let's put it in context - it's an old show: it is to today's high schoolers what Good Times was to me. Which is ... jarring.

But these old TV shows can serve as time capsules for us. The world changes subtly, in ways we don't notice. So looking back at a timely fiction and you'll probably get a better idea of how the world was when it was that world.

One thing that's struck me again and again watching these old episodes is how many jokes are of the homophobic variety. Joey and Chandler hug too much. Chandler doesn't understand sports. Etc. The show talked a good game about tolerance, but it treated homosexuality (male) as icky (to use Phoebe parlance).

Fortunately, that particular comedy trope is dead. For evidence, see the returns on any Adam Sandler movie post 2000. Despite the abhorrent votes in California and Arkansas, I really think we're getting closer and closer.

Of course, as I've said before, there's still plenty of homophobia in America (although I did read in a Trib Op Ed today that racism is done which I'd be all "Yay" about except the columnist is a dumbass). But I expect when my daughter is a grown woman, she'll be gobsmacked that the world was ever like this.