Sorry to Ruin Your Fond Memories, But Friends Was Homophobic AF

You can't un-see this.

Friends is one of the most important sitcoms to ever grace television, and it happens to be my all-time favorite show. When I watched Friends in high school, I enjoyed it at face value: six 20-somethings navigating friendship, relationships, and careers in New York City. Fast-forward to now: I’m 22 and watch Friends with a much more critical eye. Its lack of racial diversity is startling. Even more shocking, however, is the subtle homophobia that’s rampant in every season. As a gay man who loves Friends—like, can-quote-every-line loves—this is very disappointing.

It isn’t intentional, but Friends treats LGBTQIA people and topics quite offensively. Whether it’s a subtle “gay joke” or bizarre expectations about masculinity, Friends’ idea of what “makes a man” is narrow AF. And that’s problematic.

I still enjoy the show for its humor, wit, and irresistible cast, but unfortunately, I can’t un-see the homophobia. And after checking out these 10 examples—one per season—neither will you.

  • 1 Season 1: “This was Carol’s favorite beer. She always drank it out of the can. I should’ve known.” —Ross
    The backstory: Ross’ first wife Carol divorces him after she comes out as a lesbian. His quote enforces stereotypes and simplifies the lesbian identity.

  • 2 Season 2: “How can you be straight? You’re so smart and funny, and you throw such great Academy Award parties!” —Phoebe
    The backstory: Phoebe married a gay Canadian ice skater, Duncan, years before so he could get a green card. They reunite, and Duncan reveals he is actually straight. Phoebe’s comment, while funny, puts gay men in a small, defined box.

  • 3 Season 3: “What’s my boy doing with a Barbie?” —Ross
    The backstory: Ross becomes infuriated when he finds out his infant son Ben is playing with a Barbie. He swaps the doll for a G.I. Joe in panic. Ross’ fear of his son enjoying anything feminine is, at its core, archaic and homophobic.

  • 4 Season 4: “How goes the dancing? Gay yet?” —Monica
    The backstory: Monica pokes fun at Joey for helping their superintendent with his dance rehearsals. Her sentence implies Joey is less of a man because he is dancing. It also encourages the gross idea dancing is a “gay sport.” (News flash: There’s no such thing.)

  • 5 Season 5: Ross: “I’m Gary’s partner.” / Chandler: “You know when you say ’partner,’ it doesn’t sound cop. It sounds gay.”
    The backstory: Phoebe’s cop boyfriend, Gary, takes Ross, Joey, and Chandler on a ride-along. Ross jokes that he’s Gary’s IRL police partner, then Chandler responds like this. Chandler’s uneasiness toward gay people shows itself when he cringes at Ross’ innocent musing.

  • 6 Season 6. Joey: “Thanks for coming with me. And thanks again for helping me take a shower.” / Chandler: “Now, is that ’never talking about it again’?”
    The backstory: Chandler helps Joey take a shower because he has a severe hernia and can’t move. It mortifies Chandler, whose embarrassment about two men in close contact exposes his deep-rooted homophobia.

  • 7 Season 7: Charles: “Aren’t you a little old to be wearing a dress like that?” / Nora: “Don’t you have a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?”
    The backstory: Chandler’s father Charles is gay and works as a drag queen in Las Vegas. Nora’s insult suggests men shouldn’t wear dresses, which is an anti-gay, gender-conforming notion.

  • 8 Season 8: The look of disapproval for the “gay voice”
    The backstory: Chandler starts singing “Tomorrow” from Annie in a high-pitched voice. However, after Monica and Rachel make disapproving faces, Chandler deepens his voice to assert his masculinity. This subtle “man-check” sheds light on the rigid gender roles enforced by this group of friends.

  • 9 Season 9: Ross (to Sandy, the male nanny): “Are you gay? … So you’re just, like, a guy who’s a nanny?”
    The backstory: Ross and Rachel interview Sandy, a heterosexual but sensitive male, for their vacant nanny position. Ross is dumbfounded that a straight man could want a job he normally associates with women. Ross’ assumption Sandy is gay based on his line of work is both ignorant and insulting.

  • 10 Season 10: The repulsive thought of two men kissing
    The backstory: Joey attempts to kiss Rachel but pictures Ross while he does it. Repulsed, he pushes Rachel away. Simple homophobia is at play here. Joey can’t stomach the idea of two men kissing, so he quite literally rejects Rachel when he thinks she is Ross.