FRIENDS’ 25th Anniversary: A Defense of Ross - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

FRIENDS’ 25th Anniversary: A Defense of Ross

September 18, 2019 by  

Friends Ross Defense

Photo by NBC – © 2012 NBCUniversal, Inc.

[On Thursday, September 22, 1994, NBC debuted the pilot of FRIENDS. The sitcom, about a group of six 20-something friends, went on to become a pop culture touchstone. In honor of the milestone, we’re doing 25 Days of FRIENDS, looking back at the show in big and small ways.]

(Yes, really.)

More than 15 years after FRIENDS went off the air, Ross Geller remains one of the most polarizing characters on television. A lot of people like to claim he’s the worst; I think he’s, for the most part, misunderstood.

Look at how often the group made fun of Ross’ work and passions. His achievements were mocked, his interests were belittled, and no one ever really indulged him…unless they could get a vacation out of it. It was kind of cruel behavior given he’s supposed to be one of their closest friends.

Ross is occasionally given grief for marrying Carol, who was a closeted lesbian, but even when he struggled with that loss and not realizing her true sexuality, he almost always came through with supporting her (and her coupling with Susan, eventually). Yes, it was uncomfortable for him—as he pointed out when he was invited to their wedding, no one would have expected him to go if Carol was marrying a man—but when Carol’s parents refused to show up for her wedding, he convinced her that she and Susan shouldn’t call off the wedding. Heck, he even walked her down the aisle.

Admittedly, I also have a soft spot for Ross’ word-based jokes. (Rachel telling him to accept that they won’t happen and Ross flipping it to “except that what?” is pretty brilliant writing. Ditto the “when were you under me?” line.) And I know some people feel like Ross kept Rachel from pursuing her new job in Paris in the finale, but the show never established what the heck they were going to do after Rachel got off the plane. All they firmly said was they were going to be together now.

That being said: Ross was not perfect. He didn’t cheat on Rachel, but his jealousy helped push her to ask for a break, and he was pretty dumb to immediately jump into bed with someone else. He also went full-on crazy for a couple of seasons. From about the time he said the wrong name at the altar to the time he broke up with Elizabeth, it felt like he had a total meltdown as everything went wrong—both by his doing and not. He lost almost everything, made some bad choices, but the show also acknowledged that. He was put on a sabbatical from his job. He went to therapy and was put on meds.

No character was perfect. They were often messes who worked well together as a group. But it feels like Ross gets a tough break in pop culture sphere.


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