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Would ‘Friends’ Have Ended Differently if it Came Out in 2017?

This twitter rant makes a compelling case

08.10.17
Photo by Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

After identifying that Miranda Hobbes would likely be the protagonist of Sex and the City if the show came out in 2017, I’m a little mad I wasn’t the first to realize that if Friends were to debut at this sacred juncture in history as well, it would be in for a major plot shakeup of its own.

All credit for this epiphany goes to Claire Willett, who penned a 100-tweet essay arguing that Rachel and Joey should have ended up together instead of Rachel and Ross. After reading her litany of evidence, I’m not inclined to disagree.

Let’s examine her most compelling points, starting with why Rachel *shouldn’t* be with Ross, whom she refers to as “one of television’s all-time worst human men.” (Whether or not you agree with her overall relationship thesis, you have to admit that this proclamation alone is provoking and hilarious in the same way that calling Eeyore one of television’s all-time worst stuffed animal cartoon donkeys would be).

She starts by explaining that Ross and Rachel’s rapport was always alarmingly possessive in nature. He sees her as “his,” he spies on her while she’s on dates, he hides messages from other men who are interested in her, etc. Perhaps the most toxic aspect of their rapport, however, was Ross’s sabotage of Rachel’s career:

These tweets prompted me to reevaluate that episode (“The One With All the Jealousy”) in which Ross covers Rachel’s entire desk with love cards, flowers and musical bugs and sends a barbershop quartet to her office to sing her a song, thus sending a message to her colleague Mark that she was “taken,” which I now realize is the human equivalent of a dog peeing all over its so-called territory. Not only do Ross’s actions embarrass Rachel in front of her coworkers and make her look unprofessional, but they also establish a dynamic in which Ross is forcing Rachel to choose between the health of their relationship and the health of her career, which ultimately plays into Rachel’s decision to not go to Paris and become a big-shot fashion executive:

Is your head exploding right now?? Ross wanted Rachel to stay so badly he even went behind her back and asked her boss in New York to re-hire her! In early-2000s television this might have passed as a “grand gesture” but nowadays I’m fairly certain the optics would be different. Controlling the narrative of someone else’s life in the name of love is deluded sabotage at its finest, especially if it prevents that someone from personal growth. It reminds me of that episode of Orange is the New Black in which Tricia attempts to plant drugs in her girlfriend Mercy’s bunk so she would get more time in prison instead of being released — an act born of out “love,” but destructive nonetheless. Don’t even get me started on Ross’s pro/con list.

Having sufficiently stripped away Ross Geller’s “nice guy” status, Willett pivots to explaining why Joey was the better match, even though the writers of the show clearly intended for their brief flirtation to be an inconsequential delay factor in Ross and Rachel’s will they/won’t they saga:

LOOK WHO’S THE NICE GUY NOW, GELLER.

Willett concludes by claiming that the only factor in favor of Ross and Rachel ending up together is conventional sitcom storytelling structure, not because they’re “right” for each other, which rings true when I consider the shift in how will they/won’t they romantic setups are portrayed in 2017. Hannah’s on-again-off-again relationship with Adam in Girls is an apt example: toward the end of the last season, the Girls writers pull a bait and switch by teasing that Hannah and Adam might end up together when Adam briefly breaks up with Jessa and fantasizes for 24 hours about what it would be like to co-parent Hannah’s baby-to-be. The result reminds Hannah, Adam and viewers why the pair isn’t right for each other. As a long-time viewer of the show, it was tough for me to let go of the kernel of hope that Hannah and Adam would reunite, but the dissipation of their relationship felt realistic in the sense that in real life, a shared history is never a guarantee that a couple is meant to be.

Here’s a question to chew on: if, according to Kylie Jenner, 2016 was “the year of realizing stuff,” is 2017 the year of realizing that the plot lines of all my favorite television shows are in need of a serious rewrite? I’m already starting to question my once-passionate dislike for Dean on Gilmore Girls.

S.O.S.

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  • Margaret Stolte

    This is great but NEVER EVER DEAN let’s keep that dislike alive.

    • Ashley Hamilton

      Seconding the never Dean situation but here’s something crazy: when I re-watched I kind of liked Logan.

      • Rachel

        Yes, Dean is the worst! I’ve always been a team Logan but the GG revival made me not like him so much :'(

        • I always liked Logan, the revival made me hate Rory though.

          • Cristina

            Oh my gosh so many feelings now lol. Team Logan fo sho. Agree about Rory in the revival. She would never sleep with a married man, or casually sleep with anyone for that matter. I was so mad about that, Rory is not a floozy!

          • Diana McNeill

            She did sleep with a married man in the regular series–DEAN! And she has never been loyal. She cheated on Dean with Jess! And she kissed Jess when she was with Logan! Gaddammiiittttt RORY!!!

          • Cristina

            I almost peed my pants because seeing that in print, you are SO RIGHT! WTF. I feel completely blindsided now and is it weird that I’m physically sad? lollll

          • Diana McNeill

            Ha! Not weird. I remember the day when I realized Rory wasn’t my hero. Life as I knew it was forever changed.

          • magicalhat

            You’re so right, that part of the revival was actually very in character for rory! What was not in character was her not labeling her boxes lol.

          • Diana McNeill

            I felt like in the revival Alexis Bledel’s anxiety as an actor was palpable. Rory was always somewhat neurotic, but she was never really, visibly anxious. It was also so jarring to hear Alexis’ grown-up lower voice. Rory always had a high pitch voice so this was almost the most out of character thing, IMO. (I have honestly watched every single Gilmore Girls episode like 25206843082942-bajillion times.)

          • Diana McNeill
        • Ashley Hamilton

          Oh yea all my feelings are pre-revival, I don’t even know how to process those eps.

          • Diana McNeill

            Agreed. Still haven’t brought myself to re-watch any revival eps. I did ugly cry when I was watching it for the first time, but it was more like the writers were playing to that, rather than writing something super compelling.

      • Harling Ross

        same actually

    • Millie Lammoreaux

      Though I was a casual-ish Gilmore Girls viewer (and Dean hater) when it was on, I watched the series all the way through for the first time a few years ago, when I was about 27. As an adult viewing it out of the context of the early 2000’s, let me say… EVERYONE on that show is horrible! Lorelei, Rory, and all Rory’s boyfriends (minus grown-up Jess wowowow) are just awful. The show is only loveable because of amazing secondary characters like Paris and the elder Gilmores. Even Luke sucks! Sorry for this, but it’s true y’all.

      • dianamle

        Yes, I’ve always thought that Luke sucked! And he did a similar career/relationship thing with Lorelei when she was being courted by the Durham (?) group, too!

        • lateshift

          yeah – I know this is an unpopular opinion, but: Luke was always grumpy and annoyed with her. He was intellectually incurious (forget his lack of interest in books, music, TV or movies, all of which she cared about to various degrees – she was always itching to explore the world on a budget, but the only times he ever left town were when he was running away from something: his feelings, a thorny situation, her, etc.). He was emotionally stunted, a godawful communicator who was seemingly incapable of expressing feelings or sharing vital information with his partner in a timely manner. He also had a grating habit of occasionally trying to control other people’s personal decisions in inappropriate ways…

          (I may have been the only person who cheered when Jess told him off for pressuring him to help break up his mother’s healthiest, most functional relationship in years just because he found the guy a little annoying. Which Our Hero Luke used as an excuse to get wasted and cut his hand open on a broken window. Then again, Lorelai then tracked down Jess to yell at him for his perfectly healthy boundary-setting in that situation, so: maybe L+L WERE perfect for each other…)

          • lateshift

            And as long as we’re talking unpopular opinions: I was #TeamChristopher: not just because of their history, but because they were clearly kindred souls who totally got everything about the other person and (at least on his part) accepted it …I remember the first time he appeared, back in the first season, he said he wanted to be committed to her, tried to tell her he’d changed. And she wouldn’t give him the time of day. Which: fair enough, there was history there, but the very next time he showed up – when it became clear that yes, he HAD changed, just like he said – that was all it took for her to make her move. But it was too late. That one bad decision in Season 1 was responsible for getting Sherry in his life, eventually resulting in a daughter, eventually resulting in the permanent sabotage of their future. Good work, Gilmore.

      • gracesface

        I remember being in awe of Lorelei when she says, “yes” to jason’s question of, “does everything have to be fun for you?” while they’re getting the best tacos in “Connecticut” on their date. As a teen I thought that made her cool and unique, as someone in their mid-twenties I realized how inflexible and selfish that was. Thought honestly, I really did like Jason (and I’m a big fan of Chris Eigeman’s schtick).

        Oh and grown up Jess FOREVER. Why didn’t they make that happen in the revival1!?!

        • Diana McNeill

          Lauren Graham often said that Lorelei suffered from arrested development because of her early, teen pregnancy. With that in mind, this kind of behavior is understandable.

          • gracesface

            Ooh that interview must’ve escaped me.

      • Margaret McKever

        grown-up Jess is like the ultimate

        • lateshift

          he’s almost too good for Rory. Scratch that: at this point, he IS too good for Rory.

    • snakehissken

      I don’t really hate on Dean when they were in high school, because yeah he sucked in a lot of ways, but he was a kid. Jess was pretty dickish a lot of the time too.

      Logan gets a lot of hate, but I think he showed the most growth in the regular series even if the show wanted us to believe that it was Jess.

    • skmots

      I love that this article is about Friends, but we made the comments about GG. <3

    • Melissa

      100%

  • Laura

    I’d read Claire’s tweets before and I thought #94 (lol) was the most convincing: “94/ Ross fell in love with A PICTURE OF HIMSELF AS THE KIND OF MAN WHO COULD DATE A RACHEL and on some level that was always what he wanted.”

    Anyway, idk if I’m convinced. Rachel also did a lot of stupid stuff. But also, why has the internet lately been going back and forth between Ross love and hate? Also read this article recently (that I didn’t completely agree with): https://medium.com/@thatdavidhopkins/how-a-tv-sitcom-triggered-the-downfall-of-western-civilization-336e8ccf7dd0

    • pamplemousseismyjam

      Yes, I came here to mention that article. I don’t have time to rewatch Friends (again), but I think there is something to the position that Ross was constantly belittled for being an intellectual. No argument that Ross and Rachel made zero sense, but aside from his sister, Ross didn’t make sense in this group at all. Rachel was a pretty one dimensional female character. Why did we all care who she would end up with anyway?

      • Hajni

        Same here, wanted to mention that article. They are currently showing Friends on Dutch Comedy Central again so I am paying attention to Rachel a bit more, and actually I don’t find her one-dimensional anymore, even though I used to think so.

      • dayman

        Agree that Ross didn’t fit into the group, but disagree about Rachel!! It’s easy to pin her as a rich girl who just loves to shop, but she also excels in her career, becomes more independent over the course of the show, and shows high emotional intelligence. She’s not perfect (vain but insecure, sheltered, emotional) but I think over the course of the show she goes from trying to fulfill her parents’ idea of who she should be, to accepting who she is. She recognizes the validity of her emotions even when they’re not perfectly logical and extends the same to her friends’ feelings in many cases. She’s one of my favorites!

  • Rachel

    I think the award for “one of television’s all-time worst human men” has to go to Danny Castellano from The Mindy Project, so much worse than Ross!

    But I always liked Ross, mostly for comedic reasons. It makes me so sad to think that Ross and Rachel wouldn’t end up together in 2017 since they were the ultimate TV couple. But I actually believe that the writers would still have them end up together today because otherwise it would have made the main story line of the decade long show pointless and ultimately that’s what the fans wanted! Instead I think if the show aired in 2017 that characters would be different and more in-tune with today’s political and societal views.

    • Katrina Elizabeth

      Danny is such a prick

    • gracesface

      I stopped watching that back in season 3 but damn it is like unrecognizable to me now. and i was hella disappointed in how the mindy/danny relationship turned out. what a shitty guy.

    • I’m rewatching the Mindy Project right now and couldn’t stop thinking of Danny during this article. I’m so glad MIndy and Danny didn’t end up together.

    • ihaveacooch

      he is the worst! but so was mindy; she let every guy walk all over her and behaved like a hormonal 13 year old. i can’t believe they even got together; he was such a misogynistic asshole.

    • Kristie

      The Mindy Project did an awesome job at making these surprising but somehow plausible love interests for Mindy, but when they finally got together turned them into monsters (RIP Pastor Casey). Gotta keep the story going, i get it, but always seemed too contrived.

  • Cristina

    You really wanna show that would NOT fly at all in 2017? Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It’s on Hulu. Go ahead and take a walk down TGIF memory lane and realize how much things have changed since then. It’s laughable! Words, costumes, characters, story lines… so much of it would send people on a social media rant fo sho!

  • Hayley

    MY BRAIN HAS MELTED AND REFORMED.

  • alie denofa

    gah. Girls spoiler : (

    • Millie Lammoreaux

      but…the show ended months ago? The spoiler grace period has long passed, methinks.

  • Kate

    Brilliant, more Claire Willett, please.

  • dianamle

    I’ve always thought that Rachel and Chandler should have been together!

    • Cici

      Yes they had way more chemistry than Chandler&Monica: the cheesecake episode!!

  • Ellen

    Ross truly is the complete worst. He’s consistently the one causing whatever Drama of the Week is the plotline, and I will NEVER EVER GET OVER him SCREAMING at Rachel in S2 because she’s not ready to go out for his show. Offering to drink a glass of fat will never make it okay for someone to treat you like that, Rach!

    However, can’t say I’m sold on Joey as her lobster. Rachel should’ve gone to Paris. Her career and her daughter were her lobster.

    Essentially, if we’ve learned anything from modern media (Rachel and LC), it’s that you never turn down Paris for a man. Especially a shitty one.

    • Cristina

      Oh man, Jason… worst of the worst. Lol!

    • gracesface

      the hills was so good.

    • Laura

      hahaha why is it that going to Paris is always the decision a woman in a show has to make? And kind of an analogy for work or love? Also was the case for Carrie Bradshaw.

      • Hajni

        I guess it has to do something with the French girl myth…soon enough they would all realise that Paris is over-romanticised, rents are ridiculous and it’s very hard to fit in with the Parisienne crowd as a foreigner… I am saying this as a complete fan of the city, I try to go at least once every year (:

      • Em_1234

        Think about la la land… she decides to go to Paris for her career and lose the man… was she happy then?

  • KTDO

    my brain just exploded. so much truth here.

    also, logan sucks. dean sucks. jess sucked as a teen (doesn’t everyone?) but matured into a smart, thoughtful, caring guy. i’ve always been #teamjess, but after the revival, i realized rory doesn’t deserve jess. she is bratty, entitled (like that job interview reaction?? what was that!), cheats on her SO, and is overall just disappointing considering where she started. it was very rare to see a incredibly smart girl who had big dreams (that weren’t just about boys or becoming a princess or a rockstar) in 2000-era sitcoms, but she grew up and was just a shitty person who didn’t want to work hard. she was too used to being handed things, being told she was so beautiful, she didn’t expect to have a challenge and need to work hard after school ended.

    • lateshift

      Back when she had her first internship, it felt like we were supposed to think Logan’s dad was some villain for pointing out her undeserved sense of entitlement and general averageness. At least, that’s the way every other adult in her life reacted. But goddamit, he was RIGHT.
      (The way she first became consciously and embarrassingly excited about pursuing Logan after learning about the true extent of his wealth and family connections to the industry she wanted to join made me question everything about her attraction to the guy forever after.)

  • CMT

    “Is your head exploding right now??” Uh, no.

    I mean, these tweets are great, but Ross being a garbage human is not exactly revelatory or an epiphany.

  • Jessie Erikson

    omg, do question your passionate dislike for dean. I never really hated dean when I was younger, but I felt kinda ambiguous… but who is the worst is JESS. I think it’s easy to say dean is boring/conventional/maaaybe possessive (but DEF less possessive than jess, omg), but when I was actually re-watching recently, it was like, oh, who is actually happily going along to check out rory’s interests, like book festivals? dean. who complains about going to anything with rory? jess. what are dean’s interests and hobbies? he plays sports, has friends, reads books rory lends him to expand his horizons… okay. what does jess do? like literally just read cliche classics and pout. literally just 90% of the time pout. and jess has NO FRIENDS. when i was 14, this was okay, but now at 27, I realize boys with no close friends is a HUGE RED FLAG. there are definitely dean flaws, but mostly i felt like those were put in kind of in an explicit sort of silly way to make us all feel really certain that rory should be with jess or logan or whoever and that dean was boring and the worst. (but honestly, not actually that boring – just limited screen time, mostly, probably because he is off having a life.) all that said, I think Rory is the absolute worst, most self-involved, most pretentious, most classist, most privileged whineface in the whole show, so I don’t really care about her happiness. (admittedly, I DID like her when I was 14…)

    • Jessie Erikson

      also everybody, do give me a break with the jess thing because i have not re-watched grown up jess (so I’m open to his growth, but teen jess was the worst), since i needed a serious break from re-watching after rory started having affairs and hanging out with logan and generally upped her level of pretentious privileged whining and fascination with the ~excitement~ that is logan AKA OLD WHITE MONEY

    • Arianna Aguilar

      THANK YOU. Why don’t more people realize Rory is the worst? I only saw the whole show as a college-aged person and from start to finish I thought Rory was the worst kind of person. And to be honest, the kind of person I have always disliked as a kid but even more as an adult who more consciously hates rich people.

  • Isabel

    It is painful that she didn’t go to Paris!! Yes to this, all of this!

  • Natalie L Howlett

    I’m so glad that ‘nice guy’ Ross is becoming universally acknowledged. Like the episode where Ben has a Barbie is one of those where he really gets my goat and it doesn’t even have to do with Rachel.

  • Shevaun

    DEAN IS A POSSESSIVE EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATIVE MONSTER SHIT HEAD. HE IS A FREQUENT SHOUTER. AND A WHINER. NEVER EVER DEAN.

    I REALIZE THAT I AM SHOUTING. IRONY.

  • theperriertree

    I am so glad this conversation happened because I have always been team Joey. Can we talk about how Ross almost misses the birth of his fist child because he’s fighting with Susan, meanwhile Joey is helping a literal stranger (and single mother) give birth???

  • Jules Harding

    Guys, let’s not forget about Tag.

  • rachel

    The hook for this article on Facebook was “would friends have ended differently if it was made in 2017” and the moment I read it I said, out loud (while sitting alone in my bedroom) “god I hope this article is about Rachel and Joey being soulmates!” Glad to see this is an opinion shared by many others.

  • Lil

    Omg yes I remembering having to hold in vomit as I watched the Friends last season back in the day! Ross is Exhibit A of that one ex to leave behind in the past forever -like don’t even stay facebook aquaintances with.

  • Perla

    I’m so glad this is being talked about because I cannot watch any of those episodes where Ross does that shit to Rachel without boiling with anger. Ross is the literal worst pecker of a human. I don’t however agree that Rachel should have ended up with Joey, but I have no valid arguement for this reasoning other than: EWW! I think Rachel should have just gone to Paris to get her dream job and maybe *gasp* not ended up with any man!

  • kforkarli

    I loved Dean as a teenager. So first run through I was very anti-Jess. Now though, I’m all about Jess and super anti Logan and think Dean is gross. Jess is still a shit boyfriend. Plus, in the beginning Dean was Jess, as in, he was well read and he was clever but then they turned him into a dummy and Jess was all aloof and cool. Logan was boring and rich and I hate the entirety of the revival. Ugh. (I have a lot of thoughts on this. Thanks for letting me vent them.) Also, Ross sucks but on re-watch is actually a very good comedy player.

    • lateshift

      The thing about Jess, even at his worst moments, was that he never made demands on other people, or emotionally extorted them, or depended on them for his own sense of self-worth. You could make the case that, probably due to his family history, he took that self-sufficiency a bit too far. But it also meant that he was the only one who never tried to change Rory in some fundamental way, and was never a horndog or cheater. (Dean cheated on his wife and dumped Rory in front of all her friends. Logan was an enabler who ran away after a single fight and slept with half the state of Connecticut, then wanted her to abandon her dreams AT AGE 22, before she’d even had a chance to start pursuing them, just to follow him across the country and support his. And made it an all-or-nothing referendum on their future together.) #TeamJess

  • Sophie

    This is a FAB article, definitely made my morning. Ross is such a damp squib! Haha

  • I agree with all of this.

  • Rachel Lara

    Nope. Dean is a Ross. #teamjess

  • Arianna Aguilar

    Ross and Rachel have no chemistry and never had anything that made any sense as “falling in love.” They are the fakest least believable couple I have ever seen on TV. What is wrong with people?

  • OliviaAndersonBrown

    Let’s talk about how all the men on Gilmore Girls are kinda the living worst.

  • Kay

    Just to be clear I really love friends, so so much. But there is sooooo much misogyny/homophobia (same coin,2sides), and I propose to you that it is CHANDLER who is the worst. Ross is bad, joey is bad (one joke is that he objectifies women to the point that he even objectifies female pigs in National Geographic), but joey legit cares, and Ross is given a cheating/divorce neurosis background. Chandler belittles, stereotypes, condescends, freaks the fuck out about joey liking potpourri and gets away with it all under the guise of being an underdog who is always punching up. Underdog how? His family was rich enough to have a servant and send him to boarding school, and he is one of the best paid of the friends. No, his underdogness is specifically that he is unsuccessful with women, with a side of having a gay father. The premise of chandler is that a guy who can’t get women is basically a girl and deserves to be bitter and caustic about his girlish powerlessness, and is more pitiable than a poor guy- joey is poor and celebrated, chandler is rich and pitied. But chandler acting like he’s entitled to be a dick all the time is arguably the stink that women immediately get wind of and walk away from. The show never makes this point, it just reduces Monica to a neurotic stereotype so that chandler’s partner makes his limited worldview plausible. But I really really love friends, even chandler.

  • Ciccollina

    I have never watched Friends but found this so so interesting! It’s crazy watching shows from only 15 years ago and thinking WOW that shit would SO not fly right now! Think about half of the casually racist stuff that happens in SATC and Seinfeld, it is out of control yet at the time, so so fine. I guess Friends contains a bunch of the same ideas we’ve grown out of.

  • belle

    I haven’t even read this article yet but lemme say that RACHEL SHOULD HAVE STAYED ON THE PLANE

  • Emily Holtzman

    Dean is trash!!!!!

  • As long as no one questions the sanctity of Pacey and Joey I’m good.