23 Controversial ‘Friends’ Moments That Don’t Hold Up In 2020

Friends is one of the best sitcoms ever made, and that’s a fact. So much so, that even though 15 years have passed since the season finale, millions of fans continue watching the show to this day and the main cast still earns $20 million each year. But no matter how hilarious the show is and how witty the plot is, many aspects of Friends haven’t stood de test of time. What I mean is that many of the jokes that made us laugh back in the 90s may be regarded as problematic or even inappropriate in 2020. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and recall the 23 most controversial moments of Friends, some of which I’m sure you never noticed.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

#23. The One Where Chandler Is Paranoid Of Coming Off As Gay

In The One Where Nana Dies Twice on season 1, Chandler becomes all paranoid all of a sudden when his friends confess they thought he was gay when they first met him. But why is he so worried about coming off as “feminine”?

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Without a doubt, Chandler had serious masculinity issues. He’s so ashamed of people thinking he’s gay that he asks his friends whether he should change the way he talks or the way he combs his hair. When I watch this episode today, I can’t help but ask myself. why did the writers make Chandler feel so ashamed about this? We don’t wanna be giving out the wrong message and making people feel ashamed of their sexual identity!

#22. The Ones With Joey’s Objectifying Attitude Towards Women

I’m not against the fact that Joey dates a lot of women all the time per se, but why did he have such a degrading attitude towards women all the time? I don’t know about you, but I think the scriptwriters had no need of making his character so sexist.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

In my opinion, many of his jokes were subtle forms of female objectification, such as the add he published in search of a hot female roommate. Plus, he always treated women who weren’t his friends as if they were objects of sexual exploitation and always promised to call them back after sex, only to ignore them afterward. Ghosting, much?

#21. The One Where The Brides Don’t Kiss

The One with the Lesbian Wedding was one of the highest-grossing episodes of the show’s first seasons, and we can see why, as it was one of the first times a TV show featured a gay wedding. Even though I applaud that they came up with this storyline 20 years before the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S., there’s something about this episode that doesn’t quite convince me.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

If it was a wedding, why did the couple never kiss? Are heterosexuals the only ones that do? According to Jane Sibbett, the actress who played Carol: “We weren’t allowed to kiss, and we were disappointed by that. It wasn’t not allowed, it just wasn’t filmed, that segment of the wedding”.

#20. The One Where Ross Dates A Teenage Student

Remember the time when Ross dated Elizabeth, one of his teenage students at college? As funny as those chapters were, I have my doubts whether it’s appropriate for a college professor to date an 18-year-old girl student.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

I know that Elizabeth was legally old enough to engage in a consented relationship with a man 15 years older than her, but we can’t deny that this storyline was at least a little bit controversial. It kind of feels like an abuse of power, from Ross’ side.

#19. The One When Chandler Is Disgusted By Monica’s Cornrows

Remember the time they all went to Barbados to attend Ross’ lecture? The day before their flight back home, Monica chose to get cornrows. Can you remember what Chandler’s reaction was?

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Chandler was absolutely disgusted by them and he didn’t care to hide it. I know, he doesn’t have to like them and it’s OK for him to speak his mind out, but there are limits. Does he really have to express such physicial rejection towards his own wife just for having her hair braided? Let the woman be, for crying out loud!

#18. The One Where Ross Pretended To Be A Masseur

Remember the time Phoebe spent a few days in Ross’ apartment to give Monica and Chandler some privacy and ended up scheduling some of her massage appointments in his place? At first, Ross felt that his privacy was being invaded and wasn’t too keen on the idea of Phoebe using his own house as a workplace… until a pretty blonde girl showed up.

Photo: Courtesy of BuzzFeed

Ross was so dazed by her beauty, that he pretended to be a licensed masseuse just so that she would take her clothes off in front of him. Little did Ross know that her 60-year-old father was the client and not her. Tricking a girl into getting her half-naked? That’s one big fat no-no.

#17. The One Where They Finally Let A Black Woman Speak

Has it ever dawned on you that there weren’t any black people in any of the first 9 seasons of the show? Well, actually, the first time that a black actor was given a line was in Season 7, when Gabrielle Union played Joey’s and Ross’s date, but it was such a minor role that it hardly counts.

Photo: Courtesy of Grazia Daily

As you probably remember, the first and only relevant black character to star in this white-washed show was that of Charlie Wheeler (played by Aisha Tyler, the paleontology professor Ross falls in love with. Tyler, in turn, considers that her role was groundbreaking.

“I think why it worked was that they didn’t make it into a ‘very special episode of Friends,’ where the friends suddenly confront issues of race, or try to somehow counterbalance the previous eight seasons’ relative lack of diversity. I was just a character on the show, with her own appeal and quirks and foible.”

#16. The One Where Ross Makes Creepy Comments About Always Picturing Rachel Naked

Remember the time when Rachel had to go on a date but was in such pain that she couldn’t even get dressed on her own? In a moment of desperation, she asks Ross for help, which was a bit uncomfortable given they had broken up just recently.

Photo: Courtesy of BuzzFeed

When Rachel asks him to turn around while she gets her nightgown off, Ross refuses to do so. Instead, he says there was no point in him looking another way, as he had already seen her naked tons of times and could picture her naked whenever he wanted to. Is it me, or were his comments a bit creepy?

#15. The One Where Ross Won’t Let Ben Play With A Doll

It’s perfectly clear that Ross was always the conservative one of the group, but sometimes he took things way too far. Remember the time he couldn’t stand to see his son playing with a Barbie doll? While fans didn’t find this so shocking back in the 90s, the newer generations didn’t let this go.

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube

Ross spends hours and hours struggling for Ben to drop the Barbie and play with other “men’s toys” like this soldier. Loosen up with the hetero-norm, Ross! However, this wasn’t the only time Ross tried to push his sexist idea of masculinity on others. If you wanna know what I mean, then slide to #4!

#14. The One Where Ross Tries To Seduce His Cousin

Remember The One with Ross and Monica’s Cousin? Ross hadn’t seen her cousin since his childhood years, so he was taken by surprise at how gorgeous she had grown to be. Such was his attraction to her that he made a pass on his own cousin and unsuccessfully tried to kiss her.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

This episode was released in 2001, and the truth is that the world was a completely different place back then. So much so, that fans didn’t seem to bother by the fact that the whole episode focused on Ross’ quest to get her cousin into bed with him, despite the fact she had never flirted with him or shown any type of sexual interest. Of course, he only made things worse when he apologizes by saying “I haven’t had sex in a very long time”. I’m aware it was a joke, but doesn’t it perpetuate the false idea that men aren’t able of controlling their sexual impulses when they’re horny?

#13. When Ross Broke Up With Bonnie For Being Bald

Don’t get me wrong, I always thought Ross was a hilarious character and that David Schwimmer’s portrayal was brilliant, but he leaves us with no choice but to include him one more time on this list of inappropriate Friends moments.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Remember when he broke up with Bonnie after she shaved her head? I know, her repressed feelings for Rachel also played its part, but breaking up with your girlfriend for becoming blond is a bit shallow and even degrading. Either his feelings for Bonnie had been fake all along, or he’s a total douchbag.

#12. The One Where Monica Calls Joey Gay For Teaching Mr. Treeger To Dance

If you think about it, Friends is full of subtle homophobic jokes, but while these moments weren’t as visible back in the 90s, they would definitely raise an eyebrow from a contemporary viewer. Here’s another example that proves my point.

Photo: Courtesy of

Remember the time when Joey taught Mr. Treeger how to dance in order to avoid Monica and Rachel from getting evicted? Monica asks Joey if he was “gay yet”, and although it was meant to be harmless, these types of jokes should definitely be frowned upon.

#11. The Ones Where They Make Gay Jokes About Chandler

We’ve already mentioned the time when Chandler felt insecure about coming off as gay, but actually, this was a recurring joke throughout the show’s ten seasons. All of Chandler’s friends teased him at least once for his “gay attitudes” or for speaking in a “gayish way”.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

For example, remember the time Monica said to him “There’s enthusiastic, and there’s just plain gay“. She also called him gay when he admitted he liked listening to the Annie soundtrack, just as Joey makes fun of his “manhood” for having slept with very few women. I know what you’re gonna say: they’re nothing but jokes! Well, I only agree to a certain extent, cause if the same joke repeats itself in every single season, then that means the show is conveying – albeit unwillingly – homophobic values.

#10. The One Where Chandler Makes Fun Of Monica’s Weight

When watching the show with 2020 lenses, the repeated jokes about Monica’s former weight should definitely raise our eyebrows. If you ask me, this long-running punchline is quite offensive.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

What bugged me the most were not the times when Monica laughs about having been overweight as a child, but instead, the times when Chandler fat-shames her. The fact that Monica wears a fat suit to portray her early self has also sparked some media backlash in recent times. Why didn’t they just hire a fat actress?

#9. The One With The Sexist Jokes About Joey’s Bag

And we’re back to the show’s homophobic jokes. Have you seen The One with Joey’s Bag? In that episode, Joey buys a “unisex” shoulder bag from Ralph Lauren, only to be teased by all his friends for carrying it.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

If you watch this episode with modern lenses, it’s hard to understand why everyone was even bothered by seeing a man with a bag. All of Joey’s friends tease him for having bought such a “feminine” item and at one point Chandler says: “Yeah, pulling flowers out of it makes the bag look a lot more masculine“. What should the lesson be? Let people wear and carry whatever they like, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation!

#8. The One Where Phoebe Makes A Sexist Comment About Ben

It may come as a shock to find Phoebe on this list, right? Even though she was always the liberal, open-minded one of the group, she made a very sexist comment about Ben on Season 10. Can you guess which scene we’re talking about?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

When Phoebe says she was sure Monica’s adoptive children were going to be girls, Ross replies: “Phoebe, you were sure Ben was gonna be a girl“. Phoebe replies back: “Have you seen him throw a ball?”, belittling him because of his lack of aptitude for sports. We’ve learned better by now, haven’t we?

#7. The One Where The Guys Take A Little Girl To Their Apartment

I’m pretty sure you didn’t see this one coming, am I right? In The One Where Rachel Quits, Ross accidentally breaks a little girl’s leg and tries to make it up to her by improvising a Space Camp simulation in Joey and Chandler’s flat.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Don’t you think it’s a bit weird for three grown men to take a 7-year-old girl to their house without even asking her parents for permission? I know they had good intentions, but still, people should understand it’s not OK to do this.

#6. The One Where They Make Fun Of Intersexuality

You were all probably blindfolded by Brad Pitt’s beauty in The One with the Rumor, so you probably missed out on the fact that they made quite degrading comments regarding intersexuality. Ross and his friend Will (played by Pitt) admit they had started a rumor back in their senior years that Rachel had been born a hermaphrodite and that their parents had flipped a coin to decide her sex.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

The way they addressed intersexuality was degrading as it was hurtful, mainly because many parents (or sometimes doctors) actually do arbitrarily choose the sex of their children when they’re born intersexual. Scriptwriter Marta Kauffman has taken the blame in a 2019 interview:

I might have not done the hermaphrodite stuff today if I had that to do over in the one with Brad Pitt”, she said.

#5. The One Where Ross Kisses Her Sister When She Was Passed Out

Here’s another apology of sexism that might have gone unnoticed back in those days. In The One Where the Stripper Cries, Monica finds out that her first kiss had actually been with her brother Ross. It turns out that Ross had thrown a party in his house back in his college years, and he enters his room only to find a fainted woman lying on his bed. Even though it was dark and he couldn’t even tell who she was, he kissed her.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we should all have learned that any unconsented sexual encounter should be utterly disapproved. In fact, making a pass on a woman who is passed out is nothing but sexual assault.

#4. The One Where Ross Can’t Handle Having A Male Nanny

Yeah, we’re back to the Ross backlash! In The One with the Male Nanny, Ross can’t seem to stand hiring a male nanny, so much so that he asks Rachel to fire him. Not only does he presume that being a nanny is necessarily a woman’s job, but he also presumes the nanny is gay.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Somebody, please tell Ross that homosexuality and taking care of kids aren’t a cause and consequence ASAP. id you know that a YouTube user made a 50-minute supercut of all the scenes where homosexuality became the punchline?

#3. The One Where They Bully Chandler’s Dad For Being A Drag Queen

Let’s be honest, folks: can Chandler’s jokes about his transgender father BE any more transphobic? Why is he so ashamed of having a drag queen father? Once again, the show’s message seems to be that sexual dissidents should feel ashamed of their identity.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Co-creator Marta Kauffman said she would change the show’s transgender storylines. “I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then“, she admitted. Kathleen Turner, the actress who played Chandler’s dad, also admitted that the show’s depiction of trans people didn’t “age well“.

#2. The One Where Rachel Gives Up Her Dream To Stay With Ross

Am I the only one who thinks Rachel shouldn’t have gotten out of the plane? In the season 10 finale, Rachel lands her dream job for Louis Vitton in Paris, but she changes her mind right when her flight to Paris was about to take off.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

In the end, Rachel gives up the job she had always dreamed, to go back to NYC and get back together with Ross. But why wasn’t Ross the one to make the sacrifice and move to Paris? Moving to Europe was the least he could have done.

#1. The One Where Ross Becomes A Controlling Boyfriend

When analyzed with feminist lenses, Ross and Rachel’s relationship was definitely toxic, and almost solely because of Ross. He was such a jealous and controlling boyfriend that it bordered emotional abuse.

Photo: Courtesy of Evoke

To begin with, he would never trust Rachel about her intentions towards her co-worker, Mark. He also felt belittled by Rachel’s increasingly successful career. Come on, Ross, stop being such a macho man all the time, I beg of you!

Related posts:

  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

  • Advertising

  • Advertising