The Meaning Of ’90s Sitcoms, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 24 2015 @ 2:27pm

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Last weekend we plumbed it, with a particular focus on Friends. Now that the show can be streamed on Netflix, Ruth Graham has been re-watching it – and finding that of all the characters, Chandler is “the most agonizingly obsolete,” not least when it comes to his alleged homophobia:

Chandler, identified in Season 1 as having a “quality” of gayness about him, is endlessly paranoid about being perceived as insufficiently masculine. He’s freaked out by hugs, and by Joey having a pink pillow on his couch. (“If you let this go, you’re going to be sitting around with your fingers soaking in stuff!) In retrospect, the entire show’s treatment of LGBTQ issues is awful, a fault pointedly illustrated by the exhaustive clip-compilation “Homophobic Friends.”

But Chandler’s treatment of his gay father, a Vegas drag queen played by Kathleen Turner, is especially appalling, and it’s not clear the show knows it. It’s one thing for Chandler to recall being embarrassed as a kid, but he is actively resentful and mocking of his loving, involved father right up until his own wedding (to which his father is initially not invited!). Even a line like “Hi, Dad” is delivered with vicious sarcasm. Monica eventually cajoles him into a grudging reconciliation, which the show treats as an acceptably warm conclusion. But his continuing discomfort now reads as jarringly out-of-place for a supposedly hip New York 30-something—let alone a supposedly good person, period.