The Meaning Of ’90s Sitcoms, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 26 2015 @ 3:00pm

Many readers aren’t buying Ruth Graham’s view that Friends, and especially Chandler, were homophobic:

I’m sorry, but Friends is mocking homophobia, not displaying it. As a soon-to-be married gay man, I find the idea that this relatively recent show being representative of some benighted era to be an example of ridiculous outrage-mongering.

Another sees “no nastiness in the Chandler bits”:

They aren’t so much about the fear of being gay as they are part of a larger theme of the character – his insecurity – which plays itself out in a number of ways.

Another reader:

First, I grow tired of peeling apart 1994 shows with 2015 sensibilities. Second, the author of that piece has not acknowledged a major part of Chandler’s story:

His father abandoned him. There is no “loving, involved” father, just one who announced he was leaving the family. Whose bed he was leaving for is immaterial.

As for the gay-panic, this would have been the early 1980s when Mr. Bing left. They were in wealthy, WASPy Long Island. Plenty of gossip for a pre-teen boy to deal with. But no, let’s hate the character. (I can tell you that Ruth Graham hasn’t responded to numerous complaints about this in the comment sections. It’s a shoehorning of an agenda onto a popular character and then a cowardly retreat.)

At some point, we have to make a decision to take older shows as they are. Picking them apart now is a miserable experience.

Another piles on:

Ruth Graham reminds me of the character on Friends played by Brooke Shields, who didn’t know the difference between TV/entertainment and real life.

One more reader’s take:

The fear of being thought gay was (and still is) one of the key comic motifs of Two and a Half Men, yesterday’s most popular network sitcom, and of The Big Bang Theory, today’s most popular one.  And, of course, how can we ignore the Seinfeld “not that there’s anything wrong with that” episode? In fact, I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the eternal comic themes of American mainstream comedy, just like stupid husbands, wives who don’t want to have sex, children who disdain their parents’ cluelessness, etc.

So I don’t see this as truly homophobic.  It’s sitcom comedy, which in its classic form is based in cliches and plays on our fears and desires.  Even Will & Grace, considered the breakthrough network show for gays, frequently played up the comic themes of Will acting in a cliched gay manner and Grace being the classic “fag hag”. If we can’t laugh at cleverly-done comic pieces like this without being considered homophobic, then we’ve all lost our senses of humor.