Home > #3, Media grammar > My Favorite Show: Friends

My Favorite Show: Friends

            I have chosen one of my favorite shows, Friends, to examine through the lens of media grammar. I think that it is safe to say that I am a Friends fanatic. Now, our book, Converging Media, by John V. Pavlik and Shawn McIntosh, uses Friends as an example of subtext. The book states that a possible subtext of the show is that perhaps a person’s friends should be people who are the same race. While this is a possible subtext, I see a different message in the show. To me, the subtext is the idea that life never goes as expected and that a person can do anything he or she sets his or her mind to. Regarding the print media, Friends was not so much in newspapers unless it was listed under the television guide of shows playing that day. However, after the finale show of the tenth and final season of Friends aired, popular magazines such as People had articles regarding the reaction of the finale and history of the show. I even recall, maybe about five or so years ago, coming across a quiz in a magazine, perhaps Seventeen, that featured a quiz to find out, “Which Friends character are you?”. Last year I did a speech on Friends and while doing research of the history and background of the show, I came across many, many fan sites. These sites included everything from summaries of the episodes to biographies of the actors. I have also purchased a clip off of iTunes that showed how the show started and how it took off. The show did include a few known songs throughout its lifetime, but the song played during the introduction before each show was what really caught on. Even now if someone were to hear the song, perhaps even if they never even watched the show, would think of the show Friends.

            I would say that the genre of the show is comedy that is drawn from real life situations. Sure, there are some ridiculous things that happen in the show, but overall watching the show is like watching reality, except it’s funnier. The show revolves around the lives of six twenty-some year olds trying to find themselves and make it in New York City. The show was, at first, geared toward people in their 20’s, but soon caught on to people of all ages. The show is from no one character’s specific point of view, therefore giving the audience the all-knowing view of the show – sometimes knowing more than the characters themselves. It was my favorite show all throughout high school, but my parents enjoyed the humor as well. While thinking about the show drawing from the online environment, my mind goes to a few episodes in later seasons where common online situations occur. For example, one of the characters meets a woman online and begins to chat with her, which is someone that many people have done. In another episode, one of the characters finds a website to reconnect with his old college friends. To me, this was the shows way of “keeping up with the times” and continually trying to add humor to the show that is not only funny, but also relatable.

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  1. tessdoez
    January 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Good point about the plot keeping up with the times with the inclusion of online dating and use of the Internet.
    The point of subtext isn’t, as the book says, to see conspiracies or to highlight the negative side of something you enjoy, but it is important to be able to identify the underlying assumptions that are present in a text. What does the show say about the society and culture it represents, even if that isn’t the main point? The subtext you propose is a good start: life is unpredictable and the characters are able to achieve anything that they set out to achieve. But who are the characters and how do they fit into society? Maybe white middle-to-upperclass people with trustfunds (based on the spacious apartments they inhabit, the amount of money they spend and the endless amount of freetime they seem to have) can do whatever they like and achieve neat things, but do you think that this misrepresentation of what it’s like to live and “make it” in New York might have a slightly less simple and uplifting subtext?

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