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”Friends” – Stereotyping, Representation, Audience and the Sitcom Genre

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You have been watching various episodes of the popular sitcom ‘FRIENDS’. Using this to support your essay, think about the idea of sitcom? What is it? Why is it so popular?

Analyse ‘FRIENDS’ taking into consideration, stereotyping, representation, audience and the sitcom genre.

‘Friends’ is an American sitcom based in glamorous city, New York. Like most sitcoms from America, this has been a hit all over the world.

Friends are about six people in their mid-twenties doing every day things.

There’s fusspot Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette), Clueless Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Shopaholic Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Sweet, neurotic Ross (David Schwimmer) and hunky Joey (Matt Le Blanc). And then there’s wisecracking Chandler (Matthew Perry).

They all live in New York, in expensive and desirable apartments. This conveys to as viewers that their lives are very busy, ‘normal’ and they are well off with good jobs. Joey and Chandler share an apartment together and across the hallway live Rachel and Monica. Phoebe and Ross live some where else but in the later series Ross moves in to an apartment that is opposite Chandler and Monica’s block, the very same apartment where the ‘big fat ugly naked guy’ used to live!

He was a character who always parades around his apartment in the nude. In one episode they tried to poke him taped up chopsticks all the way from they apartment block. I think his purpose, as a character is to show that we all get ‘weird’ neighbours but we all are the same and all run different lives. This is evidence on how comedy is created, showing things that we would never do or even dream of doing, but we can see the consequences straight from our black box in the lounge.

Rachel is the sexy one.

She is fashion conscious, always wears nice clothes. She’s really sensitive, cries really easily and always forgetful.

She went to high school with Monica. Rachel was about to marry her boyfriend Barry but dumped him at the altar. This perhaps is stereotyping that a young beautiful girls should maybe have more boyfriends before they got married, having a bit of fun. She later met up with Monica and is staying in her apartment, taking over Phoebe’s room, as she couldn’t stand Monica’s cleanness any more, which resulted, to her moving. This is a stereotypical images stating that blondes have more fun and must make mess in order to be normal. She is represented by her looking her best at all times and with the best hair do’s that all teenage girls would die for.

Her parents are really wealthy and she used to live off them. But her friends made her get a job as a waitress in caf� called Central Perk, where they all socialise. As everyone needs to set off by themselves and grow up in the real world.

Monica is the clean one.

She is obsessed with cleanliness/hygiene and is always cleaning up after her friends. She was very overweight when she was at high school but fought that and is now very slim. This represents that if you want to lose weight, never give up because she did it. This also shows that teenage girls worry about a their appearance a lot as they are teased and bullied at school and results to how far it will take to change their look and image and be ‘normal’.

She’s also skilful at sports and is a perfectionist; she’s got to be the best and always needs to win. This obsession could have been triggered by her success in losing so much weight, which could have made her in believe any dream is worth chasing for, because you will reach it eventually.

Monica ‘s wonderful at cooking as she is a chef at a restaurant, but it wasn’t easy at first as in her first job, all her colleagues wanted to kill her! Or at least it seemed that way. But she fights her way through, as once, she shouts at them as she couldn’t take it any more, and they immediately listen to her. She is represented by always dressing smartly, and is the more mature one of the group.

Phoebe is the ‘weird’ one.

She always says strange and bizarre things that have nothing to do with the subject that her friends are talking about. She comes from a strange background, She lived on the streets when she was a kid, her brother (Frank) likes to ‘burn stuff’ and she has a twin sister called Ursula in which Joey falls in love with at one point.

She plays the guitar and comes up with weird and wacky songs like her famous ‘Smelly cat’, which she plays in Central Perk.

She is represented as stereotypical ‘veggie’

She loves animals and wouldn’t hurt them but in one episode she wore a minx coat but didn’t really mind as she said minxes are horrible, this adds to the humour, as she is known to love all living things – good or bad – and there we see her wearing animal fur. I think she just might be putting on an act to look ‘nice’. She is superstitious as she is a bit psychic and she thought a cat was her mum. This is stereotyping blondes by making out that she is a ‘dizzy blonde’ and is a bit slow at sometimes. Phoebe hasn’t got a stable job as its different all the time. They range from a masseuse to collecting money for the poor to selling dead Christmas trees.

Joey is the slow-witted one.

When someone tells a joke it takes a while for Joey to understand which just adds to the humour. He’s the one who mostly brings back girls to his bachelor pad, which annoys Chandler, as he doesn’t get much luck with woman. This is stereotype that Italians are all ‘hunks’ and womanisers. Can also be described as a Casanova.

The ‘Italian Stallion’ loves sports, especially American Football, Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey. He is quite childish as he makes up games like ‘Ultimate Fireball’ where a ball is on fire and you have to flick it through a hoop.

Joey comes from a large Italian family, which consists of his parents and his 7 sisters.

He’s a struggling actor, who has started off in a commercial advertising a milk pourer, plays and then in a soap called ‘Day Of Our Lives’ which he plays a neurosurgeon. But the produces reviled him so they killed him off by making him fall down an elevator shaft. He is represented by having very amusing phrases ‘How you doin’ which fits into the situation perfectly when he says it.

Chandler is the funny one.

He’s the one that cracks jokes to people and makes fun of them. He is best friends with Joey and shares an apartment with him. But the friendship was hanging by a thread at one point when chandler slept with one of Joey’s girlfriend. But made up later as true friends do – as the sitcom shows the ups and downs of friendship.

Joey and him love watching Baywatch and have even set his alarm on his microwave to the time it starts so they won’t miss it. This is stereotypical as they are saying two single men in their earlier twenties, with their testosterone running high, would to all this trouble just to gulp at a slim female body running on a beach. He is well educated and has a stable job. But they stereotype him by him having another side of him. He is also very sarcastic, which shows he is a insecure person inside and has to make fun of others for him to feel good.

He comes from a broken family where his father left him when he was young and his mum smokes a lot and he was mainly neglected during his childhood. This shows that every one comes from different backgrounds and that we should respect that. He is represented by having a lot gestures with the hands and the jokes he cracks to his friends.

Ross is the ‘dinosaur’ guy.

He seems to be unlucky with girls. He has three unsuccessful marriages already! His first wife, Susan, turned out to be a lesbian but he had already had a child with her. His second wife, Emily, and him were doing very well and tied the knot, but when saying each other names in the marriage process, he blurted out Rachel instead of Emily. His third wife, a girlfriend for years, Rachel, and him, were in Las Vegas visiting Joey and his ‘new job’. Things got a bit out of hand including a huge amount alcohol, which forced them to stumble to a cheap marriage service where got wedded there. This unusual situation just adds to the humour of the show! Throughout the show we see how he copes with this, but it seems he is doing fine thanks to his best friends giving him some advice. Representing that friends are always there for you, you just have to ask. He is sophisticated and well educated, like his sister.

He is a palaeontologist, which is the study of past geological periods and fossils. His parents are more fond of him over Monica, although Monica tries so hard to change their views, which reflects real life sibling rivalry where there is always a favourite child. He is represented by constantly changing the tone of his voice to suit the mood he is in, mostly very whiney.

Sitcom is informal situation comedy.

It is based on realistic situation that happen in our everyday lives. But some how makes it funny and pleasant for the viewers to watch.

I think Friends target their audience at 15 – 35 years olds because this is the time where you need your friends the most. When you start finding a job or wanting a shoulder to cry on, your friends are always there to help.

Friends show that if you don’t have any friends, you don’t get to do what they do on the show.

Friends is set in New York, the largest city in the United States. The States are filled with cars, people and their famous yellow taxis, as there are more than 11 million people that live there. Their apartments are on the Island of Manhattan where some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers tower above its streets.

Chandler and Monica’s apartment block is on top of their favourite hang out, Central Perk. Their apartments are quite modern and new as we can see from the inside.

In Monica and Rachel’s apartment there is nothing you won’t find in a normal home. They have a balcony, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a lounge and kitchen that are attached together. Their apartment is quite large where as Chandler’s and Joey’s are much smaller. They don’t have a balcony but everything else is the same.

They have a foosball table that doubles as a dining table, so they can play and eat at the same time! They also have two leather chairs, a homemade unit (by Joey) and a duck and a chicken running around.

Joey calls it his ‘Bachelor Pad’ but Monica criticizes him ‘How many girls have you actually brought up here?’

I find that American sitcoms are much better and more amusing than the British sitcoms. And American ones are much more successful.

We can look at Friends and Men Behaving Badly for example. Friends can be seen all over the world, I went to Hong Kong and they were showing it on TV. Men Behaving Badly can only be seen in the UK. This could be because the produces of Men behaving Badly had their target audience on the English viewers and only intended the program to be watched by the Brits and no one else. Where as Friends may have targeted a worldwide audience at the beginning and started from there.

But all of the best sitcom that are successful all tend to be American ones. It’s just something about their comedy that we can’t resist.

Also Friends is filmed with a live audience, which shows Friends is more professional in a way as we, the audience, can see what they get up to while filming, seeing all the outtakes. Men Behaving Badly is filmed in an enclosed studio with only the crew inside.

Camera angles play a very important part in a sitcom; the mood, the angle and the way it is shot can change the whole scene into a good or bad one.

In Series 4 Episode 1 ‘The One With The Jelly Fish’ the sitcom friends starts off with a taster of what is to follow after the title music, it shows you a bit of the action before it actual starts, just to get the audience going and getting them worked up.

It starts off with Joey telling us what happened previously about the story of the whole Ross and Rachel thing. We see Joey’s whole body, lying on the ground. Then it shows us clips of it, with Joey narrative guiding us through the scenes. He speaks in a fast pace to show how exciting this is and makes us listen up closely.

After the title music, there is an establishing shot of the beach house they were staying at. In Ross and Rachel’s conversation, when Ross asks Rachel a question, there is immediately a fade in shot of Rachel’s reaction. It was a mid shot so we could see Rachel’s facial expressions and the gestures she conducts to occupy her line. Which helps us understand the true meaning.

In sitcoms, I found out that they mostly use a mid shot to film the scenes. Because this angle shows everything, the actors and the background, without losing any detail of the other when using another angle.

While watching that episode, I noticed that they only use a long shot when someone is entering or leaving the room. Like when Ross entered the room to meet Rachel, the Camera switched to a long shot, to see both their whole body, walking together towards the middle and kiss. This method is to show maybe what they are wearing on that episode to give the wardrobe manger some credit!

They also use a lot of establishing shots to set the scene that is to follow. They have establishing shots of the apartment block they live in and the city life.

American sitcoms tend to have more sexual diminuendos than British ones. I think this makes it a lot more funnier and in whole a better sitcom.

I think Friends is so successful because it deals with universal themes – Falling in love, falling out of love, getting a job, losing a job…Stuff that everybody can relate to.

Fact – During the last season, Friends became the most watched sitcom in the world, viewed by more than 30 million people in the US and Britain alone.

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