Since it first aired, Friends has been broadcast in 175 countries and shaped the lives of a generation. In Saul Austerlitz’s new book, Still Friends: 25 Years of the TV Show that Defined an Era he explains the significance behind the unforgettable sitcom. 

But does this classic now represent an unattainable future for young people? Or has the idea of success always seemed like a fantasy? An article by Jenny Colgan from The Spectator recently explored this question. 

Why was Friends inspirational?

The 1990s is a nostalgic time for some and a decade that brought us iconic programmes such as Friends. Unlike Sex and the City or How I Met Your Mother, Friends depicted a more realistic life. It showed young people, striving for the achievable. The show focused on relatable characters who had dreams like us and made city life look enticing.

In 1993 David Crane and Marta Kaufman began writing, ‘Insomnia Café’. They pitched their idea to NBC but it was rejected. After multiple name and script changes, they gained approval and started filming what we now know as Friends. It was a sitcom based around the lives of six twenty-somethings, living in New York. All six characters were pursuing very different career paths; fashion, academia and hospitality, to name a few. Over the course of ten years that brought us ten seasons, audiences have experienced many milestones and learnt a lot about life, love and relationships from the diverse sextet. Getting to know Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross a bit more with each season. 

According to Friends taught us many things. Most notably:

  1. Rachel taught us that if you work hard and you’re confident, you can do anything
  2. Chandler taught us that you are not defined by your job title 
  3. Joey taught us to always go for what we want 
  4. They all taught us it’s okay not to have a plan

Development of Social Media

Since Friends ended in 2004, social media platforms have gained more popularity and arguably, have created less realistic expectations for young people. With multiple platforms to choose from, social media is a 24-hour bustling business with a staggering 3.196 billion users. 

When Friends was first broadcast, the only way to ensure a brighter future for yourself would be through education and hard work. Individuals would need to send CVs or contact businesses directly. In 2019 things are a bit different. You only have to open the Instagram or Twitter apps to see how young people are now trying to achieve their career goals. Or turn on this year’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and see Vlogger Saffron Barker taking to the stage. Times are changing and with contestants like Saffron, I would argue that young people are clearly showing a desire to be more than just successful: they want to be noticed and admired. There is an obvious hunger for achievement amongst the younger generation. 

Is Friends still relevant today?

One of the greatest things about Friends was its ability to capture the intricacies of being young and starting a career. And it has done this in a way that has proved timeless. Entertainment website Odyssey explored this idea:

‘the issues the characters faced throughout the series are ones that people can still relate to today. At one time or another, each character struggled with their career, whether it was starting over, having an unfulfilling job, being fired, or being unemployed’.

There are thousands of twenty-somethings right now waking without a clear indication of the future. It’s like a right of passage. Everyone at some point will go through this sort of existential crisis. I graduated from university 2 years ago, with a degree that I’m never going to use. I always had a passion but I was concerned about turning it into a career. It took me time to realise what I really wanted. I would honestly consider my future, as it presently stands, rather unattainable. I’m writing a book I’m not sure will ever get published and I’m striving for a career that seems somewhat out of reach. But programmes like Friends are still necessary. They give us the push we need when times are tough and remind us not to give up on our dreams.

Historical Dreams: Martin Luther King

I have and always will be a dreamer. And I can certainly say my future still seems fairly unattainable. But watching programmes such as Friends or learning more about Martin Luther King Jr has certainly given me some perspective. 

King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia during a time of apartheid and civil unrest. His childhood was tough, he was often beaten by his father and suffered from depression. So it was natural to assume that King would grow up without hopes or dreams. And this is why his accomplishments are even more remarkable. 

In 1953, King completed his studies in Systematic Theology, earning a doctorate. The same year, King got married to Coretta Scott. The couple moved to Montgomery, Alabama and soon had four children. Within a year of moving, Montgomery had become a highly segregated city. During his career, King worked as a Christian Minister, a writer, humanitarian and of course, civil rights activist. 

On August 28th 1963, Martin Luther King Jr delivered one of the most monumental speeches the world has ever heard. King called for an end to civil unrest and an end to racism by demanding equal economic and social rights. King was an inspiration and demonstrated that a successful future is attainable for anyone, if they’re willing to fight for their dreams. Like Friends, King has become a cultural icon. But in his own right. 

A young person’s view in 2019

Throughout Friends Joey tried to pursue an acting career. There were a lot of stumbling blocks but he was determined because he loved to act. I had a conversation recently about this concept. University is a time when young people have the opportunity to find out who they are and develop their talents. I spoke to someone in their early twenties, who did an art degree. He told me that there are moments when he gets excited and there are days when he thinks he should give up. But ultimately, he believes he owes it to himself to try. He has a dream that he desperately wants to pursue.

To Conclude

As human beings we are hardwired to plan the unattainable. Throughout childhood, all we want to be is an astronaut or a pop star. I think in some way, fantasy drives us. I would argue that having dreams, can be the driving force for our lives. After all, where would the civil rights movement be without Martin Luther King’s dream?

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

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