Six Friends who Lived in Manhattan

Each character brings something different to the table whether it’s Chandler and his jokes, Joey and his love for food and flirting, Monica and her passion for cooking, Rachel’s fashion sense, Phoebe’s way of living life to the fullest, or the way Ross shows his affection. The blend of all these characters and their relationships is what makes the show great. This show also proves some valid points within the communication field that become very apparent as the show progresses.

My message for this paper is the consideration of gender roles/gender differences through situations in the show. In particular, I would be looking at the characters from the TV program, “ Friends ”, to perform my study. I chose Friends because most students in the class grew up watching this show. Many sitcoms at the time – let alone every other communication field within the Media (advertising, magazines, films, newspapers, etc.) – were riddled with formal sex/gender characters that show what living in modern society is really like. But Friends is a show that sticks out to many.

Analyzing the sitcom Friends in terms of gender equality or sexism, it seems like the overall show is perhaps written in conflict to the so-called male-dominated society; gender binaries that are traditionally known to keep down women. (Spangler) The show has conveyed an improvement in the depiction of women in television, through Rachel’s character.

A fashion enthusiast and Monica Geller’s best friend from childhood, Rachel first moves in with Monica in season one after nearly marrying Barry Farber who was her ex-boyfriend. Rachel and Ross are later involved in an on-again-off-again relationship throughout the series. Rachel dates other men during the series, such as an Italian neighbor, Paolo, in season one; Joshua Bergin, a client from Bloomingdale’s, in season four; and Joey Tribbiani in season ten.

In the season four episode of Friends ‘The One with the Embryo’, Joey and Chandler challenge Monica and Rachel to a quiz show-like game to see how much they know about each other. With Ross hosting a lightning round of rapid-fire questions, he asks Joey and Chandler what Rachel claims is her favorite movie, to which they respond Dangerous Liaisons. Ross follows their correct answer by asking them what Rachel’s actual favorite movie is, which a confident Joey tells him is Weekend at Bernie’s.

This show is a perfect example of how gender differences are prevalent not only in this hit television show but in real life as well. Friends explain how people who are going through different situations in their life are able to form different types of relationships and how various types of communication can alter the way each person precepts one another. In the show, Ross and Monica Geller are siblings who end up being right in the center of the whole friend group and they form romantic relationships with the other members of the friend group. Ross has had a crush on Rachel for almost his entire life, but he never thought that it would be possible for them to ever end up together because he sees her as being way out of his league. On the other hand, Monica has a strong attraction toward Chandler Bing who is also a member of their group. It becomes tough for Ross, Monica, and Chandler because Chandler and Ross are best friends in the show and they’re unsure about how everyone will react if they find out that Chandler and Monica have a romantic relationship forming.

This show relies heavily on non-verbal communication because it shows emotion within every character. Nonverbal communication such as body language is a vital component of our communication, and since scholars agree that there are some notable differences in the way men and women use body language, the study of gendered nonverbal communication as a social construction is vital to our understanding of how we create gendered identities. By studying the body language of the characters in the American sitcom Friends, and with a focus on leg postures, I examine how the show Friends enacts and represents stereotyped sex differences in body language. The study encompasses both the distribution of leg positions between the genders and what these postures seem to accomplish in interaction. As for the relationship between gender and leg postures, I observed the sitting positions of the characters Chandler, Ross, Joey, Monica, and Rachel in six episodes from the 1999/2000 season of Friends for the first study. For the analysis of leg postures in relation to the communicative situation, the entire corpus of ten episode recordings was used. Based on repeated inspection of scenes where leg positions could be studied in relation to gender and communication, systematic patterns were identified.

The results of the study are consistent with the findings of scholars like Vrugt and Luyerink (2000); women tend to sit in closed postures or with their legs crossed, which is regarded as feminine, while men sit in wide positions with their legs spread, which is regarded masculine. Furthermore, the characters/actors in Friends seem to perform their gender roles partly by using different leg positions and wideness of postures. However, leg positions alone were not found to be decisive in the messages communicated, and emotions and stance were communicated using verbal and other non-verbal channels and cues. Instead, leg positions remained gender-stereotypical regardless of the message communicated, and men and women seem to communicate the same message using different leg positions. It is therefore concluded that leg positions are an inherent part of “doing gender”, but that leg positions as such are not necessarily related to the type of message or emotional stance that is communicated.

Among the 6 main characters in the show, 3 of them are male and 3 are female. Having an even mix of the genders, it allows for a different type of communication compared to what it would be if the show was heavily dominated by one gender. The communication between a male and female is much more structured because each respected gender has a different way that they communicate with each other. In the first season of the sitcom, they show Ross’ admiration for Rachel and how he wanted to ask her to prom in High School but he was so nervous about how she would react because she was Monica’s best friend, which he felt weird about it. When Ross brought up the idea to Chandler, they went into a deep conversation about whether it was a good idea or not. He practiced his speech directly to Chandler and he made it look effortless. But, when Ross finally mustered up the courage to bring up the question directly to Rachel, he froze up and wasn’t able to get the words out of his mouth. This is a perfect example of how communication is much difference between people of the opposite sex.

Even though interpersonal communication between two people of the opposite gender is more complicated than communication between the same sex, the media portrays this in an interesting way. The media plays important role in today’s society. They report on current events, provide frameworks for interpretation, mobilize citizens with regard to various issues, reproduce predominant culture and society, and entertain (Llanos and Nina, 2011). As such, the media can be an important factor in the promotion of gender equality, both within the working environment (in terms of employment and promotion of female staff at all levels) and in the representation of women and men. The Media uses television shows (Friends being a perfect example) to visualize the issues between genders in society.

In Friends, every episode contains an issue within a person, and it seems to vary episode by episode. For example, in one episode Joey Tribbiani (who plays an actor in the show) was auditioning for a role in a Broadway show where they wanted him to dress up as a drag queen. Obviously, he didn’t feel comfortable with dressing up as somebody of the opposite sex, so they gave the role to a different actor. This enraged Joey because he knew that getting the part would give him a jumpstart to his career. Joey isn’t the only character in the show that deals with issues involving his gender. The next episode of the show included Rachel having trouble in her workplace because she’s dealing with sexual harassment day in and day out. This episode begins inside Bloomingdales which is where Rachel works, and it shows her boss constantly hitting on her and trying to make a move. This shows an issue within the female gender where they literally have to deal with this almost every day and they can be afraid to speak up because that would put their job on the line. Eventually, Rachel speaks up for herself and makes it known that she doesn’t feel comfortable when she arrives at work anymore. Tag, who is Rachel’s boss and also the perpetrator of this whole issue, apologizes and admits that he was wrong.

In modern society, women have always had a tougher time adjusting to certain situations than men do. It is tougher for a woman to stick up for herself and stand up to a more dominant male figure than it would be if another male was in the same situation. Women have been dealing with this issue for years and it doesn’t seem like things are changing that quickly. Friends is quick to point out this issue because they show that men have an easier time adjusting to certain situations than women do. Another good example of this from the show is when Ross takes up a job at the Museum of Natural History and hey finds out that one of his ex-girlfriends works there along with one of his current love interests. This troubles Ross because the job is right up his alley and its what he’s dreamed of doing his whole life. Ross tries to ignore the fact that things may get awkward very quickly but it’s almost impossible to do so. One day, Ross goes to lunch at work and he notices the two women conversing at a table across the cafeteria and it makes him feel vulnerable. Although the conversation never became an issue, it was still a tough position for Ross to be in.

Each character in the show has certain qualities that affect how they communicate throughout the show. The female characters are very dedicated to themselves and are always looking for a way to better themselves. For example, Phoebe is the character in the show that does everything on her own and is also the ditsy one. Phoebe tries to survive off her singing career even though everybody knows that she isn’t that good. But, everyone also knows that she’s super confident in herself and her abilities so nobody ever tries to extinguish her flame and shoot her confidence down because they know that she’s content with what she’s doing.

There are many theories within Gender Communication that could directly correlate to this television sitcom. One theory that immediately comes to mind is the “Uncertainty Reduction Theory”. Uncertainty Reduction Theory rests on several basic assumptions. The main assumption is that uncertainty creates cognitive discomfort, which people will try to reduce. Uncertainty reduction occurs primarily by questioning new acquaintances in an attempt to gather information about them. This plays a role right in the beginning of the entire series when the whole friend group is together at the same time. Although four of the members had previously known each other, the situation still changed once Joey and Phoebe were introduced to the friend group. Chandler had previously been acquaintances with Joey and he figured that it would be a good idea to introduce him to the group. The sense of awkwardness is very apparent when they all hang out for the first time, but once everyone gets to know Joey and Phoebe, the feeling of anxiety wears off and they all become best friends because they are able to connect and accept each other.

Friends also do a great job of reflecting the Social Learning Theory by having the characters slowly progress their lives because of each other. For example, in the beginning of the whole series, all of the main characters are still trying to figure out their lives. Every character has a passion within them that is constantly driving them to achieve their goals. As their show continues, each character begins to pick up on certain trends that they learn through each other. At the beginning of the show, it is very apparent that Rachel and Ross are the go-getters because they are so hungry for success. Rachel’s dream had always been to work within the fashion industry in any way, shape, or form. She slowly makes her way to the top of the industry by working for various companies before she eventually takes a high-paying fashion job in Paris, France. On the other hand, Ross is a paleontologist who loves anything that has to do with dinosaurs. During the first season of the show, Ross is still in the process of studying to become a paleontologist and his goal is to eventually work in a museum and spread his love for dinosaurs on to others. These are the only two characters who were completely dedicated to success right from the beginning. As the show continues, the other characters begin to pick up on Rachel and Ross’ motivation and it eventually drives them to be as hungry for success as they were.

The Cognitive Development Theory is another theory that perfectly gels it’s way into the show. The theory deals with the nature of knowledge itself and how humans gradually come to acquire, construct, and use it. This theory is mainly known as a developmental stage theory although it can still hold true for adults. When the characters are still young at the beginning of the show, they are just starting to put the pieces of their life together. As they gradually pick up knowledge about certain situations within their lives, it helps them form into the characters they are towards the end of the show. Joey Tribbiani is an ideal example of this because he had always had a passion for acting, he just didn’t know how to transform his passion into a reality. As he continues to live out his dream, he picks up small gigs along the way which eventually help him achieve the role as Dr. Drake Ramoray in a hit soap opera. So this theory provides a fantastic example of how the characters picked up knowledge along their journey to eventually become very successful for themselves.

As the characters within the show begin to truly find themselves, some of the knowledge that is gained along their journey is shifted in order for them to become a better version of themselves. The Standpoint Theory perfectly illustrates how each individual character was able to slowly pick up new ideas and perpetuate them into their social and professional lives. It is very apparent that each character in the show is able to help one another become better people and open up more around the people that they love the most. Even when Ross started to really show his feelings towards his future fiancée, Emily, Rachel was still right by his side trying to help him out when things began to take a turn for the worst before they eventually broke things off. It’s small moments like that which make the strongest impact. If each character didn’t fully support what their best friends were doing in their lives then would the show really be called “Friends”?

There is still always a sense of jealously between the characters for various reasons within the show. Whether the jealousy was sparked by a relationship between two characters or one character receives a job offer and is going to make more money than the other, it still gives the jealous character a reason to work harder for what they want in their lives. This is a great example of the Symbolic Interactionism Theory because it involves one character watching another do something that they want to do as well. There is one episode in the show where Monica begins to go on dates with her old pediatrician, Richard because they have a mutual attraction for each other. At this point in the show, everyone is fully aware that Chandler has the biggest crush on Monica and would literally do anything in the world to be with her. Once Chandler finds out about Monica and Richard’s love attraction, Chandler becomes apparently jealous and starts to try to be more like Richard to catch Monica’s attention. Monica still has some feelings for Chandler and is flattered at the fact that he would change who he is just to be with her. Moments like that are what make this show so perfect for any situation.

There’s a reason why this is one of the most popular television shows in American history and that’s because almost every person is able to relate to it in one way or another. Previously, when it was mentioned that Rachel was constantly being sexually harassed within her workplace, she needed to stick up for herself and that allowed the audience to feel the need want to do the same thing. If such a popular character like Rachel didn’t stick up for herself, then what kind of message would that send to the young women who are watching and might be in that same situation one day?

With that being said, the males in the show are able to be very discursive throughout. Instead of defending what they do with actions, they do it with words and argument in order to prove a point. The women have more of a non-discursive nature to them because they would rather prove themselves right by showing that they’re right rather than arguing. This can be true for real-life situations as well, it is well known that men are more likely to start an argument to prove their point instead of showing why they think they’re right and it’s the complete opposite for women.

In conclusion, this show proves a lot of points within the Gender Communication field that show how this group of friends are able to progress their own lives by following and getting support from each other. The director of this show does a fantastic job of portraying the two genders and showing the struggles that they each go through in their daily lives. It is also very important that there is an even mix of genders within the group and how interesting it is to see how they are able to communicate with each other on a daily basis. All in all, I think that this is a fantastic show for anyone of any age because it shows true progression among a group of people who are just trying to make something out of their lives.

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Six friends who lived in Manhattan. (2021, Nov 25). Retrieved December 7, 2021 , from

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