Since the outbreak of Covid-19 from last winter, the virus has been spreading through the world and each country has encouraged people to practice social-distancing and self-quarantine to keep people in their houses. During this pandemic, ‘CableTV.com’ conducted a survey to discover the most popular television series in each of the 50 states and Washington D.C.. As a result, Friends was named the most popular series in the country, taking the first place in the 13 states. Why is Friends still so popular and iconic even though 26 years have passed since its first premiere?
People in Korea have been studying English from watching Friends for the past 20 years and the drama even caused a ‘Friends syndrome’ in Korea. Being so loved as a representative means of studying English, people tend to misunderstand this drama for just a story of friendship of the main characters. The six main characters, Phoebe, Joey, Monica, Ross, Rachel, and Chandler, are friends who are roommates, or live next door or a building apart. Sometimes this inseparable six argue and yell at each other, but soon, they patch things up again. Through a total of 236 episodes, the stories of the six characters, who grow up through not only friendship but also various relationships and write their own stories, arouse sympathy and emotions from the audience.
Then, how can we all still laugh at the same drama after its first release 26 years ago? And, how can Gen Zers in Korea relate to the stories even though they are in a completely different culture and generation? First of all, unlike any other American dramas, Friends took a comedy plot in a very common setting, excluding as much jokes and humors as possible that only Americans could understand and laugh at. By avoiding particular or controversial subjects, instead of portraying an idealized version of life in people in 20s, Friends presents the life we’ve dreamed of. Likewise, Friends fascinates audiences by combining and balancing realistic stories with their idealistic partnership that is hard to be seen in reality.
Secondly, Friends has been able to survive in the floods of sitcoms because they took a unique strategy, differentiating them from ordinary sitcoms. Each episode consists of three main stories and this strategy makes it seem like it has more scenes than those sitcoms with two main stories even though each scene is actually shorter. This plays a major role in catching the attention of modern people who are impatient and can’t keep an eye on a single channel.
Marta Kauffan, Friends’ co-creator, refers Friends to comfort food in an interview with WBUR. “I think it’s comfort food. It’s warm, it’s loving, it’s funny. And these characters you want to invite into your home when you’re doing your laundry, and cooking your dinner, and in bed about to go to sleep. And I think that’s how it feels: comfortable.” This comfort comes from people’s empathy. There is not only friendship, but also love, family, and pet stories in it. And these different kinds of relationships make people think they can relate to the story and thus it causes comfort.
Humans are social animals who cannot live alone. While you are watching Friends, I want you to see Friends not just as a means of learning English, but through it, to think about what the important relationships are to you. In this pandemic, as people continues to practice social-distancing, not only physical distance but psychological distance also has increased between people. What I want to say is, to look back on your relationships and see if it hasn’t started to drift apart in this time and try to focus on your relationship from now on.< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >