Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why I still hate Rachel Green

There is a classic episode (the ninth episode of season eight) of the show Friends that centers on a Thanksgiving dinner and guest stars Brad Pitt as a childhood friend and classmate of Ross. Entitled "The One with the Rumor," Brad Pitt—playing the uncredited role of Will Colbert—comes to Thanksgiving dinner at Monica's invitation. Like Monica, Will had been quite heavy in high school but had since lost a lot of weight.

During the course of the evening, it comes out that Will blamed Rachel for his struggles with weight in high school and he and Ross (who had a secret crush on Rachel in high school) had formed the "I hate Rachel Green Club." Rachel of course is flabbergasted by the news, totally clueless as to why anyone might possibly hate her. Will reveals that his hatred was based on how horrible Rachel was to him throughout high school. Though he doesn't go into too much detail, the implications are clear: Rachel was one of the popular kids and Will was an easy target for ridicule and mockery. Other episodes support this backstory in full: Rachel was always presented as self-absorbed and snotty with an ever-present superiority complex.

Now, I know this is just a TV show, a sitcom as it were, but this aspect of the show always bugged me. There are many humorous episodes in the series, but there are also many serious moments, where the writing tries to make the characters sympathetic to some extent, to make the audience care about them. And this worked. There are many fans of the show who love the characters, who relate or want to relate to them, who felt their apparent pain through the trials and tribulations of the show's ten seasons.

Contrast this with sitcoms like Cheers, Seinfeld, or Two and a Half Men, where the characters were always there to be laughed at, were never intended to be taken seriously. Some might see this as a triumph for the series, but me, not so much. And I'll tell you why.

The characters on Friends were, by and large, obnoxious, thoughtless people. They used others, they used each other, they behaved horribly. Which of course is no different than the characters in the above three shows. The difference is, the other shows realized this; they didn't try to snooker the viewers into caring about the characters. Not so with Friends.

And as bad as all the characters in Friends were, none were worse than Rachel Green. She never stops using people, her needs always come first, and worst of all, everything works out for her in the end. She ends up with a dream job in the fashion industry after displaying no work ethic whatsoever throughout the course of the show. When working as a waitress at Central Perk (the coffee shop where the friends consistently hog all of the good seats), Rachel does zero work. Zero. She just doesn't deserve her good fortune, she never actually earns it. She's a horrible example across the board. And most of the others aren't much better (Chandler gets a little credit, maybe).

Still, Rachel is the top of the heap, when it comes to well-liked TV characters who are actually horrible people. I guess Jennifer Aniston deserves some credit in this regard, for portraying the character so well as to leave me with a palpable sense of hatred for Rachel forever, it would seem. I've watched the occasional rerun and my dislike for her has not diminished in the least. In a perfect world, Rachel would be forced to step into to the shoes of Marsha Brady for the "oh, my nose!" scene. Over. And over. And over. Gah! I hate her so much, it hurts! If Will and Ross still have room in their club, I'm signing up!

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