Lesbian “Friends”: Legacy of a Sitcom

In Episode 4.10, after
comforting Rachel about her single status, Chandler asks her out of the
blue “Have you ever been with a woman?” When Rachel protests the
question, Chandler mutters wonderingly to himself, “So there is no good time to ask that question.”

Then in
Episode 4.14, a recently-dumped Chandler visits a strip club with
Rachel, Monica and Phoebe, but finds that still isn’t helping him get
out of his depression and advance to “Phase Three” of the recovery
process — until the women start discussing the strippers

CHANDLER: Look, forget
it. We tried, but Phase Three is a lost cause, Okay? Those strippers
were insanely hot, and I couldn’t picture myself with any of them.
MONICA: They really were pretty, weren’t they?
PHOEBE: Yeah, I really liked that fighter pilot one.
MONICA: Oh, Candy! She was so spunky!
MONICA: Y’know, I think if I were going to be with a woman. It’d, it’d
be with someone like Michelle, she was so oh, she was so petite.
RACHEL: See, I don’t know, for me it would have to Chantal.
MONICA: Oh, Chantal!
RACHEL: Oh my goodness, she had the smoothest skin! I mean when I stuck
that dollar bill in her g-string and grazed her thigh —
CHANDLER (jumping up): Phase Three! Phase Three!

In Episode 9.12, Rachel and Ross hire a nanny named Molly (Melissa George),
whom Joey and Chandler quickly dub The Hot Nanny. Joey starts to fall
for her and is preparing to ask her out when Molly’s girlfriend Tabitha
(Carly Thomas) shows up after work one day, and the two share a kiss that proves they’re more than friends.

Chandler turns to Joey and
remarks, “I guess you’ve got a problem,” but Joey grins and responds
“It’s like my favorite fairy tale come true! The princess, the stable
boy and the lesbian!” Clearly he doesn’t think Molly and Tabitha’s
relationship is an obstacle to his pursuit of Molly.

Joey and Chandler’s obsession
with lesbianism was unusual at the time it was introduced in the
mid-90′s: although other series had hinted at it, never before had a
television show so explicitly (or so frequently) explored this topic.
Their constant jokes and innuendo trivialize lesbianism and lesbian
relationships by presenting them as fodder for male fantasies, but it’s
hard to argue that this doesn’t reflect the reality of the way many men
view lesbianism in real life.

But while many straight men fantasize about two women together, there is also an underlying fear that the women might like it too much, and consequently the male role might be diminished or even rendered unnecessary.

In a flashback in Episode 3.6
to right after Ross finds out that Susan is gay, he tells Phoebe “I’m
an idiot. Carol and I’d be out and she’d, she’d see some beautiful
woman, and, and she’d be Ross y’know look at her, and I’d think, God,
my wife is cool!”

This male fear of displacement
surfaces again in Episode 6.15 when we see a flashback to what might
have been if Ross and Carol had stayed married. In this
fantasy/flashback, Ross suggests he and Carol try a threesome in order
to spice up their sex life, a suggestion to which Carol all-too-readily
agrees, inviting her friend Susan, who shows up for the threesome and
completely ignores Ross. “My part seemed to be over pretty quickly,”
Ross confessed later to Joey, “and then there was a lot of waiting

Here again we see that women
who are attracted to other women are cool — unless they
actually take that attraction seriously.

The straight women on the
series are alternately mystified, amused, and exasperated by this male
obsession with lesbianism, and frequently exploit it to their own

In Episode 4.19, when Monica
and Rachel are desperate to get their apartment back after losing it to
Joey and Chandler in a bet, they finally make the guys an offer they
can’t refuse: the two women will kiss for one minute. The kiss is not
shown on-camera, but afterwards we see Joey and Chandler making a
beeline for their separate bedrooms with the comment that “that was
totally worth it.”

We then see the women
snickering in their newly-returned apartment, as Monica comments “Men
are such idiots.” Rachel smiles and agrees, saying “Yeah, can you
believe something that stupid actually got us our apartment back?”

In Episode 5.22 when Monica’s
straddling Rachel on the floor trying to force her to put medicinal
drops in her eyes, Rachel quips “wow, y’know if Joey and Chandler
walked in right now, we could make a fortune!”

These scenes are consistent with the women’s overall matter-of-fact treatment of lesbianism on Friends;
although Rachel, Monica and Phoebe are all clearly heterosexual, they
are neither overly fascinated with nor bothered by women who aren’t.

Monica is very supportive of
Carol and Susan’s wedding early in the series, for example, pushing
Ross to accept it, and when, in Episode 8.10, Phoebe discovers one of
Ben’s classmates is Sting’s son, she impersonates Susan to try and get
the teacher to give up his contact info. “I am one of Ben’s mothers,”
she tells the teacher, then blurts out “I’m a lesbian. It was…it was
difficult coming out to my parents.”

Then she asks for another copy
of the contact sheet, because “Carol threw it out, she lost ours. She’s
such a scatterbrain, but man what a hot piece of ass!”

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