Television diversity: Why ‘Friends’ bothers me

Feb. 23, 2015

Alexander J. Nedd
anedd@uccs.edu

When Netflix first announced that all seasons of NBC’s hit show “Friends” were to be released on Jan. 1, the internet exploded.

Fans and new viewers alike could not wait to watch what many consider to be the best series of the ‘90s. As an avid consumer of pop culture, I relished this opportunity and enjoyed watching a couple of episodes upon their release last month. But one thing stood out to me that I never really noticed:

Everyone is white.

It’s 2015, surely this is a thing of the past. There are plenty of shows that only feature black people and casting. How can you even think of skin color on a sitcom that is meant to be funny?

These are the questions and statements my friends have responded with upon discussing the show’s return to mainstream. But there is something to be said about the fascination people have with mid-20’s white people who live great lives in Manhattan.

It makes me uncomfortable because it’s not relatable.

In today’s world, more people can relate to my situation than a cast of six white people who hang out with one another and embark on privileged activities. It’s great writing, but simply doesn’t reflect our society.

I prefer shows that are more relatable. My favorites are “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”

These shows are powerful examples of what TV should be like in a culture that is diverse as it is easily entertained. Lead characters don’t play traditional stereotyped roles, making the series very attractive.

These characters hold true to their own. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has a steamy affair with both the President of the United States as well as ex-B616 Commander Jake Ballard, both white men who enter the unseen multiracial love affair that has been absent from traditional sitcoms and drama for years.

“How to Get Away With Murder” looks at various students from different backgrounds and cultures, and dives into their experiences. People can identify and latch on to a character whether it be because of race, orientation or a personal obstacle.

I never felt that with “Friends.”

A guilty and new found pleasure of mine is the hit show “Empire” on Fox. A black ensemble, cutthroat drama and interwoven story lines make the show interesting because the characters aren’t what have been stereotyped in the black community.

Although a different genre from “Friends,” these are the types of shows that should be making everyone’s queue list.

I want to see people that aren’t like me as much as I want to see people that I can relate to. Let’s feature disabled characters, older actors, gay relationships and other nontraditional people that make up our diverse culture.

America has always been a melting pot, but has not always reflected this in our television shows. “The Cosby Show” and “Seinfeld,” although powerful and groundbreaking shows, don’t adequately demonstrate what I would consider to be the staple of American culture: diversity.

“Friends” was good then. But let’s see what’s better now.

“Empire” continues to rock ratings every Wednesday and can be seen on Fox at 8 p.m. ABC’s “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder” can be seen on Thursday nights beginning at 8 p.m.

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