Loads has already been written about Matthew Perry, the “Friends” star who died aged 54 this weekend. There will be plenty more to come. However, like every millennial with any kind of internet presence, I felt I had to add my voice.
I was not always that into “Friends”. If I’m honest, some of that was just me trying to be a bit alternative during my teenage years. Most girls my age wanted Jennifer Aniston’s famous Rachel haircut. I always liked Chandler. He was sarcastic, he was a bit fed up and he had almost all the best lines. I remember genuinely gasping in shock watching that scene, the one when you first see him in bed with Monica.
It is hard to sum up quite what a cultural touchstone “Friends” is for my generation. The friendship group we saw on screen undoubtedly influenced how we saw friendship in real life. It certainly influenced how I perceived New York before I’d ever been there. We still can’t move house without shouting PIVOT! Perry was central to it all. Helen Lewis has a great piece on the importance of “Friends” and why she loved Matthew Perry and Chandler so much.
I also cried through almost the entirety of the reunion, not least because I was watching “Friends” back during the pandemic. I’m so pleased it happened though, while all six of them could be together.
Could This BE Any Harder?
Matthew Perry’s struggles with fame and addiction are well documented. It is tragically sad that he could not overcome them to truly enjoy the success he had with “Friends”. He apparently doesn’t even remember recording huge chunks of it. It is hard for any of us civilians to imagine what it must be like to shoot to that kind of fame that quickly. To be defined as a character, but not as you. (Watching “The Morning Show” I still have to remind myself it is not Rachel!)
As the show went on, Phoebe got ditzier, Joey got stupider and Ross kept getting married. The development Perry gave Chandler was more interesting. He created a layer of subtlety the others did not always have. We saw his vulnerability. Those vulnerabilities in real life proved too much too often.
For my generation, “Friends” is our comfort food. These are characters, people, who were always going to be… there for you. And now one of them has gone.