Because we currently live in a digital renaissance of eternal contrarianism, a widespread dislike of “Friends” is something that, I, a diehard “Friends” fan, have come to accept from the general populace with the same resigned disdain that I generally reserve for Republicans and leafy greens. I get that everyone loved “Friends” for so long that it’s now officially cool to hate on “Friends.” I hold out hope for a time a few years from now where liking “Friends” will be so subversive and hip that my enduring fandom will finally render me cool as fuck, but until then, I’ll continue to fight the good fight against idiots who dare to utter a furtively whispered, “I never really liked ‘Friends’ that much,” in my presence.
That’s not to say I don’t see its limitations. It took half a series to give up the “Monica is desperate for a man” storyline, nine seasons for a black love interest, and in today’s America, Joey would be labeled a street harasser and lambasted by a viral video. I can even explain away most of these without compromising my beliefs (Monica’s real story was her focused drive towards everything important in her life, Ross’s Season One girlfriend was Chinese, Joey displayed an immense penchant to learn and better himself back when he bought encyclopedias from Penn Jillette in Season 4 and learned about friendship from Mr. Wigglemunch and The Grumpus in Season 9). But the one thing in the show I can no longer pretend doesn’t exist? The fact that Dr. Ross Geller, PhD., is a men’s rights activist.
It’s no secret that Ross was always the weakest link in the beloved six — his hair was over-gelled, he was always creepily touchy with his sister Monica, and he could literally never, ever be wrong. But he was always Ross — the “good guy.” Poor beleaguered Ross, who loved Rachel for so long and raised a son as a single parent, couldn’t be as odious as your run of the mill men’s rights activist, who thinks feminism is the root of all evil and women should be subjugated by the stronger sex. But where else have we heard that “I’m just a nice guy” shtick before? Oh, right, Isla Vista mass murderer Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. The nice guy fallacy is exactly that — a fallacy — based on the theory that women should want to be with a guy based on his self-determined virtue, and Ross Geller, well, he’s your ultimate over-entitled “nice guy.”
He’s The Poster Child For Nice Guy Syndrome
Ross pined for Rachel for years in high school, and when she showed up at Central Perk in a rain-soaked wedding dress, he wasted no time in asking her out the same night she should have been doing the Cha Cha Slide with Barry — which, fine, not really a men’s rights patented move, but weird and creepy all the same, Geller. But she said yes! And then … Ross did nothing. Except whine for over a year about how he was basically in the friend zone (another men’s rights construct!) with Rachel, and hide phone messages she got from other men in Monica’s cookie jar. Somehow, despite his secret longings, not only should Rachel have known how brightly his love for her burned, but she should have rewarded his efforts at being such a gosh darn good dude by returning his affections (as she ultimately did, when she found out he was ready to take her to her senior prom when she thought she was being stood up).
Even when they weren’t together, Ross was still on one about how Rachel should act, despite offering her none of the same considerations. He hid her messages (again with the message hiding!) when a man called new mom-Rachel for a date and Ross, who was staying home to watch baby Emma, took the message. He even preyed on a seemingly desperate woman to make Rachel jealous, after he saw her kiss her coworker Gavin. But it was Ross who was hitting on Rena Sofer’s shop girl character in front of Rachel while she was pregnant. Hypocrisy? Nah, it’s totally cool, trust me, Ross Geller is just a nice guy.
He Loves To Objectify Women
Perhaps this will come as no surprise, given the pedestal that Ross placed Rachel on for over a decade, but if Ross was going to win the Geller cup for anything, it would be for his objectification of women. There was the time he couldn’t stop ordering pizzas just to hit on Caitlin from the pizza place. Girlfriends can’t be ordered with extra pepperoni, Ross. When he slept with Chloe, the spiky haired hipster girl he cheated on Rachel with (I know, I know, they were on a break), he almost exclusively refers to her as “the hot girl from the copy place.” And that came after half a season of talking about how hot she was. Ross Geller can put his penis inside you, but damned if he’ll respect your personhood by calling you by your real name.
Incidentally, the first time he mentions the hot girl from the copy place is in an episode where female objectification is again supremely important to Ross: The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy. He tells Rachel about his fantasy of sleeping with a gold bikini-clad Leia, which is fine as we all have our sexual fantasies (you’re the stern editorial director, I’m the wayward blogger who has to make up for the lack of page views this month — just me?), but Ross’s would be significantly less odious if it didn’t involve a woman physically chained by her neck and held as a captive prisoner of a hermaphroditic Hutt.
Honestly, it’s a shock he even got far enough to objectify Carrie Fisher and Rachel in one fell swoop, given the fact that one of the reasons Rachel didn’t want to date him after they had already kissed was because she found a list where he tallied her flaws — one of which was her allegedly chubby ankles. Totally cool and normal! Even after having a daughter, Ross still didn’t learn to respect women. It may have been Joey who called Emma’s nanny Molly “hot nanny” for an episode, but it was Ross who first referred to her as “so hot I cried myself to sleep.”
When He Isn’t Objectifying Women, He’s Mansplaining Instead
And when he isn’t ogling women because of how they look, he’s busy being as condescending as possible. For example, all Phoebe and Rachel wanted to do was tell him about their self-defense class, and he immediately took over the conversation to tell them how useless their class was and to incorrectly share how unagi is the Japanese concept of total awareness (it’s actually zanshin). And then there was the time when Phoebe presented her fairly salient theory for not believing in gravity and evolution, and Ross was incapable of maintaining his composure, instead over-explaining just how wrong Phoebe’s belief system was, despite her begging him in multiple scenes to accept that they both can just believe in different things.
Or the time when he self-tanned so incorrectly (twice!) he had to go to an entirely new tanning salon just to even out his half alabaster white, half jerky brown skin tone. The female tanning salon employee had barely begun to explain how the booth worked before he cut in with a “I’m gonna stop you right there, Linda. Does it look like this is my first time?” before speaking even more loudly and slowly, as you would to a small child, to describe exactly how he wanted to be tanned. Unsurprisingly, he still fucked it up on try three. Meanwhile, if Joey or Chandler shut him down in his times of ultimate mansplaining, he seemingly has no problem being put right in place.
He Can’t Handle Female Success
Despite the fact that he’s surrounded by hordes of women who are successful in a variety of ways, and holds his own doctorate, nothing is more intimidating to Ross than female success. Remember when Rachel had just started working at
Ralph Lauren Bloomingdales and was taking her job very seriously, as one who has waited for years for their dream job is often wont to do? Was Ross supportive? Nah. He mercilessly harassed her about her platonic friendship with her male coworker Mark, and then showed up at her office when she had asked him not to, set fire to her desk, and had the nerve to demand an apology when she got home later that night.
Rachel: What do you want from me, do you want me to quit my job so that you can feel like you have a girlfriend?
Ross: No, but it’d be nice if you realized it was just a job.
Rachel: Just a job?
Rachel: Do you realize this is the first time in my life I’m doing something I actually care about, this is the first time in my life I’m doing something I’m actually good at. I mean if you don’t get that…
Ross: I get that big time and I’m happy for you but I’m tired of having a relationship with your answering machine.
Why the “but,” Ross? There is no but. You either get Rachel’s new job big time and are happy for her, or you aren’t. When you throw in the but, it kind of feels like you’re not happy for her and that maybe you don’t get it big time, you know? Just one woman’s observation.
Things aren’t much better outside of his romantic relationships, either — as it turns out, Ross is incredibly uncomfortable when he’s forced to share the spotlight with any womsn. He makes no secret of being his parents’ favorite child, even though Monica’s inferiority complex is perhaps her only characteristic more defining than her compulsive need to clean. When their father Jack bequeaths his Porsche to Monica, after letting all of her childhood mementos be ruined to preserve Ross’s, Ross is quick to point out that not only was he the smart and accomplished one, but also a medical marvel. When against better advice he starts playing his keyboards at Central Perk, he only stops because he fears that Phoebe will stop playing music if he keeps playing, because he’s just that good. And he is truly incapable of shutting up about the fact that he is technically a doctor, to any woman he meets. Why not just whip your dick out and demand a female fetch you a ruler? It just seems easier.
He Needs His Men to be Men
The biggest irony of Ross’ miserable existence is his deep-rooted desire to make sure that the men in his life are, in fact, men. When his son Ben was playing with a Barbie, Ross went to extreme lengths to get him to play with any other seemingly masculine toy, foisting a monster truck, a dinosaur soldier, and GI Joe on Ben over the course of the episode to get him to give up his doll. (He succeeded, in yet another win for the heteronormative patriarchy.) Things didn’t change much a few years later, when Rachel tried to hire the ever-delightful Freddie Prinze Jr. to be Emma’s nanny (imagine Ross’ surprise when ‘Sandy’ turned out to be a man!), and true to form, Ross did not take it well. Ross’ first question to Sandy was a skeptical “Are you gay?” before jumping into his best deep-voiced impression of a man’s man to grill Sandy on why a man would ever want to work in childcare. He then started in on Rachel for wanting to hire Sandy:
Ross: He’s a guy!
Rachel: So? He’s smart, he’s qualified. Give me one good reason we shouldn’t try him out.
Ross: Because, it’s weird! [...] What kind of job is that for a man? A nanny? It’s like if a woman wanted to be…
Even Joey, arguably the only bastion of traditional masculinity on the show (insofar as men’s rights types would describe masculinity, at least), got with the program after his initial skepticism about male nannies, partaking in a variety of delightful and educational activities taught by Sandy and a panoply of rich-hued puppet friends. But Ross? Ross fires him because Sandy is “too sensitive” and it made him uncomfortable. Rachel perhaps summed up the pathetic irony best: “I hate to break it to you Ross, but it’s not like you just came in from branding cattle.”
And if this isn’t enough to convince you that Ross Geller is indubitably a men’s rights activist (he tried to start a clubhouse solely for divorced men! How much more convincing do you need?), let us not forget the time he gave men’s rights activists their rallying cry:
I rest my case. Sorry Marta and David. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.