You might have read it already. It’s called How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization by a guy named David Hopkins (who, as a side-issue, looks like me going to a fancy dress party as one of Mumford & Sons). The article has recently ‘gone viral’, like the air in a hospital toilet. Its claim is that the jokes aimed at the character Ross Geller in Friends set off a chain of events that has brought Western civilisation to its cultural knees, or something. Anyway, it’s all absolute bollocks.
The piece begins with David Hopkins announcing that he and his wife have been binge-watching Friends on Netflix. The mood turns as he talks about the show’s intellectual ‘tragic hero’ Ross Geller. Hopkins claims that Ross descends further and further into madness as the series progresses, and that this is brought about mainly by his so-called friends relentlessly bullying him for being smart. ‘You may see it [Friends] as a comedy,’ Hopkins says, ‘but I cannot laugh with you.’ (Makes you wonder why he’s binge-watching it, really. Personally, I can’t laugh at Mrs Brown’s Boys. But my solution to this isn’t to plough my way through a boxset; I turn the telly off instead, and cry in the darkness.) Whatever must evenings in the Hopkins household be like?:
‘Fancy watching Friends tonight?’ asks Mrs Hopkins, holding the Amazon Fire-Stick.
‘Friends?’ replies her husband. ‘Friends! The slayer of Western Civilisation? The comedy I cannot laugh at? The show that has brought Western civilisation to its cultural knees (or something)?’
‘Oh, ok,’ he sighs. ‘Just fourteen episodes, though. I’ve got an early start tomorrow…’
Hopkins’ article is packed with strange statements. He suggests that Ross ‘becomes a monster’ after sliding into a ‘madness and desperation lead by his own egotism’. But that’s not the Ross Geller I remember. Hopkins must have seen a different version of Friends to me. Maybe a Korean overdub or something. As I recall, by the show’s final episode, Ross is a published scientist and university lecturer who is loved by his friends (and in a romantic relationship with one of them). He definitely hasn’t slipped into madness and desperation lead by his own egotism. The only explanation I can offer for this interpretation is that Hopkins might be getting Ross confused with Cyril Sneer from The Raccoons, who better fits that description.