Just waiting for Families?
I grew up going to Christian Youth Summer Camp. The ongoing joke was that camp concluded each year by playing the Michael W. Smith neo-classic “Friends Are Friends Forever” while everyone cried and hugged their new best friends forever and swore to write to each other. Which of course never happened. (And yes, I grew up before cell phones and social media. I get it. I’m old.)
The song turned into a joke for a lot of reasons – mostly the misappropriation of the song by the camp leaders to manipulate an already-emotionally-charged environment. I wasn’t actually friends with any of those people I met at the camps. I liked them. They were (and I’m sure still are) great people. But we’d known each other for at most four days. We were acquaintances.
Despite what the song promised, those summer camp friendships weren’t real friendships.
Last week, the internet practically exploded with a different sort of Friends frenzy. Buzz erupted that the now-classic 90s sitcom Friends would return for a reunion episode – or possibly entire season. But the rumor was crushed by the sitcom’s co-creator Marta Kauffmann when she told Entertainment Weekly,
I’m going to clear this up — it’s not happening. Friends was about that time in your life when your friends are your family and once you have a family, there’s no need anymore. (emphasis mine)
Look kids! Single people! Their abject misery is hilarious!
You probably already knew that I’m not a big fan of sitcom theology, but this deserves special attention. Kauffmann’s remarks about the kind of friendship, indeed the kind of personhood embodied on Friends is telling. A person’s friends are not essential to their core being. Rather, a person isn’t fully human until they’re married with children. Friends, according to Friends’ creator, are fundamentally inferior to – and different from – family.
According to Kauffmann, even though Ross and Rachel and Monica and Chandler and Joey and Phoebe might still have some stories, the Friends don’t have any stories left to tell together. Their collective story is over.
The philosophy behind the most popular sitcom of the last generation says that friends are good enough until you get a family. But once you have a real family, you don’t need those friends anymore.
Such a shallow picture of friendship is as false as those summer camp relationships. Continue Reading…