I Call Bulls**t – Monica & Chandler Adopt

watching a baby being born

I didn’t watch Friends when it was on the air – we didn’t really do TV in my house growing up and we definitely didn’t do “20 somethings having sex” TV.

Now, though, I have Netflix and a lot of crafting/making time on my hands, so I’ve been working my way through the series. Mostly I’ve been enjoying it, although I’m still not over my strong distaste for Rachel Green. I’ve just never understood the cultural fascination with Jennifer Aniston. Did it start with this character? WHY? She’s the WORST.

rachel green
Ugh. Rachel Green.

Moving on.

In the last (tenth) season of the show, Monica and Chandler go through infertility and then adoption. I have ambivalent feelings as I watch. On the one hand, I’m kind of delighted to see that real and present decision-making process represented on a major TV show. It’s not something you see on TV much, certainly not in proportion to how many people deal with it in real life. I feel personally gratified that it’s all on there, because so much of what I see as I watch is a “hey, us too!” thing.

deep emotion
“I’m feeling all the feels about our inability to be human beings, Chandler. Can you tell from the deep sorrow that is playing across my flat, emotionless face?”

On the other hand, though, it’s a twee representation. Friends is not a deep show. There’s no one grappling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Eating disorders are funny. Multiple divorces are funny. Suicide and homelessness are funny. So when infertility comes up and they try to be serious about it (and kudos for trying) it rings false. Or, at least, it falls flat.

paperwork
“Oh my GAWD, Monica, look at these SEVEN PAGES we have to fill out in this ONE EPISODE.”

I never see the couple losing it over the inability to have kids. Neither of them question their basic biological function – their wholeness as people. No one ever cries (!??!?) over the situation. They have a clear, meaningful result to their first round of infertility tests. They move through alt-family options with swiftness and ease. They don’t agonize over what kind of adoption, or funding, or the paperwork/waiting process. They don’t feel a horrifying mixture of resentment and guilt over their friends having kids easily.

twins
Ooopsie! TWINS! Two for the price of one! And, by the way, let’s never actually address the tens of thousands of dollars we had to shell out to get here!

In the span of a few weeks they go from “trying” to have kids to having twins.

At one point, they LIE to the birth mother about their file. They eventually correct the mistake but then Chandler does this super-pathetic “we are desperate for a child” plea that apparently wins the birth mother back over. WTF?! Lying and coercion to get a kid?!

lying to the birth mother
Lying to the Birth Mother is a great way to get a baby!

It’s weird because the whole time I’m watching I’m so glad and relieved to see SOMETHING about our lives represented on a popular show. But at the same exact time I’m so angry and offended by how lightly it’s treated, and how easily it’s resolved.

Be ye warned, actual, real-life friends: the Friends version of this devastating life event is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have someone in your life dealing with this kind of thing, don’t use Friends as a source of information or understanding.

But do watch the show for other stuff, though. It’s pretty good.

—-

LATimes article responding to the “we’ll just adopt” episode, 2003

Blog post on Rachel vs. Monica

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11 thoughts on “I Call Bulls**t – Monica & Chandler Adopt”

  1. I hate Friends with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, but that aside, it’s a sitcom – we’re talking about a show where everyone lounges around a coffee shop all day or spends ungodly amounts of money or stupid crap like that, and doesn’t bat an eye. Is that normal NYC behavior? Not really – everyone I met who might act like that in NYC lived in Brooklyn or Hoboken (aka Brooklyn on the Hudson).

    My point is, it’s not a normal representation of life. It’s a sitcom, with unrealistically harpy-ish women and impossibly immature men, but it’s all played for laughs.

    You know what’s a better show, a tad bit more realistic and expotentially funnier? How I Met Your Mother.

    That’s on Netflix too! Now you’ve got something to move onto after Friends!

  2. The show Hot in Cleveland just addressed adoption in their final season and it was even less in depth. The couple can’t have biological children because the woman is in her late 40’s. They decided they will just adopt – no conversation at all about it. Then later, they get a phone call and after some comedic blocks, pick her up. Nothing about the birth mother. She’s irrelevant. We don’t know her name, or even see her. She does not exist. I thought it was distasteful, even for a comedy show.

    1. I guess I should say that the women adopting, was also a birth mother. Earlier in the series they address some of what she felt giving her child up for adoption and he becomes a minor character on the series.

  3. I’ve always somewhat appreciated that they at least attempted to touch on adoption and IF because I cannot think of any other popular show that has. But, as you say, they just barely scratched the surface, but I guess I just wouldn’t expect more from a comedy – how could they actually portray adoption and IF in a comedy since there is nothing funny about it?

    1. Agreed. It makes me curious about why they chose to go that route with the storylines – it’s such a serious subject compared with pretty much everything else that show touches on.

  4. I have never seen these episodes of friends, but now I want to go back and watch them. I also just read that LA Times piece. I imagine it was tricky for the writers of that fluff, funny show to portray infertility and adoption accurately, but still, they could have AT LEAST had Monica and Chandler shed a few tears. The amount of tears I’ve shed could fill an ocean — and I’m guessing most infertility sufferers could say the same.

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