The 7 most screwed-up story lines we saw on Friends.

Unagi. PIVOT! The meat trifle. Ross’ fake tan. The jellyfish incident. Smelly Cat. Some of the jokes from juggernaut sitcom Friends will never get old.

But then there are the others… The handful of plot lines and punchlines that might have landed well back in the 90’s, but are coming more and more unstuck as time passes. You know, the kind about assault, fat- and slut-shaming, sexism, homophobia, transphobia.

Below are a few of the most screwed up.

The one where they make light of the fact that Phoebe is sexually assaulted at work.

In light of recent events in Washington D.C. and Hollywood, this plotline is one of the more unsettling when viewed in 2017.

While massaging Rachael’s boyfriend, Paolo, in season one, the ‘charming’ Italian native exposed himself to her, stroked her thigh and grabbed her arse with both hands. All this, along with his towel-cloaked erection was met with roaring laughter from the studio audience.

In fact, sexual misconduct seems to be fruitful material for the show’s writers: Joey’s childhood tailor “cupping” his genitals also became a punchline, as did the fact that Chandler witnessed several “orgies” in his home before the age of seven.

friends cringeworthy plotlines
Not cool. Image: NBC.

The one where teenage Monica was fat-shamed. Over and over and over...

It's a backstory that pops up several times over the show's 236 episodes. In case you missed it, Monica was fat.

There was the time the friends watched a home video of Monica getting ready for prom (sandwich in hand, of course) and Joey yelled, "Some girl ate Monica!"

The time everyone giggled at her uninhibited dancing or how she panicked that someone sat on her Kit-Kats.

But don't worry, it's OK laugh because she's skinny now. (That's how it works, right?)

The one where Ross realises he made out with his sister.

This technically could be filed under Monica fat-shaming, but is just so entirely cringe it deserves its own entry.

So... Recounting the first time he kissed Rachel during a wild party back in college, Ross tells Monica and Chandler how, "she was lying on my bed all buried under people's coats" when he bent to kiss her on the forehead. He accidentally landed on her mouth somehow, but she kissed back and "it was amazing".

That's when the penny drops. Monica: "Oh. Oh. OH!" Ross:"No! No! NO! You were under the pile of coats?!" M: "I was the pile of coats!"

That's... yep.

LISTEN: The Binge team deep dive on all the TV couples who weren't meant to end up together, including Monica and Chandler.


We're starting to notice a pattern here.

You remember Denise Richards' cameo, right? Then you'll also remember that intensely awkward scene where Ross invites her over to watch a movie and then, to her horror, leans in to kiss her.

His excuse: "I haven't had sex in a very long time."

The one where Chandler's estranged transgender father is ridiculed. Over and over and over...

There are more cruel jokes made about Helena Handbasket than we have space or time here, but perhaps the most pointed are at Chandler's wedding to Monica in season seven.

When she enters the room, Chandler says, “Hi [looks her up and down]... Dad," followed by howls of laughter from the studio audience.

Then there's this delightful little exchange between Helena and her former wife, Nora (who insists on calling her 'Charles').

Helena: "Aren't you a little too old to be wearing a dress like that?"
Nora: "Don't you have a little too much penis to be wearing a dress like that?"

Such fun.

friends cringeworthy plotlines
Chandler with Nora and Helena. Image: NBC.

The one where the number of people Monica has slept with becomes a huge deal.

When Monica is dating Richard (Tom Selleck) in season two, they have the utterly pointless discussion that crops up at the turning point of most new relationships - how many people they've slept with.

When Richard finally learns Monica's number, he is clearly relieved: "You had me thinking it was like a fleet."

An example of borderline slut-shaming, to which Monica laughs, then responds, "But are you really OK with it?"

The one where Ross can't possibly believe the male nanny is straight.

Freddie Prince Jnr plays Sandy, a young bloke interviewing for a position as a nanny to Ross and Rachael's daughter, Emma.

Naturally Ross, thrown by this man's maternal vibe, immediately asks him if he's gay. When Sandy later bursts into tears of joy upon being offered the job, Ross exclaims: "You've got to at least be bi."

And we used to think Ross was the nice one...

Of course, we are now viewing something two decades old through a (how do the kids say it?) 'woke' 2017 lens.

But in doing so, in cringing at a few ruined episodes of an old sitcom, we can appreciate the gradual progress being made in portrayals of women, the LGBTQI community and size diversity on television. And that can only be a good thing.

Plus, the rest of the show was pretty bloody great.