The One With the Thumb
‘It’s Like, Dating Language’
At the beginning of this episode, the gang present their theories on what popular breakup / dating phrases actually mean.
(My dating theory? – relationships significantly suffer during the NFL playoff schedule)
Since it’s now been twenty years since this episode first aired, I thought we’d play a game that has been in my family for generations (read: I just made up) and that always delights the children (read: is not appropriate for children):
RATE HOW RELEVANT
In which we take things from old Friends episodes and decide how culturally relevant the references / theories still are.
We’ll be ranking each reference on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being ‘So un-relevant Andy Dick laughs at it’ and 10 meaning ‘More relevant than rape, tsunamis, Alaska, and gang rape COMBINED’ (which, by the way, are the top 5 words on the internet for 2013 so far according to marshallindex.com – it’s a cheery time in the world). To celebrate, let’s play . . .
RATE HOW RELEVANT (1-10)
- ‘Monica’s theory: We should do this again’ = ‘You will never see me naked’
The experts over at Marie Claire agree:
I also agree, but only because when you Google ‘We should do this again’, this video comes up:
In short, this phrase means you won’t get to do what Kathy Griffin tried to do Anderson Cooper on his live NYE broadcast:
Can you blame her? I know several women whose biggest regret in life is that Anderson Cooper is gay.
- Joey’s Theory: ‘It’s not you’ = ‘It is you’
This is well-mined sitcom territory. How many times have sitcoms made use of the phrase ‘It’s not you, it’s me’? A ton. In my mind, anything that’s STILL reflected that regularly in sitcoms must be floating around everyday culture:
- Chandler’s Theory: ‘You’re such a nice guy’ = ‘I’m going to be dating leather-wearing alcoholics and complaining about them . . . to you’
This is one of those very specific Chandler things. I think this holds up pretty well, too – at least the general principle. The ‘bad boy’ image hasn’t been utilized by male movie starts or singers millions of times for nothing.
- Chandler: ‘If I had a sock on my hand for 30 years, it’d be talking too!’
This one isn’t a dating theory like the rest, but I would like to nominate it for the annual Most Dated Reference a 90’s Sitcom Could Possibly Make Awards. (I think they’re on TNT this year, right?)
It’s a reference to Lamb Chop, the Sheri Lewis-controlled sheep puppet that had its own children’s TV show from 1992 – 1997. If you’re like me, you haven’t thought about this show a single time since then, despite being TOTALLY into it as a kid:
What a great terrible reference. So un-relevant.
‘Honey, You Should Always Feel the Thing’
– Sassy Black Friend
This quote comes courtesy of Monica’s sassy co-worker friend – about Monica needing to dump her boyfriend. She only pops up twice in the episode – but each time, she tells Monica to do the opposite of what the rest of her friends are saying – and Monica immediately does them. Monica seems to do whatever this woman says.
Which logically leads me to the question: Do black people have some kind of magical influence on friends?
Here’s a (non-comprehensive) list of black characters on friends:
The waiter who serves Joey food when his date eats from his plate
Ross’s divorce lawyer
The waiter who waits for Ross to leave after he gets stood up
The self-defense instructor whose class Ross attempted to crash
Chandler works with a black woman who smokes
The guy who worked at the costume shop where Ross got the Hanukah Armadillo
A black guy hits on Monica to get more of her homemade candy (Monica says no)
And, of course, in the final seasons, Charlie – a recurring character
Friends was criticized for a long time for not really having any African-American presence on the show. To be honest, there are more than I thought, but they are almost all little tiny bit parts. So maybe there was something to that complaint. It’s official. Friends is a racist.
And to answer the question of whether black people are magic on friends? No. It’s just a coincidence in this one episode. I guess that’s kind of racist, too. Why can’t black people be magic?
The Hair Comes Out and the Gloves Come Off!
In Central Perk, Chandler gets the rest of the gang to bicker amongst themselves so that he can sneak off and smoke a cigarette. He does this by pointing out specific annoying things each character does.
Joey cracks his knuckles, Monica snorts when she laughs, Phoebe chews her hair, and Ross over-pronounces words.
This brings up an interesting trend I’ve noticed in sitcoms: There is a bit of a ‘learning curve’ at the beginning of almost every sitcom where the writers are learning how best to write for the actors and the characters are still being defined in a lot of ways. If you’ve ever watched the very first episode of a sitcom series, you’ll notice that the pilot can often look or feel very different from the series at large.
So, when a sitcom tries to get this specific this early, lots of times things get mentioned and then tossed by the wayside. Sometimes it’s even big things that get dropped or altered – the names of Ray’s kids are changed after the first episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.
In this instance, we never really see Joey crack his knuckles frequently ever again (I don’t think), Monica only occasionally snort-laughs, and hair-chewing seems to be a habit that Phoebe kicks pretty easily. Only Ross’s annoying habit really sticks, because David Schwimmer is so good at over-pronouncing words in a goofy way. Really nailing a specific character’s nuances at the beginning of a sitcom is a fine art.
‘I’ve Decided to Break Up with Alan’
‘. . . Is There Somebody Else?’
– Monica and Ross
In this episode, Monica breaks up with a boyfriend that the rest of the gang really loved. When she breaks the news to them, they react as if they are being dumped themselves.
This is an example of a common sitcom (and overall comedy) writing technique called ‘mapping’. It’s simple – you take the expected behavior and reactions associated with a certain event, then apply it to a different event in which the behavior makes no sense.
To use a recent example, news just broke that Lance Armstrong is considering admitting to using PEDs in order to get back into the professional cycling game. If we mapped this scenario onto YOUR job, it would look a little something like this:
Evil Bossman: Travernius, (in my mind, everyone who reads this is named Travernius) those TPS reports are NOT on my desk like I asked! It’s Friday and I need those reports before I go home to my dungeon to practice my alligator-taming! Did you forget to do the reports?
You: No. I deny that categorically.
Evil Bossman: Wait, we just tested your pee and you did forget the reports!
You: (Sweaty now) Uh … uhh…. no I didn’t.
Evil Bossman: You’re fired!
*A couple years pass*
You: Oh, wait, I totally did forget them.
Evil Bossman: Welcome back immediately!
Here’s an example of mapping from Boy Meets World that is incredibly similar to the end of this Friends episode:
‘There Was a Crooked Man
Who Had a Crooked Smile
Who Lived in a Shoe
. . . For a While’
Other cool stuff from this episode:
Monica’s job is shown for the first time
So is Chandler’s – and he’s in a super-tiny cubicle
Phoebe finds a thumb in her soda
Chandler is cranky from trying to quit smoking – and says he killed Joey for taking his last piece of gum. Really funny to me for some reason.