The One Where Underdog Gets Away
‘I Guess What I’m Trying to Say is that I’m Very Thankful All Your Thanksgivings Sucked’
In case you don’t own a calendar or just haven’t learned to read one yet (don’t worry — it took me YEARS) we’re square in the middle of late January: Just the perfect time for the very first Friends thanksgiving episode!
That’s right. Because of the format I’ve chosen for this article (simply advancing through the series episode-by-episode), it’s going to leave us discussing some timing-sensitive issues that don’t time out well in reality. Case in point: We’ve arrived at season 1’s thanksgiving episode.
BUT just because it’s not actually late November and you’re not actually half-asleep from turkey and half-asleep from wine (which adds up to one whole asleep), doesn’t mean we can’t kick back and see what this episode has to offer up.
So loosen that belt buckle and then glue it to the front of your hat: It’s thanksgiving in Friends-istan.
‘Will You Make the Mashed Potatoes WITH the Lumps?’
Everyone knows thanksgiving is all about tradition. The same foods, the same people, the same naps. They even have the same football teams play every thanksgiving.
Friends does a great job of picking up on this and exploiting it in this episode. When the whole gang ends up unexpectedly stuck together for the holiday, they all try to force their own personal traditions on the group. It results in a screaming match, followed by some pretty serious sulking. No one enjoys themselves until they all agree (after a spirited toast from Chandler) to put aside their old traditions and enjoy the new ones they are actively creating with each other. It may sound hoakey, but there’s a good lesson in there about the importance of being open to new experiences. The episode undeniably ends on a touching moment.
This episode also highlights how particular people can be about their food. Phoebe wants mashed potatoes one way, Ross wants them another way, Joey wants tater tots instead; it’s as true in real life as it is in this episode. Here’s a short list of very unexpected food pairings that I have personally seen people eat and enjoy:
- Applesauce on grilled cheese — I used to do this as a kid. I always thought it was weird, but I mentioned it to a friend the other day who said she did the same thing. Is this common?
- Ketchup on pancakes — Dead serious. My brother used to do this. Still grosses me out.
- Ketchup on bananas — Can we all just agree that ketchup is awesome, but really only belongs on a few key foods? Bananas did not make the cut.
‘And This From the Cry For Help Department: Are You Wearing Makeup?’
Joey becomes a model for the City of New York Health Department in this episode, but isn’t told which disease he will eventually be the face of. He discovers (after being abruptly brushed off by a tasty tart of the subway) that he’s on the VD Awareness poster.
We’re then treated to a montage of posters flying up all around NYC, bearing Joey’s face and strongly insinuating that he is hiding an awful case of the lumpy-humps. This brings up two interesting ideas:
- This VD poster gets put up in the most ridiculous of places:
Here’s a list of the places Joey’s face gets plastered up in the 30-second montage:
- The subway (obviously)
- Some restaurant with outdoor seating (to air out all the VD)
- A bus bench (because even sleeping homeless people can catch it)
- A magazine stand
- A construction site
- Another restaurant
- Various billboards
- What seems to be a small woman’s boutique (because nothing spurs clothing sales more than the prospect of meeting someone with a communicable loins-based disease)
Who’s making the call of where to put these posters up? Waste of fake, imaginary tax dollars, I’d say.
2. Secondly, (and more relevant to reality) it raises the idea of getting attention in all the wrong ways.
The internet has been abuzz recently about a teenage girl in New York named Giovanna Plowman who posted to her Facebook page a video of herself supposedly sucking on her own used feminine hygiene product. I’m not even going to include a link to the video because I don’t recommend watching it. I just think it brings up an interesting point:
In today’s cyber-society, the simple act of “being looked at” is being monetized directly and more accessibly than ever before. Literally anyone can upload a video to YouTube, ‘monetize’ it, and then start making money from advertising — if they can command enough eyeballs.
When you’re raised in a world in which the number of Twitter followers you have is not only a form of social currency, but can also translate into monetary gain, there’s a very clear message that is being sent. And because the digital age came upon us as a society so rapidly, I don’t think we’ve ever taken the time to really think about the message this new media is delivering: That getting “looked at” is profitable and good — no matter what.
If this is what is being reinforced nowadays (and it is — look at how often the LEGITIMATE NEWS talks about what people tweet) is it any wonder we have young people pulling these crazy stunts? This Giovanna Plowman now has about 150,000 twitter followers — and from looking at her tweets, I’m sure she’d tell you that her disgusting video was totally worth it.
Is it her fault that she’s willing to do something like that to be “looked at”? Maybe. Think of it this way: If the internet is a carnival and each YouTube video is a booth vying for your tickets, is it any wonder that we have a few ‘Freak Show’ booths pop up? Not at all. It happened in real life as well.
The difference is that ANYONE can open a ‘Freak Show’ booth in this virtual carnival. Even young teenagers who may not be thinking through their actions, but who know that posting that video will get them likes and retweets — which in their brains have been equated with success and popularity since childhood. There is now a permanent record of this girl performing this act on the internet. She can never take that back (whether it’s actually a hoax or not).
Do you think those 150,000 Twitter followers will seem worth it to Giovanna in the future when she’s applying to colleges or trying to find a date? No, of course not. Who knows if Twitter will even be around in five or ten years? The internet (and it’s sharing capabilities) has the potential to be the most empowering tool ever available to the average, everyday person. But it also means that people can get in over their heads easily, quickly, and permanently. The digital age hasn’t changed how impressionable young people can be, but it has provided them with the opportunity to act on those (often errant) impressions — to an audience of millions.
Congratulations, Giovanna Plowman. You’ve appointed yourself to the incredibly-temporary title of Queen of the Freaks. Good luck living it down.
‘We Just Refer to You as Bobo the Sperm Guy’
I’m getting a bit wordy here, so we’ll keep this section short:
It’s really shocking how terribly Ross is treated by Carol and Susan. They really don’t show him any respect at all. It’s funny in some instances and borders on emasculating bitchiness in others.
‘I’d Very Much Like to Butter Your Head’
Other cool things from this episode:
- Gunther isn’t really a character in the series yet, but he shows up in the background of this one, just talking on the phone. Oh, Gunther. I can’t wait until you start making me laugh and creeping me out a bit.
- Phoebe tries to get Ross to stick his head into a turkey to simulate the conditions of being in the womb. This isn’t at all significant, other than the obvious connection to that episode in Season 5 where Monica actually puts her head in a turkey.
- The Underdog balloon in the thanksgiving parade breaks loose and soars over NYC.
- When Ross is talking to his unborn child, he reveals that he started studying paleontology because of a dare. Seems like a surprisingly big character inconsistency just tossed in there. Does Ross seem like the kind of character to determine the entire course of his life based on a dare? I don’t think so.
- Ugly Naked Guy is joined for thanksgiving dinner by Ugly Naked Gal
Next Article: Season 1, Episode 10 : The One With the Monkey
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Season 1, Episode 7 : The One With the Blackout