The Friends TV show was nothing short of iconic. It inspired an entire generation to lead their best lives through witty dialogue and memorable characters.
Much of that inspiration was clear to see, but some of it was quite hidden. Once you realize how many hidden messages and meanings there are in this show, you’ll have no choice but to watch it all over again!
The inevitability of change
The series finale shook up the lives and relationships of our key characters. The titular friends drifted apart and drifted together, and it was clear their lives would never be the same.
This bittersweet finale wasn’t what many fans were looking for. But there is a lesson here: change is inevitable, whether it’s families growing larger or friends growing apart. The important thing is to enjoy each moment in and of itself because tomorrow, things may be completely different.
Don’t be imprisoned by the past
Throughout the series, we learn a bit more about Phoebe’s childhood. It was very rough (to put it mildly), but you’d otherwise never know because Phoebe is the most cheerful and optimistic member of their group.
The lesson? Your past is where you came from, but not your final destination. It doesn’t have to define your life, and you can always create a better life that provides the happiness and fulfillment you deserve.
Some people are meant to be together
In real life, we often argue about whether fate or destiny plays a role in our relationships. But as a show, Friends is firmly on the side that some people are meant to be together.
Chandler and Monica end up together (and very happy) despite differing personalities and bad experiences with previous relationships. And Ross and Rachel end up together even after everything tries to tear them apart. The lesson is that the love of your life is out there, and you shouldn’t give up on finding them.
Don’t dream it; be it
In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a catchy lyric gives this hopeful message: “don’t dream it; be it.” As it turns out, this message runs throughout the entire Friends series!
Joey begins as a lousy actor, but he believes in his dreams of success enough to make them into reality. And Rachel snags the job she wants despite not really having the education or experience for it. These characters didn’t just “dream it” but instead became the best versions of themselves.
We tend to think of setbacks as disruptions to the way things are meant to be. But Friends shows us the necessity of normalizing setbacks as a part of our lives.
We frequently see characters like Joey struggling to find work, Monica losing a job, and Rachel basically having to reboot her entire life. But the characters manage to persevere and grow despite these setbacks, and they help prove none of us can grow and mature without overcoming our own challenges.
For decades, the sitcom format provided us with a very “traditional” view of motherhood, and it always looked like something out of Leave It to Beaver. Friends defied this view at all turns, and the show ended up teaching us some valuable lessons about nontraditional motherhood.
Out of the core group, we see that Phoebe becomes a surrogate mother, Rachel becomes a single mother, and Monica becomes an adoptive mother. And the show is clear that all forms of motherhood are valid and rewarding, shattering TV norms about what motherhood has to look like.
The power of found family
Despite the name of the show, it was clear after a few seasons these characters were more than friends. Instead, they became a kind of family. And this teaches some important lessons about “found family.”
In early life, family serves as our anchor to steady us in times of uncertainty. But growing up means moving away from that anchor and into a very uncertain world. In the face of uncertainties (like Ross dealing with multiple divorces and Rachel losing her job), this show teaches that we can create a second family to provide stability and love.
Your friends permanently shape your life
Sometimes, these “hidden” messages are actually hiding in plain sight. For example, Phoebe and other characters teach a simple lesson: our friends play the largest role in shaping our lives.
Statistically speaking, Phoebe should have had a rough life. Her childhood traumas could have sent her into the arms of a dangerous and unstable crowd. By picking the right friends, Phoebe gave herself a better future, and the show teaches us it is never too late to pick a better crowd who will lift you up and support you.
Passion before security
Speaking of growing up, most people eventually confront a big question: would you rather be happy or be secure? And plenty of people choose “security,” turning their back on passions and hobbies in favor of a steady paycheck.
Chandler shows us that it is ultimately more rewarding to follow your passions. He left his stable, well-paying previous gig to pursue a career in marketing. Not only did he find real happiness with this choice, but making the choice a bit later in life shows us it’s never too late to pursue happiness.
Opposites really do attract
Some people argue that opposites attract. Others argue that we tend to fall in love with those who are similar to ourselves. Friends ended up coming down hard in favor of the fact that opposites attract.
We see this when the neurotic Ross and free-spirited Rachel end up together. And earlier, we see it when the carefree Chandler and the compulsive Monica end up together. The show proves that a good relationship completes you, and that means finding someone with the qualities you are missing instead of the ones you already have.