I grew up the biggest fan of Friends, the sitcom. I remember the night of the last episode, where I invited my friend James for a sleepover, and wept with sorrow when all my beloved characters put their apartment keys down on the kitchen counter. It felt like a death in the family. I would never know how Chandler and Monica’s children turned out. I would never see Ross and Rachel’s wedding. I would never see how Joey’s career… Well let’s just stop there!
Although sitcoms are generalised in their scope – it last 20 minutes, with a conflict and a resolution occurring in that time period – their characters have a rich backstory which make them relatable. And although politics are very rarely explored in sitcoms; as humans with opinions we can assume our beloved characters have political leanings.
This article will analyse the political leanings of the six main characters. Although we won’t be necessarily assign them to political parties, because political parties are not stagnant with its dogmata. For instance Trump’s Republican Party is almost indistinguishable from Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party. So instead we will add more credence to which party/candidate they would support. However because the show ran from the 90’s to the early 2000’s, this analysis will factor in the political and social ethos around that time.
Name: Ross Geller
Political Leaning: Conservative
Possible Party Affiliation: A John Kasich/Jeb Bush/Ted Cruz Led Republican Party
We start off with Dr Ross Geller, with the surprising (depending on how you examine it) verdict. Yes throughout the shows run, Ross has shown tendencies towards a more conservative mind-set. However he isn’t far right, or even mid-right. He is slightly conservative socially and slightly more conservative economically. This notion is based on three observations: Ross’s wealthy upbringing, belligerent obsession with masculine culture (even though he is antithetical to that ethos) and lastly the consequences of that obsession.
Ross comes from a wealthy background, even though the audience never ascertain the profession of his mother and father (Judy and Jack Geller, respectively). This wealthy background is shown throughout the show as Jack claims to have lost all his saving for Monica Geller’s wedding, by trying to sell ice online, the expensive Porsche that makes him “look like a jackass” and the country clubs that he is a member at (as seen when Chandler plays racquetball with him).
As a result of his upbringing, it is safe to bet that Ross’s calculated distribution of his finances has an enormous effect on his political stance. After all he does live in New York, which contains one of the highest tax rates in the US, has been divorced three times (alimony) and has two young children. So why wouldn’t he lean towards a conservative ideology, especially fiscally? Flat tax rates would help a man like Ross – which is an agenda pushed by a Kasich/Bush/Cruz led Republican Party.
However that is a tepid example of Ross’s political leaning, the most potent being his obsession with masculine culture, and subsequent problems that arise from it. Republicans pride themselves on their perceived masculinity. That is why men like Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood are poster boys, ironically, of the party. The Republican Party is all about showing their masculinity through their physicality or strength. Ross is an advocate of this philosophy, as we saw when Ben Geller started playing with a Barbie doll instead of a GI Joe. Ross spent the entire episode trying to persuade him to give up on the beautiful looking woman play toy, in favour of a muscular topless man toy because of the fear that his child may become homosexual. But in this essence, Ross is the quintessential Republican: he is trying to project insecurities of his masculinity on to Ben, through the use of children toys.
Furthermore, this insecurity manifests into more sinister projections on other people, for instance his cruel attitudes towards the male nanny who was hired to look after Emma Geller. His borderline homophobic attitude towards the nanny (played by Freddie Prince Jr) is belligerent, and makes the entire episode hard to watch (even in the early 2000s). But this homophobic stance is a prominent feature within Republicanism – it’s almost a condition. Although a man such as Ross has the capability to change his attitudes, it is a clear indication of his political leaning at the age of 34.
Name: Chandler Bing
Political Leaning: Libertarian
Possible Party Affiliation: Rand Paul led Republican Party
Chandler is a difficult read. On one hand he shows signs of homophobia, but one can argue (I advocate this position) that has more to do with his father issues and upbringing. He is also, like Ross, is a higher earner living in New York, and is extremely responsible fiscally. On the other hand he is extremely sarcastic and married to a liberal (spoiler alert), both of which are not prototypical elements in being a Republican. My conclusion is that Chandler may identify himself as a libertarian but not necessarily vote.
Chandler’s struggles greatly, during the start of the series, with topics related to homosexuality and often uses his jokes as a coping mechanism. This uncomfortably comes from his relationship with his father, who had cheated on Chandler’s mother with various men and eventually becomes a transvestite. However throughout the series we see Chandler mature – a big part of that is because of his relationship with Monica Geller. Chandler, symbolically at least, puts these emotional issues to rest by inviting his father to his wedding.
I believe Chandler started the series leaning towards a Republican mind-set. However as the show progressed and his relationship with Monica became more staunch; he became more progressive in his political attitude. I still believe he would vote for a Rand Paul government, which is has many progressive policies on same sex marriage and legalisation of weed. However that government would also favour a flat tax rate, which would indulge Chandler.
Name: Joey Tribbiani
Political Leaning: Democratic Liberal
Possible Party Affiliation: Any Catholic Democrat
Joey is a simplistic man. Joey likes women. Joey likes jam. If Joey had to choice between the two, he wouldn’t choose. He would just put jam on women. That’s a philosophy that is worth centring your life around. So of course Joey would want a more liberal society, filled with more liberal girls. That may also have a positive impact on his career. However he does have one hang up – his family. Above all, Joey values his family and his family are Catholic. So if John F. Kennedy were to rise from the grave like Lazarus, then we all know who Joey would vote for. I’d be surprised if Joey knew who JFK was to be honest.
Name: Rachel Green
Political Leaning: Liberal
Possible Party Affiliation: Hilary Clinton led Democratic Party
Rachel is by far the most dynamic and profound character on the show, and maybe in sitcom history (ensemble casts). She started her life as an uptight, snotty bitch from Connecticut, yet moved to the city and operated her way out of a working class job, to a huge successful role at Ralph Lauren. She is the epitome of the American dream, and if you’re younger than 24 you won’t remember the hysteria which accompanied Jennifer Aniston. She is truly a pop culture icon. I digress. Her character development shows us an interesting story of a conservative upper-middle class white girl becoming an independent and strong woman.
As Rachel has stated on numerous occasions, she grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth. She and her sisters were afforded every luxury in the world from their rich father (who we can assume was a Republican). With so much privilege bestowed upon her at a young age, it would not come as a surprise that she lived her life through that lens. However, after running out on her cheating ex-fiancée (who was much like her father) she began a fresh slate in New York. Here Rachel began her life as a working class individual, with high ambitions. She accepted no handouts, and struggled through life. This built character, but also gave her a new perspective on life.
She rose from the bottom to the top and along the way became a strong independent woman – both financially and socially. She would of course want a woman to be in the White House, especially if she was running against a misogynistic, incestuous potential rapist.
Name: Monica Geller
Political Leaning: Liberal
Possible Party Affiliation: Hilary Clinton Led Democratic Party
Monica throughout the show has touched on very sensitive subjects and taken the more progressive approach. For instance, when she realised she was barren, she looked into adoption. She also, with her husband, does not conform to gender roles. For instance, Monica became the provider in the household when Chandler quit his job in the pursuit of his passions. But I believe the main reason why Monica has a more liberal outlook on life is because she is rejecting the methodology of her parents.
Throughout the show we see how Monica’s parents show favouritism towards Ross, and neglect Monica. We see that when they waste away Monica’s wedding fund and when her father uses her childhood memories to block water from his Porsche. This toxic feeling that has manifested within Monica must lead her to reject the conservative lifestyle of her parents and brother.
Monica did not pursue a typical ‘9-5’ office job after college, but instead wanted to fulfil a more creative ambition of hers: becoming a chef. She rejects the notion that happiness is correlates with money when she dumped Pete the millionaire. Instead she is a romantic woman, who wants to fulfil her ambitions in life with little regard for what may happen. That is why we love Monica. That is why she is very liberal.
Name: Phoebe Buffay
Political Leaning: Hippie Liberal
Possible Party Affiliation: Jill Stein led Green Party
Phoebe is a hippie, for intents and purposes. Her attitudes towards fur for fashion, animal cruelty, fracking, environmental issues and countless others would be answered by Dr Jill Stein. It’s a pretty simple match and doesn’t need too much analysis. Either Phoebe doesn’t vote (or doesn’t have sufficient paperwork to vote), or she votes for Dr Stein. It fits effortlessly.
So there we have it; my analysis of the political leaning of the characters from Friends. I may be wrong of course, this is merely my opinion, but I believe I have presented enough evidence to mount my case. Also none of this is to disparage anyone’s political affiliation. It’s just my opinion.
Politics and religion should never come between friends, however… Do you know your own friends as well as you think?