Ross and Rachel from Friends were one of the most iconic couples in T.V history. The ups and downs in their relationship kept viewers on edge, and satisfied many when they got together in the finale. However, looking back on the beloved tv show from a more modern standpoint, their relationship is now perceived as creepy, obsessive, and unhealthy.
90’s sitcoms were full of laughable moments and loveable couples. For example, Monica and Chandler, also from Friends, were an example of a natural, healthy, happy couple. They came together naturally, they grew as a couple, and they were happy together.
Ross and Rachel weren’t like that at all. They had bad communication skills, were more in love with the idea of love than with each other, constantly fought, had nothing in common, lied, guilted one another, cheated, and had an unbalanced relationship with Ross always seeming to have more power over Rachel.
The “will they/won’t they” trope is a classic in media, in order to keep the audience engaged. And the fact that Ross had been madly into Rachel for years brought him some sympathy and made many viewers hope Rachel would return his feelings. Many viewers likely found the drama around their relationship engaging, it stirred up emotions to make people more passionate either for or against the couple, and when the tension was resolved, it usually ended with Rachel and Ross forgiving each other and getting back together, making viewers believe their relationship was positive and if they got together for good it would all be okay. Rachel was also a very likable character; smart, career-driven, and grew as a person over the course of the show. Ross was less likable, with his casual sexism and homophobia, and how possessive and controlling he was over Rachel and his other friends. In plenty of relationships, the couple can better each other by being together, but that wasn’t the case with Ross and Rachel.
The problem with the media back then portraying Ross and Rachel as this intense, aspirational couple was that it encouraged poor relationship behavior amongst young men and women in the ‘90s and pushed harmful behaviors onto influential viewers. People learned, “if your boyfriend cheats on you but does these grand gestures to win you back, deep down he loves you, no matter what,” instead of “if your boyfriend cheats on you, that’s a legitimate cause for permanent termination of the relationship.”
Nowadays, people are more aware of signs of a toxic relationship and how to avoid them, and the media portrays more happy, healthy relationships that can be admired modeled off of.