Tech & Media
Watching ‘Friends’ With a 9-Year-Old May Not Be For Every Family, But It Works For Us
By Jenn Cox
Photo © OlgaPink/Twenty20
Jul 5, 2022
Friends has to be my all-time favourite show.
I’ve watched it so many times that I can recite the punchlines, on cue, while sipping from my Central Perk mug and wearing my “PIVOT!” socks.
And it seemed innocent enough to watch with my son — the characters are funny, Ross has a monkey, it’s only good times, right?
The One With A Lot Of Questions
My son, of course, LOVES the show, but it has led to a lot of discussions that I wasn't really anticipating.
He asked me, “What's a virgin?” (Thanks, Monica.) And “How can someone practice having sex at home?” (Thanks, Monica's virgin boyfriend!) And “What is smoking pot?” (Thanks, Phoebe.) And “Why would someone want to have sex over and over?” (Thanks, Chandler.)
The guys have free porn for an entire episode, and it didn’t take my son long to figure out what porn was. Although I did get some questions when Monica accidentally hired a sex worker for Chandler instead of a stripper. Which of course led him to ask, “Why would anyone want to watch Danny DeVito strip during Phoebe’s bachelorette party?”
We all asked ourselves that same question, son.
The One With A Numb Mum
Maybe I’m just too immune and numb to the lighthearted sexual content of TV shows to have realized it might be a bit much for my nine-year-old to watch.
Nevertheless, with so much Friends merch all around us (I have the Central Perk Lego set on display in my bedroom) and so many cultural references from the iconic show, he loved watching the episodes and connecting the dots to everything he had been seeing around him.
Plus, 80 per cent of the show, I’d argue, is still clean, innocent fun.
When I took some chips off his plate the other day he stopped, glared up at me and yelled, “Cameron doesn’t share food!” (a reference to the episode where Joey went on a date and the girl stole a French fry from his plate, thus inciting him to explode with a “Joey doesn’t share food!”).
I cracked up!
I love that I get to share my love for this series with my son, especially since my husband can’t stand sitcoms and is more of a Discovery/History channel buff.
"It might be wise to do a test run, parents only, if you are fuzzy on the details of your past favs."
We watch episodes before school and on lazy weekends because it’s familiar and comforting and freakin’ hilarious.
My only advice while watching old movies and sitcoms with our children is this: Parents should proceed with caution when waxing nostalgic with their kiddos!
My husband and I are oftentimes shocked when we watch a “classic” kids’ movie from the ‘80s only to discover it’s littered with foul language and terrible stereotypes.
There’s a lot of cigarette smoking in old flicks, too.
And with so much piped-in studio laughter during the most inappropriate, politically incorrect parts, parents can expect a lot of turned heads and questions about why certain things are considered funny.
So it might be wise to do a test run, parents only, if you are fuzzy on the details of your past favs.
The One Where There’s Some Explaining To Do
I’m a huge proponent of having the sex talk with my kid because I think it’s important he hears it from someone who will tell him the facts and the truth (unlike the kids in the schoolyard who are throwing terms around without any idea as to how heavy their words are).
And if I choose to watch a throwback flick or TV show, I am prepared to explain certain jokes and punchlines.
For example, it can seem like a real contradiction to tell your child about the intricacies and intimacy involved in sex, and then watch Joey on Friends jump from girlfriend to girlfriend and treat sex like a comical, casual thing.
Watching old movies and shows may also bring about discussions about how people of different races and sexual orientations were treated in years past.
Many of these older forms of entertainment were created before society had a broader understanding of certain stereotypes (like calling something “gay” because it wasn’t “cool”).
"I’m a huge proponent of having the sex talk with my kid because I think it’s important he hears it from someone who will tell him the facts and the truth."
When we watch them today, it can be jarring to hear such prejudices. So, we talk about them with our son.
We discuss what we’ve seen and heard in these older movies and shows. We explain how certain terms have been almost eliminated from our vocabularies because of their insensitivities to particular groups. It demonstrates to our son the evolution of compassion that has taken place in the last four decades (and beyond). And the work that still needs to be done.
I won’t stop watching Friends and other cult classic films from my youth because they are more mature than kids’ movies today. But I will go into these retro shows with caution knowing they could spark some interesting conversations. And I’m comfortable with those discussions.
But I've got to pivot now and get back to parenting. I can hear the Friends intro theme music in the living room and it’s the one where Joey donates to a sperm bank.
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