So my recent post on Otherness in ‘Friends’ seems to have generated a deal of debate in the Twittersphere (and in my living room) regarding the exact ethnicity of key ‘Friends’ friends. In a nutshell, my theory hinges on the fact that Rachel (as the jewel being chased by everyone’s favourite neurotic, Ross) is a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). This is the reason that Ross’ various other romantic exploits are necessarily different or ‘other’, ie: Black, gay, Asian, British…
One avenue I failed to explore in my last post pertains to Ross Geller’s apparent Jewishness. Ross is Jewish to an almost archetypal degree. His Woody Allen neurosis, anxiety, officious nature, princely status in the family and, of course, comical eNUNciation paint him as a (quite crude) Jewish (stereo)type. (Apologies for all the brackets).
This is nothing so mindblowing in itself, but placed in relevance to the white mainstreamness of Rachel, the debate spiders outwards in interesting directions. For Rachel to be a WASP confirms the awkward wish fulfillment status of Ross’ infatuation with her. He is defined, in part, by her social superiority, and only reaches adulthood (and therefore attractiveness to Rachel) when he finally gets over her and starts dating Julie.
But what if Rachel is in fact Jewish?? (audience gasps)
There are quite literally pages of Google search returns devoted to the is Rachel Jewish debate. Minutes of research on my part led me to the near-half-conclusion that Rachel is indeed Jewish. Maybe.
and a former ‘Friends’ writer could only go as far as saying that he ‘thinks’ she is.
But why is this relevant? Simply put, Rachel being Jewish puts a whole different spin on Ross’ journey. It turns him from a hapless Jewish underdog in search of the validation of white America into a hapless Jewish underdog in search of a Jewish princess to call his own, validating the norms of his non-WASPish heritage.
In all of this, the most interesting thing is the anxiety that some ‘Friends’ devotees display when race theory is introduced to the latte-sipping universe of Ross, Rachel et al. It is becoming apparent that modern attitudes to ‘Friends’, which can be taken as a defining text of mid-late nineties mainstream America, often transcend nostalgia into something approaching fervour. To suggest that race politics (inadvertently or otherwise) were at play in ‘Friends’ is almost to attack the ideals underpinning the show, and this, more than anything, rattles cages. ‘Friends’, through no fault of its own, presents itself as kind of aracial, apolitical, impossible to offend. But it can…
Anyway, more musings as they hit me.