Phoebe's mother's suicide should've never been a joke.
1. When they portrayed Phoebe's homelessness as a teenager in New York City as one of her quirky personality traits instead of a seriously traumatic experience.
"Phoebe’s history. There is a lot of trauma and mental illness that comes with experiencing homelessness, and the topic was always treated as an awkward 'There goes Phoebe, talking about her weird past' punchline."
2. When they made Joey's treatment of women a running joke throughout the series rather than a deeply inappropriate behavior.
"I think for me it was the overriding narrative that Joey was constantly objectifying women. The worst one for me was when he was on the search for a young, 'hot' woman to be his roommate, and took the time to take down the shower curtains before they came over to interview. I guess the writers didn’t have much respect for boundaries and consent. Seeking out someone young and potentially vulnerable to move in with him purely because he wants to have sex with a 19-year-old was degrading and brought up a ton of red flags. But, because sleeping around was Joey's 'thing,' this creepy behavior was often disregarded and seen as a joke. Perhaps some creepy old men could relate and laugh at it, but it’s always made me feel extremely uncomfortable."
3. When the show wrote anti-fat jokes about Monica's weight as a high schooler, and capitalized on the idea that "fat people don't deserve to be treated like everyone else" when Courteney Cox wore a "fat suit."
"Two words: Fat Monica. That’s one that feels like it wasn’t just a case of it was a different time, but was just your basic 'let’s laugh at fat people' joke. It wasn’t cool then and it isn’t cool now. Even in the late '90s/early '00s there were conversations going on about eating disorders, so portraying someone who was a relatively normal size as a joke was deeply unhealthy."
"Ugh, definitely Monica's 'fat phase.' Every time I watch an episode featuring 'Fat Monica' I always end up (sarcastically) screaming to anyone within earshot: 'IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE SHE'S FAT! AND FAT PEOPLE DON'T DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE HUMAN BEINGS! THEY EXIST TO BE THE BUTT OF JOKES!' She seemed totally happy when she was 'fat.' Well, she was until Chandler made a comment at Thanksgiving about her weight, and then she lost the weight! Because of what some guy had to say! Not because she wanted to!"
4. When Ross couldn't accept the idea that a straight man wanted to be a nanny, and fired Sandy from being Emma's full-time nanny.
"The whole Sandy debacle. Even with the 'product of its time' factor, watching Ross' brain melt down over the idea of a straight man wanting to care for children is so cringeworthy. As much as yes, it's a TV show and therefore ridiculous things happen, in reality he probably would have been sued for asking invasive questions about the nanny's sexuality and then firing him because he was a man."
5. When the friends made fun of Chandler's dad and constantly identified her as a drag queen, rather than accepting her for who she really was: a transgender woman.
"Chandler's anti-trans jokes about his transgender parent were awful. While they did address it later on by reuniting them, the character was played by Kathleen Turner! The show also conflated transgender people and drag queens. In trying to expose and dismantle some prejudices, they also perpetuated others."
6. When Joey and Ross realized they liked taking naps together and hid it from the rest of the gang because they "feared" they'd be perceived as "queer."
"All the gay panic, but most specifically the one where Joey and Ross realize they like taking naps together and hide it from the rest of the gang because GAY!!!"
7. When the show didn't treat Phoebe's mother's suicide as a serious issue, but rather the butt of a joke that usually got a big laugh from the audience.
"Phoebe's mom's death and her entire traumatic history. It always annoys me in 'The One with the Cat' that after Ross lays into Phoebe, she responds with: 'Ross, how many parents have you lost?' You think maybe the show is actually going to discuss the seriousness of it, but then it turns into another joke."
8. When Carol and Susan's relationship in Season 1 was defined as an evil factor in Ross's life, rather than a groundbreaking moment in Carol's personal journey.
"Literally just the entire 'Ross’ ex-wife, Carol, is a lesbian' storyline.”
9. When Frank Jr. Jr. got engaged to his high school teacher and the gang accepted their relationship because the writers portrayed it as a "true love story" rather than what it really was: sexual harassment.
10. When Chandler felt uncomfortable with Joey and Ross wearing makeup and knitting, ultimately making them feel bad for not doing historically "masculine" activities.
"Every time one of the men does something like be emotional or hang out with a woman in a platonic way, the other men (looking at you, Chandler) ask if they're either gay or a woman. Anti-gay and anti-trans comments weren't funny then, and they're less funny now."
11. When Monica made an anti-gay comment about Joey's ballroom dance lessons, perpetuating the idea that identifying as gay was something to be made fun of.
12. When Ross thought he had kissed a drunken and unconscious Rachel in his bed back in college, totally disregarding a woman's consent and boundaries.
"There's a flashback scene where Rachel and Monica went to one of Ross's college parties, and Ross talks about kissing Rachel. This actually turned out to be Monica, but Ross says that she was asleep when he kissed her."
13. When the show never explored Phoebe's grief over giving up her brother's triplets after giving birth to them, especially when she wanted to keep one of them to raise herself.
"The triplets are obviously mentioned again in the series, but they just went onto the next episode after Phoebe gave birth like nothing happened. During the whole 'One Hundredth' episode, she kept asking Rachel to ask Frank if she could raise one of the triplets — so when she had to give them up, it was obviously painful for her. I know it's a funny sitcom, but I wish they didn't brush over this topic so lightly."
14. When Chandler made an insensitive comment at Janice's expense when she got stood up on a date, making light of self-harm and suicide.
"I’ve always really wanted to start #JusticeForJanice (or actually find out if someone has already!) because Janice seems to be one of the most realistic characters in the show, and Chandler and Monica are incredibly rude to her face. I know some comedy has to be amplified for television, however, the way they do it is just downright cringeworthy, like when they insinuate she should go home and see if she'd actually self-harm or do something worse when she gets stood up on a date."
15. When Monica caught Chandler masturbating and described it to Rachel as catching him "molesting himself," proving how unmindful the show was around rape culture.
"First of all, it is impossible to molest yourself — the act of molestation is, by definition, sexual assault/abuse. And second, any joke revolving around rape or the perpetuity of rape culture is disgusting. So many jokes could have been made in this moment, and they chose 'molesting himself.' Lazy, ignorant, and gross."
16. And when Ross pushed Ben to play with a G.I. Joe instead of his Barbie doll, perpetuating toxic masculinity at a young age.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.