Thursday, January 15, 2009

Are you Monica-and-Chandler or Ross-and-Rachel?

It has often been said that the greatest love story in that quinessential 90's sitcom, Friends, was the one between Ross and Rachel. Their on-and-off, off-and-on romance represented the key plotline in the series, and sustained the Friends franchise for the ten long years that the series ran, right up to the very last scene in the very last episode.

I used to absolutely adore Ross, his character represented exactly the sort of bookish intellectual type that was (and is still) just my cup of tea, in spite of the fact that all my then college friends found him geeky and insufferable and dull and arrogant (perhaps because I was exactly the same??), and they really couldn't fathom what Rachel saw in him. The fact that he was played by the not-so-photogenic David Schwimmer didn't help. In their eyes, his only redeeming quality was his puppy-dog devotion to Rachel. He was absolutely adorable in the laundry scene when he was trying valiantly to tell Rachel how he feels about her, but couldn't.

Instead, my friends preferred Joey, by far. Yes he was a bit dim, but who cares when he was played by the dreamy Matt Le Blanc. More importantly, among the guys in Friends he was the most easy-going character, with a great sense of humour and an ability to not take himself too seriously. His lack of critical faculty was precisely what made him so genuinely cheerful -- and a great sense of humour is one of the most (if not the most) prized qualities in a guy in Irish girls' eyes. Moreover, despite all his Cassanova ways, deep-down he was a pretty decent bloke. When Rachel and Joey finally got together late in the series, my friends felt vindicated finally (and fervently wished that they managed to work through their inhibitions regarding Ross, but as that was ultimately in vain, it made Ross an even bigger villain in their eyes).

Nobody however - at least nobody I've met - had ever professed a liking, much less love, for Chandler.

Yes, Chandler. The Clown. The deeply insecure male who would rather stand the blood-curdling cries of "Oh. My. God" from the disgusting Janice than be alone by himself. The guy who would like to be considered "the funny man" but was only hilarious because he always, always, managed to say the most inappropriate things at the most inopportune moments. Unlike Phoebe, who was blissfully unaware of the impact of her awkward comments, and thus remained a light-hearted and refreshing presence among her friends, Chandler was all too painfully aware of his inadequacies as a human being. His only saving grace was due solely to the power of empathy -- we could all identify with him because we have all been weak and insecure and unsure of ourselves. We could feel his pain, the desire for the ground to open up and swallow him to save him from deep mortification as he lurched from one awkward social situation to the next. We've all been there ourselves, but we would never say that we like him.

I thus used to think that Monica and Chandler as a couple was really more a pairing of convenience, a co-dependent relationship because each cannot find another person in the world who could ever stand (and understand) them. Monica was a neurotic control-freak made insecure by the casual cruelty of her exacting mother, who fed her a steady drip of self-reproach ever since she was born and found that she couldn't ever compete with Ross for her parents' affection, so that in spite of her good looks and perfect record on everything, Monica remained weighed down by a tonne of childhood emotional baggage -- the kind that Chandler instinctively appreciated because of his own traumatic parental issues.

This is totally unlike the relationship between Ross and Rachel, which I thought for the longest time as the quinessential great romance. They could have paired up with other people, and they had paired up with other people, but in the end they still found that the other person is the most important love of their lives, in spite of all the issues and obstacles they had to work through to get there. And they got there in the end... Oh, isn't that just wonderful? Isn't that what love is all about?

Somehow over the years, I'm slowly beginning to think that Ross-and-Rachel is really not such a great love story after all, and that the truly great love story is actually happening - quietly, without fanfare - between Monica and Chandler.

When I occasionally caught the re-runs of Friends episodes now (they are everywhere on Irish telly), I finally opened my eyes to how absolutely spoilt and cowardly Ross was. His indecision and inability to express his feelings to Rachel, indicators of his innocent gaucheness which was so adorable to me at the time (I was a naive young thing who had only ever experienced the sweet awkwardness of puppy love when the series first ran), seems to me now just pathetic self-denial. I can't believe now that it was really his friends who helped Ross make up his mind that he really loves Rachel after all, rather than coming to that conclusion himself, uncoerced. That it was actually Phoebe who literally had to push him out the door and drove him all the way to not one airport but two, that it was she who decided to risk HER life to speed through rush-hour traffic and it was she who never gave up on the idea of reaching Rachel in the face of surmounting odds against them. And all these just to get Ross to stop his feckless dithering and profess his love to Rachel already. In the end, it was Rachel who turned up at Ross's door, whilst he stood helplessly by the answering machine, unable to do anything to achieve his aspirations in love.

Jesus, what a wuss!! Why didn't I see it the first time round?? Ross didn't deserve Emily, and he actually, now that I really think about it, didn't deserve Rachel at all. His propensity to get married and divorced several times whilst he was still in his twenties and early thirties no longer had that cute naivete that I adored about him, but is rather just a plain testament to his inability to commit.

In contrast, I am really finding myself liking Chandler more and more. He is prepared to be vulnerable in front of the person he loves. And he is able to love. He knows what Monica needs emotionally and psychologically, and he is more than willing - and capable - of handling a headcase like her. More to the point, he doesn't hesitate. He is unflinching and courageous when it comes to loving and defending her - not only against others, but more importantly, against herself. He doesn't mind that she could look an absolute mess at times - he even managed to find her sexy when she had a horrible flu. More importantly, Chandler doesn't need others to tell him that Monica, in spite of all her many, many faults, is the love of his life.

In short, Chandler is my hero!

Words cannot express how lucky I am - a complete Monica clone - to be finally able to move past the Ross-and-Rachel phase of infantile on-and-off infatuation to an altogether more adult relationship with someone who - miracle of all miracles - resembles the very best of Chandler.

Not because you're in any way the clown, my darling, but you keep me light, and sane, and allow me to see the beauty in this world in spite of all its dreariness and cruelty. I can now see how right my college friends were - a great sense of humour is the most valuable quality in a partner. We can laugh at ourselves, and at the world, in good times and bad.

My dear, all your weaknesses, I love, perhaps even more so than your many strengths (perhaps my previous poem is already outdated?). I just cannot ever fathom how someone would, or even could, feel the same way about my neurotic, far-too-serious self. You are an amazing gift.

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22 Comments:

At Fri Jan 16, 04:55:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger laichungleung said...

What an interesting analysis. The happy '90s when all sitcoms are about a bunch of slackers hanging around drinking coffees. That was the golden age of TV and what NBC called must see TV. Oh well, it's long gone. Now it's all reality TVs and the Internet, Youtube and Tivo. I think the cast members got $1 million per episode toward the end of the series.

 
At Fri Jan 16, 05:37:00 p.m. GMT, Anonymous Exile from HK said...

Wow, I am surprised you see so much in those three clowns :-) I just hope viewers from overseas would not assume all American men are like that. What's up with hanging out at coffee shop everyday? At least they pay their own rent. The show would not have worked in this gloomy economy. They have to come up with something soon to reflect the reality in the U.S, like homelessness, haha...or make a new version of "The Honeymooners".

 
At Sun Jan 18, 10:10:00 a.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

LCL: Yes the happy 90's indeed, when I was in my happy College days and spent my time hanging out with a bunch of fellow slackers drinking coffees :)

As a Friends fan, I think the cast absolutely deserved those 1 million dollars per episode, even though just the fact that I admit to being a Friends fan probably renders my opinions on anything else null and void.

Exile: Well, I had grown up with the series more or less, so it's perhaps difficult for others to understand what Friends mean to me and my college friends, especially if they didn't have the same experience of post-episode analysis the following day over biccies and tea after each and every show!

And no, we were not so naive as to think all American men are like that. In fact, the fact that they're American hardly matters at all from a personality angle. Of course, we were completely envious of the fact that they had that beautiful big rent-controlled apartment in NYC while the rest of us had to make do with college accommodation over here... To tell you another embarrassing truth, some of my apartment decor choices were heavily influenced by Monica's apartment in Friends!!

 
At Sun Jan 18, 05:51:00 p.m. GMT, Anonymous exile from hk said...

Well, from a Friends fan to another, I watched every episode too. I mean EVERY! When Friends first came out, I was actually living in Japan (tried to be a responsible adult) but I remember the buzz. Since we didn't have cable TV in Japan, I didn't get to watch it until we came back to the U.S in 2001. I was hooked. I don't particularly care about each individual character but as a whole package, Friends was a clever production. Obviously I am a lot older than you (college in the 90's, oh...that would make you a baby!). Who needs a cranky cynic's point of view :-) Monica's apartment is nice but boy I am sure you know what the reality is like for New Yorkers.

 
At Mon Jan 19, 02:43:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Exile: Oh I'm glad to learn that you're a fellow fan :) And I'm even more happier to still be referred to as a "baby" even though I'm past the age of 30 already!!

"Monica's apartment is nice but boy I am sure you know what the reality is like for New Yorkers."

Oh yes indeed. Quite apart from the fact that we realised we were only watching a light-hearted sitcom and not a documentary, I did stay in NYC as an exchange student, and during my time there I had visited friends' various accommodation, from a 1-room almost windowless apartment in Chinatown to a lovely big apartment with picture windows overlooking the Empire State building which was apparently converted "illegally" from an office space. Anyway, homelessness has always existed in NYC even during the halcyon days of the 90's, as I remember vividly those poor fellows who tried to warm themselves against the external air vents of the university building that I pass by everyday as I walked to class. In fact, the huge gap between the rich and poor and the invisibility of the homeless to well-off New Yorkers was one of the things I really disliked about New York... In these credit crunch times, I guess at least the plight of the homeless would be more visible on the collective mainstream consciousness than it has otherwise been during the good old days of the 90's...

 
At Wed Jan 21, 03:38:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger myblahblahblah said...

you know what i love chandler (another similarity we share other than the overactive imagination on yun's relationship =P)... a relatively realistic character in friends. gotta re-watch the sitcom over CNY...

 
At Fri Jan 23, 06:04:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Thanks for stopping by myblahblahblah (would you mind if I call you MBBB?)

Great to learn that you also liked Chandler, yay! With our overactive imaginations, perhaps we can start a Chandler cult!! (Only kidding of course :P)

Happy Chinese New Year to you :)

 
At Tue Mar 03, 09:41:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Yun said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At Tue Mar 03, 09:42:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Yun said...

Hey~~~ can't believe I finished reading this long post~~~

I started to watch "Friends" in their later years... (didn't really watch TV early on...) I do think in different age would have different feelings towards the show. I too, resembles Monica quite a bit. :P I know what you mean... to find that person who completely adores your most annoyances. It was just last night that I asked bf, "Are you just putting up with me right now cuz you are in love with me or do you really don't mind?!" Sometimes I do find it absolutely amazing that someone can really stand me...

anyway... hehe... happy for you, and for myself. :P

And yes, in a relationship is very time consuming. I don't have time to do anything else. I often asked, "how long will this (madly in love) stage last?!" (I'm not sure if I can handle it for a long time...haha!)

cheers.


To Myblahblahblah:
Errrr........ Hehe.

 
At Fri Jun 05, 03:42:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Kathleen said...

you are so right...the real love afffair in friends was between Monica and Chandler. Who could ever forget the jellyfish scene when Chandler was the only one who would pee on Monica...who was crying in pain?

Am glad you have someone who would pee on you Snowdrops...if you know what I mean!!!

Am so excited to have found your blog.....did not see the link on flickr...you are on my reader now!!!

 
At Sat Jan 02, 06:08:00 a.m. GMT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion but I think you're definitely wrong about Ross and Rachel. They are my favorite TV couple of all time. They're the only couple who I've seen gone through practically every part of an actual relationship including friends, dating, marriage, divorce, and children. And in spite of that, they kept me wanting them to get back together more and more.

 
At Sat Jan 23, 03:30:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

So sorry Yun and Kathleen for my looooonnng delay in replying. I missed your comments before and how ironic that I saw your comments now...

@Yun: So happy for you and your beau :) Glad things have been working out well for you. Keep at it!

@Kathleen: Haha, yes, I know the scene you're talking about! That was one of my favourite Friends' moments when the rest of them realised what had happened at the beach! Sadly I'm not sure if I've really found the person whom I trust enough to allow him to do that for me, even if it was to save my life... But somehow I do retain the faintest of hopes that one day there'd still be that person in my life and more importantly I can get past myself for allowing him to do it.

@Anonymous: Thanks for your comment here. As you can see from my actual post, I used to hold the same opinion as you do about Ross and Rachel. I've changed my mind of course and I'd really rather be Monica-and-Chandler where my own relationship is concerned. But as the saying goes, to each his own :)

 
At Mon Jan 25, 12:38:00 a.m. GMT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always prefered Chandler to Ross and Mondler to R/R. Mondler are my all-time favorite couple, I can't stand R/R, they have no chemistry, nothing in common, he cheated on her, etc.

 
At Sun Feb 28, 06:37:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Jenn said...

My hubby and I are Phoebe and Mike! :) But Chandler is our favorite character...we even named our cat after him...Chandler Bing! :D


Jenn
Free Quilling Instructions for Scrapbooking

 
At Thu Apr 01, 11:00:00 p.m. IST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this article. Although you may be missing out the first couple of seasons when Chandler was by far the funniest character... But regarding Mondler, I guess before I aspired to Ross-Rachel, but ended up totally being Chandler-Monica, marrying my best friend and the love of my love (she is also a total Monica clone). I've had the on-off drama of R-R and believe me, I much prefer what I have now. It developed perfectly and we have battled through severe ups and downs, always with a smile on our faces. There is a quiet dignity, and it is telling that neither Monica or Chandler ever really come close to even considering cheating on each other, or genuinely breaking up. There's a relationship built on trust, hard work and, above all, the solid foundation of having been friends.

 
At Tue Aug 31, 04:09:00 a.m. IST, Blogger Pisces said...

Great post. Chandler is my favorite character on Friends. He is a kind of husband that I want to marry. Most of Friends' fans usually choose to ship the couple Ross-Rachel but not me. Mondler forever! Thanks for posting wonderful analysis.

 
At Sat Jul 21, 02:58:00 a.m. IST, Blogger Allie VanSickle said...

I was a baby when the show came out (I was born in '94), so my parents wouldn't let me watch it until I was ten years old at the last episode. That was the first friends episode I watched, and I didn't understand why everyone was so sad for a show to be over. A couple years later, I began to watch reruns and Friends got me through my friendless Junior High stage. I now understand the appeal and I only wish that I was old enough to enjoy the show with the rest of the world. I would have loved the thrill of watching the series sequentially and awaiting the next episode with the rest of the country.
Maybe the reason I have never been a lobster shipper is because I watched the show individually and I was able to judge for myself which relationship was better, rather then get pressured by the mainstream popularity. Regardless, I have always thought the Mondler relationship was fascinating because it seems like true love. I don't think real love would break up so many times and try to make the other jealous, as is evident by Ross and Rachel. I think true love would see when it has found that amazing someone and never let go. Aside from a few drunk London jokes, I never got the feeling that either Monica or Chandler was settling because they always talked about spending the rest of their lives together and ect. I think they stole the show that was originally Ross and Rachel's. I may be wrong (granted I wasn't really around) but the Mondler fan fiction story count surpasses the Lobster's. So, anyway, I agree with your points and I'm sorry this post is a little late.

 
At Thu Mar 07, 05:37:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Shubs said...

My favorite will always be Monica and Chandler..!!
The care and loyalty they carry for each other is reflection of true love.
The way Monica proposed Chandler gave me goosebumps..!!

 
At Wed Apr 02, 09:15:00 p.m. IST, Anonymous Ximena said...

I actually since Monica and Chandler got together I knew they were going to be my favorite couple. Rachel and Ross weren't even close to how mucho I loved Mondler. Ross and Rachel's relationship was too cliched, which is good for a TV show because is tha kind of relationship that adds drama and keeps you wondering: "Will they get back together? Will they broke up again? So in short I think Ross and Rachel's is a good romance for the screen, but I think in real life most of us want something like Chandler and Monica had since the beggining: Love, stability, a healthy relationship, respect, loyalty, without the drama that Ross and Rachel's relationship has.

 
At Thu Nov 20, 01:02:00 p.m. GMT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a huge Monica-Chandler fan and not only because they make a terrific couple but also because I find Matthew Perry & Courteney Cox insanely hot, they have undeniable chemistry & even when they were just friends it was a delight watching them. You're right, the real romance on friends was quietly happening in the background between Monica & Chandler. Never knew that two imperfect people when brought together could be soo perfect & by that I don't mean perfect in a glossy way.

It irritates me when people say that they had it easy. No, Monica Chandler had problems & faced stuff that others could only imagine. Their relationship with each other changed them for the better. Though Chandler was always commitment phobic, he was the one who took the first step every single time. Be it proposing Monica the first time when he was sorry or deciding that it was a "four" at Vegas or taking the initiative to move in together or even planning the real proposal, he did it all. Also the impatient Monica who wanted nothing more than marriage and babies was willing to give Chandler time to come around on his own. She didn't pressurize him for marriage and him being ready mattered a lot to her. Chandler knew that he loved Monica, and he told her without anyone’s help.

Chandler was the only one who could convince her to do the right thing. When they went to Ohio to meet the birth mother, it was Chandler who put his foot down that they tell Erica the truth & Monica trusted that he could convince Erica to give them the baby.

N they were not meant to be together, they choose to be together. With the rest of their friends too keen on getting Ross & Rachel together & Phoebe even betting that Monica & Chandler wouldn't last long, they still made it. I think except Joey no one thought that they would last. They still did :)

 
At Tue Jan 27, 01:14:00 a.m. GMT, Blogger The Rush Blog said...

I must admit that I've always been more of a Monica/Chandler fan than a Ross/Rachel fan. Ross and Rachel have always struck me as a bit too . . . well, theatrical. And the whole "would they or wouldn't they" got a bit tiresome in the end.

 
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