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"Shocking Twist in Friends: The Controversial Banned Episode Revealed! 🚫🌈✨"
2024/04/09

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Summary

the hit American sitcom featured one episode where Ross's ex-wife Carol marries her partner Susan, which was perceived as controversial and banned by two local networks.This episode proved to be groundbreaking at the time as it was one of the earliest portrayals of a same-sex wedding to air on US TV.While this episode was progressive, hasn't always had the best LGBTQ+ representation, which it has been critiqued for by modern audiences.

, the American television sitcom that premiered in 1994 on NBC, was highly successful during its original run and remains popular on streaming platforms.

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The series, which catapulted actors like Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox to household fame, was praised for its relatable characters, humor, and exploration of friendship. While the series has been critiqued for its limited portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, it did feature one particular episode that offered rarely seen LGBTQ+ representation at the time, which is the reason why it got banned from local networks.

follows a group of six friends living in Manhattan, New York, as they navigate the ups and downs of life, love, and their careers. One such friend is Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), who had a complex romantic life that often intersected with his ex-wife Carol throughout the series.

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Ross's romantic journey was a significant storyline throughout the show's ten seasons. He had a long-standing crush on his high school friend Rachel Green, which eventually evolved into a romantic relationship that became one of the central plot lines of the series. However, Ross's romantic life was complicated by his divorce from Carol Willick, his college sweetheart. Carol came out as a lesbian and subsequently left Ross to be with her partner, Susan Bunch. Despite their divorce, Ross and Carol maintained an amicable relationship, primarily due to their shared custody of their son, Ben. This amicable relationship is also on display in the banned episode, which featured some much-needed lesbian representation on screen and put Ross's relationship with Carol to the test.

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The Banned Episode That Provided LGBTQ+ Representation

LGBT+ Characters

Description

Appearances

Carol Willick

Ross's ex-wife, a lesbian

Recurring character

Susan Bunch

Carol's partner, a lesbian

Recurring character

Steven Fisher

Ross's former college friend, implied to be gay

Season 1, Episode 1, "The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate"

Donna

Carol's friend, possibly a lesbian, but never confirmed

Season 1, Episode 2, "The One with the Sonogram at the End"

Charles Bing

Known as Helena Handbasket, Transgender

First appeared in Season 7, Episode 22, "The One With Chandler's Dad"

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hasn't always had the best LGBTQ+ representation, as seen . However, one particular episode significantly contributed to lesbian representation on TV. In Season 2, Episode 11, "The One with the Lesbian Wedding," which originally aired in January 1996, Carol and Susan inform Ross that they are getting married. Ross is initially reluctant and unhappy about his ex-wife getting remarried to someone else. However, after the original caterer was in an accident, he and his sister Monica (Courteney Cox) must now provide food for the wedding.

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Monica has very little time to get everything ready on schedule, with Ross refusing to help as he doesn't want to play any part in the event. Reflecting the larger controversy surrounding gay marriage at the time, Carol's parents refuse to attend the wedding. The news causes Carol to have second thoughts about her decision, which almost leads her to call off the wedding. This causes Ross to reevaluate his earlier feelings, and he subsequently lets go of his antagonistic attitude and instead finds himself encouraging her to proceed with the ceremony. Ross suggests that if she truly loves Susan, she should move forward with it despite her parents' objections.

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Carol knows he's right, so the wedding continues.

Ross subsequently walks Carol down the aisle and gives her away. At the reception, Ross can't help but bask in Carol and Susan's happiness. Although he feels regret for how things turned out, he understands it worked out for the best, and Susan thanks him for what he did for them and asks him to dance. Ross, at first, declines but changes his mind after Susan allows him to lead. Consequently, Ross's frosty relationship with Susan is repaired. This episode proved to be groundbreaking as it was one of the earliest portrayals of a gay wedding to air on US TV, 15 years before same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

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To this day, lesbian romances are not always portrayed accurately on TV, as seen with squandering the chance with Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. While the episode was an overnight success, as 1.6 million viewers tuned in across the country, NBC executives had braced themselves for a major backlash. co-creator Marta Kauffman told 20 years after the episode first aired that "everybody was up in arms" about it. Kauffman continued by stating, "NBC put 104 operators on for fear of getting a million phone calls. They got two."

Two local network affiliates, in particular, KJAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas, and WLIO in Lima, Ohio, also refused to air the episode, citing objectionable content.

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Local network affiliates have the discretion to make programming decisions independently of the national network, and they may choose not to air certain episodes or content that they deem controversial or potentially offensive to their viewership. In this case, the affiliates may have been influenced by the controversy surrounding the episode's depiction of a same-sex wedding and the objections raised by conservative groups. Countries have similarly banned films and TV shows for including LGBTQ+ actors, such as the case of being . When it came to the episode's reception, conservative groups and individuals objected to the episode's portrayal of a same-sex wedding, viewing it as promoting homosexuality and challenging traditional family values.

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On the other hand, some members of the LGBTQ+ community felt that the episode's treatment of Carol and Susan's relationship was tokenistic or superficial, with the focus primarily on the reactions of the straight characters rather than exploring the complexities of a same-sex relationship. In any case, the episode was successful in its groundbreaking portrayal, and its banning ultimately helped raise its profile.

How LGBTQ+ Representation Was Controversial When the Episode Aired

Year

Show

Description

1996

Carol marries her partner, Susan, featuring one of the earliest depictions of a same-sex wedding.

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2004

Bette and Tina get married in a traditional Jewish ceremony.

2011

Arizona Robbins and Callie Torres get married.

2015

Jamal Lyon, a main character who is gay, marries his boyfriend Michael.

2017

Captain Holt and his husband Kevin renew their wedding vows.

2018

Ruby and Sapphire decide to have a human wedding.

2019

David Rose and Patrick Brewer, a gay couple, get married.

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Someone discovered several scripts from Friends in a bin that ended up selling for big money at an auction.

During the airing of "The One with the Lesbian Wedding" in 1996, LGBTQ+ representation on television was limited and often marginalized.

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The portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters and themes was often met with controversy and pushback from conservative groups and audiences who were not accustomed to seeing such content on television. Many television networks and affiliates were cautious about including LGBTQ+ storylines in their programming, fearing backlash or boycotts from viewers and advertisers. However, this particular episode was praised as it depicted the relationship between Carol and Susan in a positive light and treated their wedding as a normal and joyous event. The episode thereby helped to challenge stereotypes and normalize same-sex relationships on mainstream television, signaling a significant shift in attitudes towards LGBTQ+ representation in the media.

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Decades later, certain television programs continue to build on this legacy of representation, such as seen . Actors Jane Sibbett (Carol) and Jessica Hecht (Susan) appeared on the ITV talk show in 2017, where they discussed the reception of the storyline in the episode.

Sibbett stated, "It was the first lesbian wedding to ever be shown on TV, and they blocked it out in some affiliates." She continued, "But it all worked out as we got so much press because they blocked it." Hechet added, "We won awards for that. That was nothing to do with us, but we won a GLAAD Award, so it was remarkable." also similarly received a GLAAD award for

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. Regarding the episode, some of the critiques against the episode weren't unwarranted. Phoebe, believing the soul of an old lady possessed her, was told that the woman had wanted to see everything before she died. This encourages Phoebe to challenge herself in this regard. When she sees Carol and Susan getting married she says, "Now I've seen everything!," believing the spirit has now left her body. This moment is problematic as it reinforces the trope of positioning LGBTQ+ relationships and marriages as something unusual or out of the ordinary for heterosexual characters to react to. By framing Phoebe's reaction in this way, the show inadvertently perpetuates the notion that same-sex relationships are somehow exotic or unconventional.

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has also been known for . Consequently, this critique can also be applied to the show having a limited and flawed LGBTQ+ representation. While the show's writers and producers were likely unaware of the implications that a lack of diverse casting would have on the series, in today's cultural climate, there is more of an awareness of the impact that various types of representation can have on audiences. One aspect that would likely be different is the use of laugh tracks around LGBTQ+ characters and the tendency to make cheap jokes about their identities. The laugh track, a staple of traditional sitcoms, was often used in scenes involving LGBTQ+ characters, including moments related to Carol and Susan's relationship.

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This laugh track could sometimes diminish the seriousness of the scenes or make light of the characters' experiences, inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes or downplaying the significance of their identities. also included jokes or humor that relied on stereotypes or cheap laughs related to these identities. For example, Chandler's mother, who is transgender, was the subject of jokes that could be seen as insensitive or mocking. While the show attempted to address issues related to LGBTQ+ identities, the humor surrounding these characters lacked depth and sensitivity. While was progressive and groundbreaking in some regards, particularly concerning Carol and Susan's same-sex wedding, its treatment of LGBTQ+ themes reflects the limitations and norms of the era in which it was produced. As societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ issues have evolved, so too have expectations for media representation, with modern audiences calling for more authentic and respectful portrayals of diverse identities.

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